I am a Marathoner – Paris Marathon 2016

Paris Marathon 2016

“Noooo……” That was the sound to which i jumped out of bed. The alarm had gone off at 4am, i had dutifully shut it and went back to the victory march near the arc du triumphe. And then it was 5am. We scooted to the airport and barely managed to catch the flight, huffing and puffing, heaving and sighing, ecstatic to have made it through.

 

 

 

Paris, upon arrival, was abuzz with activity. The expo area filled us with a mix of emotions- dread, apprehension, hope, worry, all mixed in one. We soon collected our bibs, did the customary photo shoot and boy, the atmosphere was electric. I glared, enviously, at the lithe lean bodies of the star runners, resplendent with slick calf contours. The “all too familiar ” flutter returned with a vengeance, this time occupying my tummy and my chest. I glanced around and saw the same expression on Subhash and Viji ‘s face and was perversely relieved to see that we were all in the same boat 🙂

 

 

My ever so solid support team!!

 

 

 

The man who made the impossible possible !

 

 

 

 

The D Day!!!
The hotel room Champeret Elysee, was nice, pretty basic but nice. A relaxed thai meal, a cosy nap and a glass of wine in a cafe in front of the Eiffel tower tower followed. The evening was magical, had all the elements of Paris, sunset enveloping Eiffel tower, lovers kissing in the rain, pushy pedlars selling cheap lighted imitations, etc.

 


Breakfast  was exciting. There was an unspoken respect, a slight nod of approval at the sight of anyone with a bib. We stepped into the golden ray of the morning sun and everything after that was a haze…..  the magic had started.

 


Arc du Triumphe, majestic as ever, looked glorious in the rain kissed sun. Runners thronged the  cobbled Avenue Foch and soon, we elbowed our way into anonymity. I spotted a slight clearing by the side and we hustled together. A funny smell kept us distracted and soon we realised that we were standing next to one of the open urinal pots! Seemed a bit sexist though as there were no facilities for women in the pens.

And soon enough, the marathon started…

Miles 1-5

The first few yards, we just shuffled towards the green arch which was the start point and soon people started dispersing. The road was straight, with a looming giant wheel in front. We passed through the Grand Palace, Concorde and Place de la Bastille . We soon enters the leafy park, Bois de Vincennes which virtually was transformed into an open urinal.  We turned left and spent the next 2 miles flying at a comfortable pace, happy, chatting, laughing, busily pointing out the signs to each other. Caught sight of the delightful hubby and  kids, whooped in delight and sped away. We grooved with the fabulous bands feeling that it was a dream.

Alas that was not to last and soon, the punishment of not paying heed to the well researched blogs set in.

Viji developed runners diarrhoea and looked with longing at any structure vaguely resembling a portaloo.

My thighs started chafing after an hour and soon started bleeding.

The route continued nevertheless, gently uphill from mile 4 and then went down after mile 8.  We stopped at a local shop, got some plasters, which I dutifully threw away instantly…..i called hubby and begged him to get my running leggings. Met him after an agonizing 13 mile by which time, back spasm had set in. Boy, he was such a pleasing sight and he waved something black in front of me. I grabbed it screaming – my leggings, my leggings, thank you thank you…. But they were not my leggings!! Hubby had mistakenly grabbed a tummy/thigh trimmer shorts. I held it out with contempt, proudly announcing I am not going to run my first marathon in my chaddhi ( underwear) . One look down at my blood stained shorts and i marched behind a van to change. I was greeted by the sight of batman, weeing in true batman-style, up in the air! Seriously! This is a marathon, you are at mile 13 and you still spray patterns on any wall, cmon boy, get a life!

He muttered an apology and we both turned out backs and continued.

Several tunnels passed, one of which was transformed into a spa with gentle music, water sprays and the promise of blue skies and white sands on lcd panels along the tunnel walls.

The new “leggings”  were a life saver but the damage was done alrdy. Because of my running style, i developed back spasm which continued to the back of my thigh and cramped my knee and calf. I hobbled till mile 18 and collapsed by the eiffel tower, drained and in pain.

Viji ‘s runs were getting worse and she started spending a good part of her race in the toilets.

Subhash, the only one standing, encouraged us gently  and we continued. A blade runner passed me by, giving me hope and courage.

 


Several old hunched folks strode past, proud and erect in their attitude. The parisians overdid all our expectations in their genuine support. Everyone was hailing us. A angel along the road chanted ‘allez, allez, allez….bravo’ making us forget our sweat.

We crossed a “wall ” at mile 20 and i knew i was hitting my wall.

 


Leg cramps refused to budge and gels were of no use.

The last 6 miles were the most painful in my life. Passing mainly through the leafy windy paths of the Bois de Boulogne which was so accurately described in another blog as a death walk, I could actually hear the sounds of the  bugle of the firing squad 😂😂 . By this time, i was finding it difficult to walk, let alone run. I sat, refusing to move on. Viji stood by my side, confused. But subhash came up, sat beside me and calmly said- you can do it, remember what we came here for…. We started together, we will finish it together. It gave me strength, not bc I could finish it but for him, i would finish it. A true friend in all respects.

I faltered again and again, stopping by an ambulance. The paramedic said to me that i had cramps and that i should stop. That frightened me so much, the very thought of stopping just 3 miles short of the finish line, just when we could hear the cheers and beats of the drums….. How could I give up now, never!

We were by now in the stragglers league….. From being in the 4.30 hour flag to the “no point in giving then a flag” team. But we were still proud, still together. My steps faltered but all of a sudden, i started sprinting at the sight of four cameramen. I was a champion, i must look like a champion and i must feel like a champion.  The uproar from the crowds resounded in my  ears, unreal, reaching a crescendo when i saw the green finish arch in the distance.

A flash of red was hurtling full force towards me…. Varun !!! Followed by the ever so fresh Rhea, her gorgeous hair flying in the wind. They clambered over the barricades screaming- Mum, Mum, you did it, you did it and suddenly the flood gates burst out. I started bawling like a baby in their arms. Varun supported me and gently pushed me forward. The security personnel came and escorted both of them away.

 


Subhash and Viji came closer, we held hands, a moment of unison, and we proudly stepped over the finish line. Hugs, tears, gratitude to each other, no words spoken but a lot said….. It was the test of a lifetime, my personal victory.

Ram scooped me up in his arms and i was home….

I am officially a marathoner…….. and the journey continues 🙂

Paris Marathon 2016 – the plunge!

1st January 2016

‘Every great dream begins with a dreamer’

The beauty of our dreams is that there is no limit to it. But sometimes, we do like to test the limits of our dreams, to take on our dreams.

This was the maniacal thought that made us ( subhash, Kalpa, Viji and me) take up the challenge  few months ago. Training however stalled due to several reasons, laziness being prima facie…. So the main 2016 resolution was to train hard, train smart.

My CP ( crazy partner, my soul) is with me throughout in body and mind, but somehow surrounded by a lot of darkness.  That is my main hurdle. I can’t do it without my CP and somehow it is a double challenge, ie to get my CP on board and to train well in a positive note.

It is indeed an uphill task but if my heart is in it, I know I will do it.

Ram, as always, is the one with full faith in us and always encourages us especially when i feel low . He is our  sole trainer and mood elevator.

Subhash is my training buddy, both need desperately to rise upto the challenge and mainly, lose weight ( which is more of a herculean task than the actual marathon!) , though he is better prepared mentally and physically for it.

Day 1 (2/1/16) – 10.4k (1.11hrs)

Difficulty Level- 10 (hilly welsh terra

in)

Positivity score *****
Very very difficult run, through the ups and downs of the welsh country side! Felt easier after 3k and could have gone for longer.

Feel positive now…..

Tuesday 5th January 2016

Day 2  (5/1/16) – 40 mins

Difficulty Level- 10 ( not well )

Positivity score *

Reeling under the effects of viral fe

ver, day 3 , slightly better but still chesty. Thought about canceling today ‘s run but decided to take the plunge. Did 2 sets off 20 minutes on the tread mill.

===============================

Day 3 (7/1/16) – 11.75k (1.28hrs)

Difficulty Level- 7 (Solihull)

Positivity score *****

The Ice Age

Lesson learnt today- be well covered in the cold. It was a chilly 4 degree, subhash was sensibly wrapped in 3 layers and I decided to go in a single half sleeve cycling jersey with no gloves or anything else. Stopped feeling my fingers after 40 mins. Reached home and started shivering uncontrollably. Three layers  and heavy duvets still took time theto bring  core body temperature to normal.

Never again! Lesson learnt!!


———————————-

Day 4 (9/1/16) – 16k (1.43hrs)

Difficulty Level- 7 (Knowle)

Positivity score *****

The miracle it was !

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” Jon Bingham

Today was a day of surprise . It was the much awaited long run and with lots of anticipation and trepidation, we started the run. The starting was smooth and i was gently surprised because it was the first time, we appeared to cruise along. Viji joined us and inspite of  her worries, was right in the front.

Subhash tried to be a hard task master and made sure we went on and on. I am sure i would have given up after a couple of miles.

I starred flagging after the 8th mile but kept going some way or the other. The last 2 miles were on autopilot and finally we DID it. And boy, so proud I am, thanks to my running partners.

Another day, another milestone achieved. Feel fresh and rejuvenated.


———————————-

Day 5 (12/1/16) – 20 mins varied run , 40 mins core training (1.11hrs)

Difficulty Level- 10 (the gym)

Positivity score *****

Today was the return of the prodigal daughter 😁 back to stephen and it felt great. Did a set of 3 circuit repetitions. Realised that my BFI is 29 😂😂 and that i must must reduce weight. Well, on a positive note, my fitness pal is being kind anyway ….


 

Day 6 run – 3.3 miles (0.40hrs)

Difficulty Level- 8

Positivity score *****
This time it was different. Was running alone, at 2 degrees an determination was key. But just the thought of all these days of training, of good friends and of course paris, kept me hoping, well barely !!

 

Day 7 ( 16/1/16) – 13 miles (2.20hrs)

Difficulty Level- 7
Positivity score *****
Today was a different story altogether…. It was a long run and for the first time in my life, I found my rhythm. Like they say running is all a game of the day and today it was definitely my day. I don’t think  i will be able to do this so smoothly again, do reliving this glory. Subhash was recovering from his flu and still did very well, and so did Viji, so hopefully I will be able to match up to them in paris 🙂

So far so good, the efforts of the week paid off:)))



19/01/2016

Setback 1: The shin villain hits again!

Two days post and my old friend, the shin villain has started hurting again! Possibly in keeping with the four hour dance session…. Have to be careful 🙂

Setback for this week. No running. Full rest.

Did core and cardio with stephen.

———————————-

The long run

Day 10 ( 31/1/16) – (2.40hrs)

Difficulty Level- 8
Positivity score **¥¥
Today was another long run day, did 13 miles but awas really tough because of the terrain…… We follow the cycling route with its ups and downs. Felt that it went on for hours but somehow managed it. My shin splits hurt in the beginning but eased off later.

Evening, got the girls to do core exercises and they all enjoyed it thoroughly 🙂

  

———————————-

The lazy losers 😜😜
Day 11 ( 04/02/16) – (1.12hrs)

Difficulty Level- 7
Positivity score **
Felt very very full and lethargic, didn’t feel like running at all. Somehow gathered the mental strength and pushed each other through. Had visions of gliding along the chic parisian boulevards, followed instantly by stronger images of our sweaty, crumbling bodies alongside pretty lithe lycra class runners……ah, the mind games continue 😂😂😂.

Managed 10k with difficulty bc of shin pain.

Better luck next time.

Romeo ‘s welcome at the end made up for it.

———————————-

Sunday 7th February 2016

Day 12 (7/02/16) – 40 mins

Difficulty Level- 10 ( bad weather)

Blame it on the weather!

It rained incessantly for 2 days so decided to run in the gym, barely managed 7k, didn’t feel like it at all. Hung around just enjoying the calm of the usually buzzing gym. Subhash, on the other hand, was heading towards the 16 mile mark in reading!!!

———————————-

Tuesday 5th January 2016
Day 13 (12/02/16) – 90 mins
Difficulty Level- 5

The lazy spell continues…

Another lazy week…. Both subhash and me were on a mission to see who would encourage whom to move their butts into running mode. Each day, we came up with new excuses for not running. Managed to get out on friday but felt great afterwards. Celebrated with prosecco in the evening 🙂 and why not!


———————————-

Sunday 14th February 2016

Day 14 (14/02/16) – 2.40 mins

Difficulty Level- 7

The 17 mile run

Today was amazing. Did my longest run ever, felt on top of the world. But that was after all the pain and jelly legs feeling😂😂

First 9 miles were okay, then the cold set in, legs felt rock solid, we started relying on gels, and more stretches along the way! The last 3 miles were sheer torture but that was when w crossed my longest threshold…..

Thoughts kept playing throughout the run….. Gliding through the arc de triumphe, waving to the cheering crowds at the eiffel tower and so on till towards the end, all I could see was home :)))


———————————-

The 2-0 trophy 👑👑👑👑👑
Day 15 ( 20/02/16) – 20 miles (4.12hrs)

Difficulty Level- 8
Positivity score *****
What a feeling….. Irene Cara

The feeling , was being alive….. Throughout the four plus hours of running…… Not one moment did a negative thought cross my mind. This run was the sweetest and most satisfying run in my life. Felt the rhythm, felt one with my surroundings and felt free 😄

I know that its always good days and bad days, and this was deficient my good one. Will savour this feeling……

What a feeling, being’s believin’

I can have it all, now I’m dancing for my life  ,

Take your passion and make it happen,

Pictures come alive, now I’m dancing through my liFe……


———————————-

Day 16 ( 28/02/16) – 13.3 miles (2.30hrs)

Difficulty Level- 8

Positivity score ***

The coventry half marathon

The vision

There is always a vision, everyone has a vision and standing non-descript, amongst thousands of runners of varying shapes, age and sizes, I had a vision. Of the super fit me, in bright lycras and endless legs, bounding away to the muffled beats of music, pony tail tossing in the wind, evoking all sorts of responses from the appreciative crowds….. and the half marathon started . We placed ourselves near the 2.15 pacer flags, smiled at each other with the confidence of an Olympian about to claim his third medal and all seemed perfect.

Mile 1-3
I woke up with a jolt in the first mile itself. Somehow those long strides seemed to drag and it continued. We told ourselves that this was the warm up run and it is common to feel heavy. The route was crowded and we avoided the temptation to rush ahead. The 2.15 pacer flag kept bobbing in front and it was a sense of security. The locals were great, lots of oranges offered, music bands cheering us and of course the jelly beans on offer. Regular water stops kept us hydrated. Some army cadets carrying large loads on their backs bundled past, their pert backs offering enough eye candy in the vast expanse of grunting wannabe runners.

Lesson learnt- FUEL: Carb loading 24 hours before and ample breakfast on the day prevents jelly legs.

Mile 4-6
The pacer flag disappeared and soon, we latched onto an orange turbaned Sikh gentleman and a Supergirl. My thighs started their jelly wobble and my legs felt weak. I knew I was being punished for not eating enough at the start. Supergirl flew away rather quickly and the Sikh guy also sped past. Lots of people overtook us and my morale started sagging as it seemed that the whole crowd seemed to be pulling past us. We, subconsciously increased pace, but I still didn’t feel the rhythm. We were now slowly moving out into the countryside and the route seemed to go uphill and downhill more frequently than expected. We passed a rather fit man who was running with 2 women , encouraging them, giving them reasons to step up and forward. It turned out that he was a seasoned runner and was just running with his mates to help them out. A great individual, he taught us what we already knew, marathon running is all about helping each other. Subhash probably understood his plight as he was suffering the same with me, offering gels at regular intervals and volunteering to hold my unnecessary paraphernalia.

Lesson learnt: SUPPORT: a reliable running mate works wonders, gets you out of your cosy comfort during the late raining cold nights, will challenge your inner voice and will motivate you to achieve your dream.
The African proverb rings – if you want to go fast, run alone. If you want to go far, run together.

Mile 7-9
This was where it all changed. My trance and slowly fading vision was shattered when there was suddenly a flurry of activity around us. I turned to see a real lean mean running machine charging ahead, in a barely there green hot pants and resplendant with a blonde pony tail bobbing in sync to the steps of a sudden surge in half marathon runners. My running partner also surged ahead only to be reminded that we were meant to keep pace together. For a few miles, she kept us company but then soon, I realised that slowly the tables seemed to have turned. WE seemed to be overtaking more than falling back. This was true on the uphill and the sweet rewards of regular training were ours.

Lessons learnt- PACE: Always run at your own regular pace. Rushing too far ahead leads to fatigue and overall disappointment at the end. Remember, there is a place for everyone at the finish line.

Mile 10-13
Last 3 miles were relatively easier than the mid-section. The thought of finishing kept us going. Sore, tired, a little sounds inside my head screamed louder and louder now, ordering me to stop, cursing Subhash for getting me into this, cursing Ram for supporting me throughout and cursing my all other friends who were always willing to listen to my never ending saga of the Paris marathon preparations. The only way was to distract my mind. Usually, while running, we love the sound of silence, of being one with nature. But now it was time for some sing alongs and soon Bollywood bhangra tracks shrieked through the British countryside followed by Jessie J and Beyoncé. Subhash even did a mini jig and pumped his fists up in the air to the beat of music. I pretended that I didn’t know him J and towards the end, we were racing away, overtaking weary bodies slowly. I guess it is your frame of mind since we ignored those who overtook us.

Lessons learnt- PERSEVERANCE: There is always a gnome inside our head that will hold us back. Just ignore it and charge ahead. Every step is one step closer to the finish. I overheard this sentence several times during the race, runners encouraging the huffers and puffers along and it is so true. Just keep going and you will do it.

Mile 13.3
The finish line was there in sight, after unending curves and corners and we strode past, together, proud, broken, exalted, and dazed.
A quick respectful greeting and we slumped onto the nearest bus stop bench and just sat in silence, taking it all in, respecting each and every mortal who was hobbling in. A stuffed Peppa pig arrived, dragged his sweaty costume off and started kicking it furiously. Lovers kissed, families wept and kids hugged their superhero parents. We watched, together, proud, broken, exalted, and dazed.

The ride back was all music to my ears….
Paris, here we come
…..and we can build this dream together, standing tall forever
Nothing gonna stop us now
….and if this world runs out of runners, we’d still hobble together
Nothing gonna stop us now


Conquering the wall 💃💃💃💃
Throughout this journey, ie trolling through varied blogs and running sites, something called the wall always emerged…… The dreaded wall at 21 miles, where stragglers collapse and stalwarts crumble. It didn’t refer to Dravid ,the much revered wall of the indian diaspora but an imaginary 21 mile mark during the marathon where your body and mind seem to give up……

Since it was the highest peak of our training plan, it had to be done! So we prepared ourselves, meds, carb over load, multiple weather forecasts etc etc and so we started.

The auspicious coconut breaking ritual was substituted by a barrage of verbal onslaughts by Viji for changing the time, yet again 😁😁

The first half was a breeze, like always and mind games prevailed. One thing we realised is that futile it may seem, we always try to fool our mind. Do we run back the same way or do we run a downhill route , don’t want to run in home territory, etc etc…..

The second half stretched but not as painfully as last time. The boom box emerged, yet again and so the three musketeers trudged off, happily following britney ‘s girlfriend and thalaiva ‘s lungi ( thrice😁😁😁)…..


Day 17 (05/03/16) – 7.6m (1.29hrs)

Difficulty Level- 10 (just not in the mood)

Positivity score *

The week after the half marathon and any excuse needed, i guess, to  not perform. It was cold, it was windy, it was just not right and hence didnt feel like getting up and running. But we had to and hence, off we went, grumbling and moaning….And soon enough, were aptly punished for it. Split up and kept running grumpily, and returned after few miles. Felt sorry for ourselves at the end. But i guess, some dips are needed ….better luck next time.

Day 18 (08/03/16) – 3.6m (0.47hrs)

Difficulty Level- 5 (contemplative mood)

Positivity score *****

Mid week runs are never easy and this was just a peace keeping run for us, to reflect on how and why we had a bad session last time and also plan future sessions. Planning is our favourite, doesnt need much effort 🙂

Day 19 (12/03/16) – 22m (4.27hrs)

Difficulty Level- 5

Positivity score **********

On top of the world!!!!

We are positively, definitely, happily going to do it. in fact, i believe now that we have already conquered it.

Day 20 (18/3/16) – 2.6m (0.36hrs)

Difficulty Level- 10 (tired)

Positivity score *

IT was a Friday, it was a tiring week, it was a dull sad day and i just couldn’t run. feel in the dumps and feel that i have let Subhash down. need i say more, the stats speak for itself.

Day 21 (19/03//16) – 14m (2.30hrs)

Difficulty Level- 5

Positivity score *****

The final frontier….

The tapering starts now and boy, we were pleased. Did a half marathon distance and felt great.

Day 22 (22/03/16) – 3.5m (0.35hrs)

Difficulty Level- 4 (indoor training)

Positivity score *****

Part of the tapering session, only 35 mins of running. This tastes sweet 🙂

 

Day 23 ( 31/03/16) – Paris , here we come…

Coventry half marathon

THE VISION 

Image result for hot runner cartoon

 

There is always a vision, everyone has a vision and standing non-descript, amongst thousands of runners of varying shapes, age and sizes, I had a vision. Of the super fit me, in bright lycras and endless legs, bounding away to the muffled beats of music, pony tail tossing in the wind, evoking all sorts of responses from the appreciative crowds….. and the half marathon started . We placed ourselves near the 2.15 pacer flags, smiled at each other with the confidence of an Olympian about to claim his third medal and all seemed perfect……

Mile 1-3
I woke up with a jolt in the first mile itself. Somehow those long strides seemed to drag and it continued. We told ourselves that this was the warm up run and it is common to feel heavy. The route was crowded and we avoided the temptation to rush ahead. The 2.15 pacer flag kept bobbing in front and it was a sense of security. The locals were great, lots of oranges offered, music bands cheering us and of course the jelly beans on offer. Regular water stops kept us hydrated. Some army cadets carrying large loads on their backs bundled past, their pert backs offering enough eye candy in the vast expanse of grunting wannabe runners. But my legs felt weak and i yearned for some energy shot.
Lesson learnt- FUEL: Carb loading 24 hours before and ample breakfast on the day prevents jelly legs.
Image result for hot runner cartoon
Mile 4-6
The pacer flag disappeared and soon, we latched onto an orange turbaned Sikh gentleman and a Supergirl. My thighs started their jelly wobble and my legs felt weak. I knew I was being punished for not eating enough at the start. Supergirl flew away rather quickly and the Sikh guy also sped past. Lots of people overtook us and my morale started sagging as it seemed that the whole crowd seemed to be pulling past us. We, subconsciously increased pace, but I still didn’t feel the rhythm. We were now slowly moving out into the countryside and the route seemed to go uphill and downhill more frequently than expected. We passed a rather fit man who was running with 2 women , encouraging them, giving them reasons to step up and forward. It turned out that he was a seasoned runner and was just running with his mates to help them out. A great individual, he taught us what we already knew, marathon running is all about helping each other. Subhash probably understood his plight as he was suffering the same with me, offering gels at regular intervals and volunteering to hold my unnecessary paraphernalia.

Lesson learnt: SUPPORT: a reliable running mate works wonders, gets you out of your cosy comfort during the late raining cold nights, will challenge your inner voice and will motivate you to achieve your dream.
The African proverb rings – if you want to go fast, run alone. If you want to go far, run together.

Mile 7-9
This was where it all changed. My trance and slowly fading vision was shattered when there was suddenly a flurry of activity around us. I turned to see a real lean mean running machine charging ahead, in a barely there green hot pants and resplendant with a blonde pony tail bobbing in sync to the steps of a sudden surge in half marathon runners. My running partner also surged ahead only to be reminded that we were meant to keep pace together. For a few miles, she kept us company but then soon, I realised that slowly the tables seemed to have turned. WE seemed to be overtaking more than falling back. This was true on the uphill and the sweet rewards of regular training were ours.

 

Lessons learnt- PACE: Always run at your own regular pace. Rushing too far ahead leads to fatigue and overall disappointment at the end. Remember, there is a place for everyone at the finish line.

Mile 10-13
Last 3 miles were relatively easier than the mid-section. The thought of finishing kept us going. Sore, tired, a little sounds inside my head screamed louder and louder now, ordering me to stop, cursing Subhash for getting me into this, cursing Ram for supporting me throughout and cursing my all other friends who were always willing to listen to my never ending saga of the Paris marathon preparations. The only way was to distract my mind. Usually, while running, we love the sound of silence, of being one with nature. But now it was time for some sing alongs and soon Bollywood bhangra tracks shrieked through the British countryside followed by Jessie J and Beyoncé. Subhash even did a mini jig and pumped his fists up in the air to the beat of music. I pretended that I didn’t know him J and towards the end, we were racing away, overtaking weary bodies slowly. I guess it is your frame of mind since we ignored those who overtook us.

Lessons learnt- PERSEVERANCE: There is always a gnome inside our head that will hold us back. Just ignore it and charge ahead. Every step is one step closer to the finish. I overheard this sentence several times during the race, runners encouraging the huffers and puffers along and it is so true. Just keep going and you will do it.

Mile 13.3
The finish line was there in sight, after unending curves and corners and we strode past, together, proud, broken, exalted, and dazed.
A quick respectful greeting and we slumped onto the nearest bus stop bench and just sat in silence, taking it all in, respecting each and every mortal who was hobbling in. A stuffed Peppa pig arrived, dragged his sweaty costume off and started kicking it furiously. Lovers kissed, families wept and kids hugged their superhero parents. We watched, together, proud, broken, exalted, and dazed.

The ride back was all music to my ears….
Paris, here we come
…..and we can build this dream together, standing tall forever
Nothing gonna stop us now
….and if this world runs out of runners, we’d still hobble together
Nothing gonna stop us now

The Salad Fraud……

I was never a salad person, always made fun of the salad eaters and the ghaas phoos gang. It was always so annoying to spend ages chewing like a goat or cow, my jaws always hurt and there was never a sense of fulfilment that one usually encounters when you actually eat meat 🙂

One day, however, something happened , no idea how, where and why ( psssttt….a little bird called aditi probably 😉 , but I found myself in the midst of a salad workshop, organising and thinking and soon little ideas took shape and my fantasies of butter chicken ,  lamb rogan josh and chilly pork divine were replaced by the colourful medley of a mixed vegetable salad, resplendent with pearl barley and quinoa!!!

The salad workshop was a super hit. Below are the salad recipes, all of them divine and easy to make.

Hope these come in handy and you enjoy making them just like I did 🙂
IMG_5337

 My Grape fruit and orange salad with ginger and red chilly dressing

IMG_5312

This is a special favourite of mine. I always believe in the saying that you first feast with your eyes and eat with your mouth later!!! Theses one of those moments…..Make this and you will have your guests eating out of your hands forever!!!!

And I mean it :)))

Layer slices of grapefruit, large sized orange, kiwi fruit and small oranges. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and sliced red onions.
Dressing: 3 portions olive oil, 1 portion balsalmic vinegar, half a lemon, 1 tbsp honey, salt, pepper, fine chopped ginger, red chillies
Shake well


Niyati bowled us over with her selection of salads, simple but very impressive. The beauty is in experiencing each and every flavour rather than combining lots of flavours together. Loved them all ,especially the courgette salad!!!

Niyati’s Beetroot, baby spinach and goat’s cheese salad

IMG_5352

Niyati’s Beetroot, baby spinach and goat’s cheese salad

Marinate sliced beetroot in walnut oil honey lemon salt and pepper dressing

Serve on spinach/rocket/mixed leaves , add crumbled goats cheese and toasted walnut or mixed seeds.

Drizzle the dressing


Niyati’s Caprese salad
IMG_5354

Insalata Caprese ( salad of Capri) is usually served as an antipasti ( starter) and is meant to resemble the Italian Flag.

Love the simplicity and flavours.

IMG_5391
Whole Ripe Tomatoes, Sliced Thick
Mozzarella Cheese, Sliced Thick
Fresh Basil Leaves
Olive Oil and balsamic vinegar For Drizzling
Sea Salt And Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Arrange tomato with mozzarella slices on top in a platter. Arrange basil leaves on top.

Drizzle olive oil balsamic dressing with salt and pepper over the top of the salad, getting a little bit on each slice.

Alternate halve plum/cherry tomatoes and mozarrela pearls arrange on spinach/salad leaves as individual servings.

Drizzle same dressing



Niyati’s stuffed peppers with cheese

IMG_5359

Stuffed pepper with ricotta – top with basil drizzle olive oil with salt pepper

Niyati’s Courgette salad with mint, garlic, red chilli, lemon & extra virgin olive oil

IMG_5376

4 courgettes
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 red chilli
½ clove garlic (optional)
1 handful of fresh mint
extra virgin olive oil
1 squeeze lemon juice

1. Prepare the courgettes using the vegetable peeler and place into the serving bowl.

2. To make the dressing, squeeze the lemon juice, and mix with 3 parts more of olive oil. Grate the garlic finely, and add the chilli and mint. Season to taste.

3. Dress the courgettes and combine together well.


Sraboni’s Vietnamese Salad recipe: 

OK, now this salad deserves special mention because it was the first time I was experiencing such flavours and ingredients too. Just loved it. Will be a permanent feature in my culinary journey now.

11080602_10155398658705346_8997954896909348912_o

Dressing – light soy sauce generous proportion 
1 spoon sugar

1/2 sp mushroom powder
Lemon juice 

Chinese cabbage, Leek fried, Basil chinese, coriander, mint, Peanuts

Mix well


Krishna’s Mixed Beans Salad

Loved the fresh flavours of this salad and more importantly the flamboyance and style with which it was presented. Totally won us over. Just realised that even a small flower here or there, or a simple crust of bread makes all the difference.

11080602_10155398658710346_7049234993876933641_o

11080602_10155398658735346_7710488420302018614_o

1 can mixed beans , 1 red pepper, chopped, 1 bunch green onions, chopped1 stalk celery, finely chopped, 1 small red onion finely chopped, ¼ Beetroot finely sliced.

Mix all ingredients a big salad bowl and keep in the refrigerator

Dressing:1/4 cup olive oil 2 T. wine vinegar (I used white-wine vinegar) Juice from half a lime (or 2-3 T.) 1/4 tsp. salt 1-2 tbs RedHot wings Buffalo sauce,1 tsp – Red chili flakes.

Mix dressing in a separate jam jar, and pour over beans salad.Serve salad mix on delicate inner leaves of romaine hearts, sprinkle some fresh lentil sprout mix and freshly clicked dwarf basil leaves.

Voila!Bon Appétit!!


Aditi’s papaya and mango salad

Another quick and amazing salad with an explosive array of flavours that will leave your taste buds tingling for a long time 🙂

11080602_10155398658730346_6781336859973100001_o

Raw papaya grated in thin strips

Raw mango

Raw carrots 
Some red onions 

Dressing 

In a mortel grind 2 pods of garlic with red chillies as per taste , add freshly squeezed lemon juice with palm sugar , keep grinding to maximize the flavours and salt to taste ! 
Add fish sauce , if u are allowed , i omitted it as many vegetarians 

Then mix with the salad , add crushed peanuts and garnish with coriander  

I love this with stir fried prawns coated in corn flour salt and pepper !

Many thanks to Aditi Gupte, Krishna Thakur, Niyati Shah and Srasboni Dasgupta for showing us these recipes.

Mango Raspberry Pannacotta: For the ultimate wow-factor

Presentation is the key to success, my teacher always stated…..and this is the main theme of this dessert. Its beautiful and deceptively easy to create. It needs only 4 ingredients and can be made well in advance . I made it the other day and now i know that I will be making it time and time again.

Pannacotta literally, in italian, means cooked cream and does actually taste so too. The beauty of this dessert is int he simplicity and blend of different tastes.

IMG_5224

INGREDIENTS

Mango pulp (good quality )

Cream full fat

Raspberry ( pureed or coulis readymade )

Gelatine

METHOD:

Prepare gelatine by sprinkling gelatine powder ( one satchet) over cold water.

Mix mango pulp to the dissolved gelatine.

Place your glasses tilted onto an empty egg carton or muffin case and pour the mango mix into it.

IMG_3599

Allow to set int he fridge for around 2 hours.

Repeat the same procedure with cream and raspberry and add the layers, first cream and then, raspberry.

Allow to set in the fridge.

IMG_3606

To serve, place your glass upside down on a plate ad garnish as you please.

Viola, stand back and enjoy!!!!!

Why we named our son Jai…

To amazing people who cross our paths and teach us so much more….

Pathway to Victory

DSC_9026-Edit-2-2

The meaning of Jai is ‘Victorious’ and what a victory it’s been so far. Who would have thought that little Jai would arrive under the toughest of circumstances? On Tue 9th Sept 2014, just two days after turning 33 years of age, and at 6 months pregnant, I was diagnosed with Stage III Invasive Breast Cancer. In that one moment our lives turned upside down. We kept asking how could this happen to us? What does it mean for our unborn child? I needed urgent major surgery and chemotherapy in order to save my life. My cancer had already advanced to my lymph nodes and this was the motorway system around my body for the cancer to spread.

We were given piles of booklets to read but this was impossible to digest under the shock of the news. We turned to our very good friends Sally and Sunny Philips who helped us…

View original post 1,181 more words

Resistance is futile…..when it comes to chocolate !

IMG_5204

There is what i call the ‘MUMMY PYRAMID’ that all mums dream about.

This is the top mum who is always there for the kids, all their matches, parent teacher meetings (omg), who bakes lovely cakes and has amazing parties for them and who is always discrete so as not to embarrass the kids in font of their friends. However, as much as i have tried to , ( just tried to!! ) take part in this ratrace for the top of the mummy pyramid, I find myself diggging a hole deeper than the deepest one could ever imagine. till I found this recipe ( thanks to the supermoms of Minnesota and their amazing party ideas, thanks revati and jayanti) )

There are amazing desserts to serve up in a jiffy, takes only 5 minutes and will instantly zoom you to the top of the perfect mummy pyramid, way past the 4×4 driving mums, in perfectly matched shoes and bags, and of course make up, at 8am in the morning and who, actually walk to the school with poise and grace rather than charge into the school, dump the kids and rush back to an illegally parked car, nearly getting a sticker and lots of tsk tsk expressions from their alien counterparts!!!

All you need are these glorious beauties : strawberries, milk chocolate, white chocolate.

IMG_5183IMG_5188

What do you do:

Simple, just melt the chocolate under LOW/MEDIUM power in a microwave till soft, checking every 20 seconds.

Dip the DRY strawberries in them and leave to dry on a rack.

Drizzle some melted chocolate on the strawberries with a spoon  ( no icing or fancy stuff needed)

Hide it in a fridge ( most important), I made around 15 and there were only 8 when i took them out for the party!!!!

Enjoy you position at the top of the pyramid :))) as long as it lasts!!

IMG_5197

IMG_5204

IMG_5193
IMG_5199

50 Shades of Aloo…..

IMG_5163

No connection to the movie, sorry to disappoint you all 🙂 but this dish as christened as such by the original chef after seeing the various golden brown shades of these beautiful baby potatoes coupled with intense discussions over various dinner parties about the film and its psychology!!!

Its great cooking with friends and its even better when you cook with people who have OCD in general. Hence, for the first time in my life, I cooked using exact measurements ( though a teaspoon for me is two fingers and a tablespoon is 3 heaped finger full ) but that was allowed, after a lot of moaning and groaning by our Masterchef!!!

IMG_5160

The beauty of this dish is its simplicity and low spice quotient, again something which was so painful for me to follow but the end result was surprisingly delicious!

IMG_5143

IMG_5144

RECIPE:

MASALA : Grind or crush finely the following – 1 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 3 cardamom, 2 cloves, 2 pepper corns, 1 small piece bay leaf

15-20 BABY POTATOES, boiled and shallow fried in oil, till it turns beautifully golden. Keep aside.

3 tbsp oil

1 onion finely chopped

1 tbsp ginger garlic paste

1 cup yoghurt, well beaten

1 tbsp kasoori methi ( dry fenugreek leaves )

1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp red chilli pd, salt to taste

METHOD:

Heat 3 tbsp oil, add chopped onion and stir till it turns transparent. Add ginger garlic paste, stir well. add the ground masala, stir with potatoes till well combined. Add 1/2 tsp turmeric and 1 tsp red chilli powder, stir. Add beaten yoghurt and combine all carefully and let it cook till oil leaves the sides of the pan. Add kasoori methi now. Finally add 2 or more cups water and cover and let it boil for 5 minutes. Garnish with coriander seeds.

The trick is to use these measurements and not give way, like me, and start using your own spices here and there :)))

IMG_5157

Sharing a tiny bit of trivia, in passing…..

Dum aloo is a kashmiri cuisine and has been adopted by Bengalis who of course added the ‘o’ to it and called it floor Dom ( gosh, i really love the way they speak!!! ). Wikipedia tells me a very interesting story about the origin of Dum Aloo in Bengal. The Oudh famine in 1784 introduced Nawabi cooking in Bengal who substituted beef with baby potatoes ( supposed to be a dutch novelty then and hence taken up by he intellectual and westernised Indians in British India ) and slow cooked them according to the tradition of Ain-i-Akbari ( overnight beef stew).

Apres ski day 1

The plans took shape three years ago as soon as we finished our ski holiday in Les Orres and took three years to materialise 🙂 However, we were finally here and more than the skiing, I was more excited bc of the endles possibilities of learning a new cuisine. Natalie and Dan were brilliant and had so much patience to deal with my interference and never ending questions.

Anyway, menu for day 1 was chicken liver pate with fruit chutney, chicken in white wine sauce and vegetables and strawberry kiwi parfait.

IMG_4610

IMG_4608IMG_4613IMG_4614IMG_4615IMG_4616

Chicken in white wine sauce :

Marinade /season chicken and bake in oven till well done.

Saute mushroom in butter, add white wine and reduce till 1/3rd, add lots of cream, season, add tarragon.

Serve on a bed of rice.

Easy Banana Bites

IMG_4361

How difficult is it to get 2 over-ripe bananas? I have always thought that its no big deal because there is always a poor old banana, lying unwanted, unloved in some corner of our kitchens! With this in mind, last weekend, when I spotted two such miserable souls, I announced to my brood that I was intending to make some banana muffins…..and hey presto, they vanished!!!! My brood thought that they had to eat just those blotchy, soft bananas that morning because it was the end of the world!!!!! Hence, i had to wait a full week ( and hide 2 bananas too 😉 to make this batch, inspired by Sherin’s superb blog.

Anyway, as it often occurs in my culinary travails, my first batch got charred ( thanks to Varun’s warm snuggle 🙂 ) and I had to put the leftover batter to use. The result was amazing, superset, moist, melt in the mouth cake. Do give it a try and share your photos too…

IMG_4373

RECIPE: ( I hate measuring stuff because I am too lazy to look for all scales etc etc hence am putting my approximate measurements too )

2 unloved, over-ripe large bananas, mashed

Sultanas -100 gms ( around a big fistful ) , soaked in 1/4th cup hot tea water ( dip a teabag into boiling water and squeeze it out )

Plain flour 175 gms ( 1/3rd teacup); baking pd 2 tsp; soda bicarb 1/2 tsp; salt 1/2 tsp

Butter 125 gms ( half a slab ), Castor sugar 150 gms ( 1/3rd cup or more ); eggs 2 ; vanilla extract 1tsp

METHOD:

1.Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.

2. Mix/     plain flour, soda, baking pod and salt together.

3. In another bowl, melt butter in the microwave; add sugar, mix well; add eggs one at a time, mix well.

4. Mix flour int he egg-sugar mixture, fold well, add mashed bananas and sultanas.

5. Bake till done ( but be careful, don’t let it burn like I did ).

IMG_4347

6. Serve hot, straight from the oven….You are guaranteed a special twinkle and a hug, like I got 🙂 …. In fact, Rhea even took pictures for me and added her own touches to the images !

IMG_4349

IMG_4377

EASY PEASY SATAY CHICKEN

IMG_4195

An explosion of tastes ranging from spicy to nutty to sweet and savoury!!! Now thats difficult to resist! All made within minutes…..and with just few ingredients. If you don’t believe me, try it out for your weekend dinner. Its guaranteed to be a success…..
Midweek is my weakness! Wednesday , Thursdays feel really really long and thats when by midday, my mind starts furiously ravaging through scores of ideas about what to cook for dinner, and invariably end up with something thats comfort food. Its what brings a sense of relief at the end of a tough day, the ultimate prize after a great workout, and a great feel good factor. It can be in the form of a hearty soup, a bowl of rajma shawl or something that i cooked last night-

IMG_4198
RECIPE:
Chicken Fillets – a big bowl
Peanut butter-crunchy : 300 gm
Chilli sauce or fresh chillies to taste
Honey: 4 tablespoon or acc to taste
Onion garlic chopped : 1 cup
Sweet peppers : 3
Raw mango optional
Coriander leaves chopped 1/2 cup

IMG_4198
METHOD:
Saute chopped onion garlic in very little oil. When transparent, add chicken and cook till done ( you can also just pop it int he oven and bake or microwave it if you want to save time ). Take it out and place aside. In the same wok, add peanut butter, mix it with water to make a runny paste. add chilli sauce, chopped chillies ( i add lots of chillies to balance the sweet taste ). add honey.
Combine it with the chicken, sliced peppers and mango ( optional ). Garnish with chopped coriander and serve it with a plateful of steaming rice or noodles !!!!!

IMG_4197
AMAZING FACT: The feel of crunchy peanuts, fiery chillies exploding in your mouth and sweetness of honey trying to calm it down Love it….Let me know if you like it too, friends

Amazing Ammu’s Appams

IMG_4334

IMG_4337

Whats in a name? Its known by many many names i.e. appam, paneeyaram, gunpanglu, appe, etc etc but one thing that is universal is the feeling of nostalgia it evokes when you hear this name.

It takes me back to summer holidays in kerala, running to my grandma’s outstretched arms after a tough day of playing in the fields with friends from the neighbourhood, hair braided with the now wilted jasmine flowers and tiredness writ on our faces.All she would do is smile and slide a plate of these beautiful golden pillowy fluffy balls in my mouth and that would go on and on and on.

IMG_4335

IMG_4344

Those tender hands are no longer there to feed me, but their memories live forever and so do these appams.

Mum, who is soon coming close to as perfect as my grandma was, made these this morning and hence, am sharing the recipe with you.

Please do drop in within the next hour or so if you want to sample them too 🙂 🙂 🙂IMG_4342IMG_4331

Recipe:

Soak 1 cups urad dal , 2 cups rice and a handful of methi ( fenugreek ) seeds for 6 hours, grind it to a smooth batter and keep overnight to ferment. add salt just before cooking. Pour dollops of the batter into the appam bowls ( non stick ) with only a spray of oil in each. Once a side is done, spray with oil and turn again and cook he other side till golden.

Serve hot with easy groundnut/coconut chutney!!!!

Warning: Its so addictive that you will find yourselves standing by the hob for at least a couple of hours because your family will not have had enough 🙂 🙂 But hey ho, thats why we cook, isn’t it!!!!

For The Love Of Peanut Butter!!!!!

IMG_3823

I made fudge! It looked like fudge, it smelt like fudge and it really really tasted like good fudge! Haan bhai haan, barfi banaya and that too without hours of standing and working my biceps and triceps ( remember the slow long painful process associated with barfi making

IMG_3813

You might ask. so what?!

IMG_3824

The truth is that i am pretty lucky with most things in life but feel the struggle and pinch to make small things happen, things that come easily to people…..for example- i have managed to kill each and every plant that has entered my house  and when it comes to recipes which are out of the way for normalings like me . well……for every successful recipe there have been hundreds slaughtered along the way , hmmm, well, not that much , i am exaggerating, but you know what i mean! 

 

IMG_3827So when i decided to make something dedicated to peanut butter and all peanut butter crazy friends, I was prepared for it to turn into a messy sticky lump!!!! However, this turned out great and hence sharing this 4 minute wonder with you…..

Positive points – it has peanut butter, what else do you want positive in anything!!! its super easy, needs only 4 ingredients, no formal measurements,

Negative points – you have to get someone to hide it as it will disappear in minutes. It is a darned diet buster, but then, who cares! its heavenly sin !!!

I found this recipe on bbc good food- http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/peanutbutterfudge_93630

RecipeIMG_3816

Half slab butter melted with 2 cups dark brown sugar and 1 cup milk till it boils. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and vanilla essence. Place 1 heaped cup icing sugar in a bowl and pour the peanut butter mix on top. using a wooden spoon, beat the mixture till smooth. Pour in a baking tray and chill till set.

Devour it instantly otherwise you will not even get the crumbs !!!!

Ammu’s Kerala Fish curry

 IMG_3801 IMG_3804

The Story of my Life

This is a familiar story and i am sure it has happened to you too. You can cook and cook and cook but you will never be as good as your mom. Mothers are magic, they are perfect and i happen to have one such perfect being here with me…..There is a certain magic in the ways mothers cook, there is no recipe, no measurements, no fancy names like Dauphinoise potatoes or Blanquet de Veau. Its just chicken curry, fish fry or sambar but the taste far surpasses even the best of best Michelin star chef’s signature dish. I have always tried to make it just the way mom does, but although I am nearly there, I am still not there, if you know what i mean 

Many of you have asked for mom’s recipe for fish curry which is really really yummy…..and by that I really mean that its really really yummy. So here it is…..
Warning: This is the recipe but there is no guarantee that it will taste the same; you might as well come home and get her to make it!!!

 IMG_3798

Recipe:
Mackarel 2, cut into small pieces

Grind the ingredients stated below –
( Half cup grated coconut, Fresh coriander seeds 4tbsp , Chlili powder to taste, Turmeric powder to taste, Half an onion )

Raw mango or dried kokum
Slit Green chillies
Curry leaves -handful
1 tbsp coconut oil

Add the paste and fish together, with slit Green chillies, curry leaves, raw mango or kokum for taste , 1 table spoon coconut oil in a earthen pot if you have one or in any saucepan
Heat till it boils, then simmer for 15 minutes…..
Serve with steamed rice.

Never say never….. Especially if you’re wife says so ;)

Sunday, 19th October 2014

I have never been a distance runner. Having played a lot of fast sports I kind of enjoyed the sprinting aspect, but never could have thought myself capable of doing 13.miles..even now the thought makes me shudder.
It was really Smitu who dragged me literally with my heels firmly dug in the ground and entered my name for the Birmingham great run. With Subhash for company I could not say no. Being an orthopaedic surgeon, one tends to develop a healthy sense of respect to Running as a sport…after all, there is never any dearth of injured, would-be marathon runners, in my clinics. All through the winter of 2013 and early 2014 I tried my level best to back off from the half marathon with any possible excuse that I could think of…but nothing worked. Eventually I gave in and started training. Initially I was doing small distance runs, mostly as a way of keeping fit for the bike ride in August. I could immediately sense how cycling was softer, a more scenic but very time consuming activity. You could basically run anytime and anywhere with just a pair of shoes. Slowly I began to fall into a routine of twice weekly running with Friday evening ones with Subhash. I remember very clearly one of the time he took me for a 10km run. Was flat out for the next week. All thoughts of running the full distance completely wiped out. If it was meant to generate confidence the effect was anything but the opposite. I became convinced that my body was not designed to run – period. Every set back was a exercise in reinforcing that negative belief.

The day arrived slowly but surely and nothing Could have prepared me for What was awaiting..Amar dropped us off near The ICC on the brilliant, sunny, warm, October morning and we reached The start point…the crowds… incredible!!! People everywhere. It felt really special to have baba there With me. Secretly had decided that I Was going to run in Aai’s memory so his presence was very poignant. Met With rest of the gang very soon and after a little warm up we set off at 11.00 hrs. Me Rashmi and Subhash had decided to run together so tried to keep pace with them. The first few miles felt a struggle and doubts took hold. Had done a 16km run on Thursday and had felt straight away that we shouldn’t have done it so close to the main run. Was I still tired and maybe have to give up half way? I knew Rashmi was carrying an injury so wanted to make sure we were with her all along. My right foot also started to hurt a little straight away. Anyways, I thought to myself, I am sure there’s no major issue, I can deal with this. We got to Pershore road and I must have gone into a bit of a running zone not realising that I had got a bit faster. Looked around after what must have been about 10 minutes and Rashmi and Subhash were nowhere to be seen. Stopped for a minute at the corner to see if they would catch up but no luck. Next few miles went in this strange confused state. Wanted to catch up and wait for them but did not want to lose the rhythm either.
That’s when it hit me. There were so many spectators along the way in all shapes and sizes and cheering all the runners along…’in my mind all of you are kenyans’ ‘run like you stole something’ two ladies on the bike on the corner urging us clapping non stop…it was something I had only seen on tv at major events..!!! For the first time ever I thought to myself..these people could have done anything else on a Sunday. But they chose to come here and spend the beautiful warm Sunday October morning cheering us instead. There were residents who had put loudspeakers on their front porch a la Carnival style. One was blasting the Rocky theme music at it final crescendo and I felt suddenly like Stallone running up the Philly monument steps. Without thinking I jumped up and did a skip step with my arms out wide 🙂 :-). When the woman next to me gave a real sidey look I immediately started my normal run again.
Slap-slap-slap…I could hear all the runners around me pounding the street…the sounds were so rhythmic…i became acutely aware of everything and everyone around me..a woman with a message on her shirt about her husband John McGee, The group of runners from Alicia Boparai foundation, the ladies with the large red polka dot skirts…and then there was me…Not really sure why I was doing it? No message, no cause, no finish time target, no friends to run with anymore? What the hell was Smitu thinking when she put my name in!! And to top it all she wasn’t even here….grrrrrr. I came across this old arthritic man who must have been in his 80’s walking along at as-brisk-a-pace as he could. In another one of my efforts to stop for any excuse to allow Subhash-Rashmi to catch up, I stopped to chat with him and asked him why he was doing it..and he replied ‘just to prove to myself that I can!’ And it hit me then…I had always believed that I could not do it…’distance running was not for me’. I had said that to Smitu all along the last 2 years when she was training. It must have struck a chord with her. She had known me for so long and must have seen the lack of self belief..Not some thing she has seen in me often…and perhaps that is why she wanted me to do it. Just like she did for herself. And then I started sprinting…the rhythm took hold of me. The bhangra dhols, the Caribbean steel band, the Sunday church choirs spurred me on. I made my mind up to finish it at my own pace and time..’Just keep soaking it all in’ I told myself. ‘You may never get the chance again.’

Before I knew I had gone past the halfway point and was approaching the corner of Edgbaston ground. Smitu was going to be waiting on The Mac @ Cannon Hill park. Camera at the ready to click away as I arrived! So I texted her but did not get a reply. No Smita at the Mac entrance! I stopped to call her and she came running out. Got the most fabulous hug and a kiss from her..She seemed super thrilled to see me. An impromptu photo session followed culminating in me almost tripping on the kerbside trying to look behind me for a photo pose 🙂
Gave her a final wave and ploughed through the park towards the Free Radio counter. My would star jump got the dj’s attention. I was behaving like a child really, no maturity at all. Oh well what the hell! Who cared anyway. At the 10-11 mile mark I started to notice my feet were hurting badly. Felt like I had a large some under my foot while taking every step. It was agonising. In an effort to take the pain away I started thinking about Aai. It was 18 months since she died. All the painful memories came flooding back. Her last few moments, her shocking acceptance of impending death, her courage in facing her worst fears, our decision to let go of her…..Her best gift to me was her unflinching determination and loyalty..One that meant ‘never give up’ . The sense of self belief that she wanted me to keep. She would have wanted this for me.. the last two miles went by without me thinking about my feet. Thought about Smitu Rhea Varun Baba ….suddenly loud cheers rained in my ears. I looked up ahead at the sign…1km to go…I was entering broad street..the crowds lining the street were cheering loudly…a crescendo of whoops spurred by the announcer counting down 3,2,1…There was not an inch of space between the jostling crowd lining the barricades.
Drawing on the last ounce of reserve I went thru the finish line!!! 2 hours 22 minutes , I had done it, and proven myself wrong in the journey. I could only have done it by believing in my ability….no more excuses would be needed. Smitu knew something about me that even I did not believe I had.

Kalpa reached soon after and Subhash and Rashmi came along soon after. I felt really guilty about not having run with them. But I did really try. After collecting the Tshirt and medal I went around to meet Baba who was thrilled to see me and have abog big hug…and told me that he was proud of me….something I had always wanted hear him say..One thing I had spent my childhood yearning for…his approval of me.

In the end I guess that running the half marathon was about self discovery, self belief and a realisation that others sometimes know you better that you know yourself!

HOW TO WALTZ THROUGH YOUR FIRST HALF MARATHON!!!

Screenshot_2013-10-24-11-05-31

Dear kids

On the brink of new year 2013, I made 2 resolutions- to get your grandma to lose weight and to be happy throughout the year. Being happy is a vicious cycle, you are happy, others around you are happy and inevitable you are happy again and the cycle goes on and on. One thing I realized very early on in this quest of continuing happiness was that it was important to keep running….not in the literal sense ‘running’ but just running ie going on and on. When things stagnate around you, life stagnates and it stinks…..hence I decided to run run run till I found out that it was literally running that I ended up doing J

Running for me has always been running from home into the car in the mornings, late as always to work, running from the car park to the shops to prevent my hair from getting wet, dragging kids indoors out of the rain , etc etc…..The running bug caught on this year….having avoided several attempts at being blackmailed to run by friends. Ram,from the strictly ‘I hate running’ camp warned that it was bad for the knees etc etc while varun from the ‘running, duh! So boring, you just run’ gave me a funny look as if mum, c’mon…..running, nooooo….its so boring…

( I desperately wanted you both to think of me as the supermom ;))))

Still went ahead with the plan.

As usual, my plans were 80% bookish ( read as googlish!) and 20% training.

Read read and read volumes about running etc etc and realized that probably it was more common than cycling.

Ok, that’s fine.

Next, downloaded lots of apps including one which crashed my phone too …. But ended up using google tracks ( thanks Eric and Larry, love you both so much )

Downloaded some half marathon training plans (snigger snigger) …since when have I stuck to plans!

Bought some really expensive shoes and gear (after all, glamour is part of life, eh! ) you have to look the part!

And finally registered for the race!!!!

Hey presto….i expected to run instantly but that never happened and soon found myself 2 weeks before the D-day, in a sweat, wondering if I could even make it to half point….

TRAIN: training is a very sticky topic….when where how in this 24 hour span which feels like 2-4 hours.

But one of the easiest things about running is that you don’t have to wait for someone for good weather etc etc….you just run! Its easier to stick to known routes because you know how many miles you have done.

MUSIC: the most important companion while running is music. Have a theme song and follow its rhythm. Viji said that hers was ‘its all about money’ and I found myself running to that rhythm, till the day when I found my theme and nothing has stopped me since….check out ‘one two three four…get on the dance floor’ from Chennai Express……mind blowingly fast and fun!!!! Got me an extra 4 miles the first day itself J

SUPPORT

I could not have done this without the help of you kids because you had faith in me! Varun started his sprints soon and I secretly wonder whether it was because of me running ( well, at leaset I like to think so J . it took me a while to get into the groove. I realized htat the first 3 miles are the toughest. After that, you ease into the pace and then for the next 5 miles at least you are set. The last 3 miles are sheer effort not because of physical exhaustion but because of mental boredom! Now , why should you go round and round like a hamster…..that’s when events like races help, when the whole atmosphere rocks and you are in sync with others like you.

Training for a half marathon is not easy and there are times when you will be bored. Get a running partner who will encourage you and run with you at times. But there will be times when you have to run alone….your ‘me’ time. Enjoy it.

SPEED

In the beginning, my speed was around 13 minute a mile….somehow bc of lack of training, I never managed to get below 11 minute a mile ( yes, there was a 10 minute mile, no idea how that happened….never repeated)

Thankfully no one told me that the ‘normal’ running pace was around 10 minute a mile or else I would have quit ages ago. However I ran only 6 times before the D day ( and that was my training)….of course I am not proud of it but various reasons ( ummm…mmm excuses) prevented me from training the way I wanted to. The practice runs were 2 m, 3.6 m, 6m, 8m, 4m, 4m .

The eve of the half marathon, there was excitement all around. The family was happy for me and I was high on adrenaline. I never thought that I would be excited in something that ram was not involved but excited I was.

Screenshot_2013-10-24-11-05-21

On the day, my partners in crime, Rashmi Subhash and Viji came home and we were given a lift by amar and mum. Viji, intensely stressed out, bc of the fear of being late and also because she was surrounded by us useless folks who cared not about the marathon but about the celebrations and margaritas following the run 😉

As usual, there were delays , but this time it was because of road closures all around the city centre.2013-10-21 09.50.14

As soon as we parked and started walking towards the waiting area, I stopped in my tracks….there was a sea of bobbing head, swinging to warm up tracks. It grew bigger and bigger and louded by the minute. A sea of around 20000 people, joggers, runners of all shapes and sizes, ages surrounded me and soon we were drowned in them.

2013-10-21 09.51.02

Rashmi and me did try to persuade viji to take the easy option, well, she was not impressed!

The race started and from then, I never looked back.

2013-10-21 09.44.23It was amazing to see ethe organisation. 20000 people running and an equal number of volunteers happily providing refreshments and drinks at the right places. Hats off to them. cheering people on does boost your morale; made me run faster every time i encountered a group of happy spectators and of course photographers. There were scores of power drinks and water bottles strewn around and they were removed with the same pace as the runners.

There were so many stories around, each runner had a story to tell.

2013-10-21 09.45.40From Jamie who was running for his mum, who passed away last year after suffering from breast cancer, to people supporting the Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

2013-10-21 21.56.23Met a lady from oxford, dressed in a Viking costume, compelte with nipple tassles , etc….she was around 60ish and power walked all the way, she said that this was her 8th half marathon this year and she had run in 25 marathons in total!!!! Wow!!! BTW, she is Elaine Horsey ( newspaper article )

The route was relatively ok. The first three miles were painful but soon got into my groove. Mile crossing signs along the way were the saviours and were like oasis in the deserts.

The best sight was however of mum waiting by Morrisons, ont he street, inthe rain to catch a glimpse of me 🙂 was thrilled to see her!! and love this photo with her at that moment….

Screenshot_2013-10-24-11-05-44

Within minutes of that precious kiss, i saw it!

The Finish line…..a feeling that i iwll cherish all my life and something i want you both to experience.

Caught up with Prashant at the finish line too, all chuffed and proud, having finished it under such adverse events faced over last few months. We took our medals and several photos.

Felt like a celebrity

2013-10-20 22.31.41

I particularly like this one; shows the thrill in our eyes of having done the run! Although i am sure he thinks of me as the grim reaper ever since 😉

….one job done; one target achieved; one tick off my bucket list……

WHAT NEXT:

Already registered for next year half marathon with Ram J …..and boy, he was not pleased!!!!

I am not sure how rich my friends are but I am definitely rich because of my friends (AP)

I am not sure how rich my friends are but I am definitely rich because of my friends ( golden words of a friend )
wpid-2013-07-26-15.23.43.png

This statement made a deep impact in my mind. How true, how profound! Found my mind wandering again and again to this very statement leading to an immediate introspection and perhaps a quick reflection and count of how rich or poor I myself was. And as I sit here, writing this blog, just a few days away from ticking one of the boxes of my Top 100 Things To Do Before I Die, I feel proud and chuffed, realising that I am indeed rich too, very very rich because of friends like you.

wpid-2013-07-26-15.31.10.png

Preparing for this ride brought together people from all walks and ages in the last 12 months. Each and every person had something different to offer, each valuable in his or her own way. We had our differences, our fights and our tears, but we never walked away from our goal. We could never have managed this without our whole team of 26 people. Once the ride is over, I know that we will all walk away into the shadows, but each richer than before, having amassed the wealth of friendship and kindness.

wpid-2013-07-26-15.25.17.png

wpid-2013-07-26-15.27.33.png

wpid-2013-07-26-15.24.30.png 

A mix of emotions well up but some other questions rear their heads like Medusa in full flight. Is it all worth it? Will we raise enough to support the school? Will we all be still friends after the trip? Will the kids be safe? And so on and so forth. Ram always reminds me during times like these that its natural for me to worry like this- its instilled in every mother….a mother’s instinct . And so I take it as a complement and start a full blown panic attack 

wpid-2013-07-26-15.22.48.png 

The good news is that our cycling jerseys (which had been finally ordered after many many hours of discussions, unending bargaining/canvassing amongst members for the best options) arrived yesterday and they look fantastic!!!! Got excellent service from the online company called OWAYO. Wonderful quality stuff with names engraved , etc etc. The only downside was that some of the jerseys are slightly smaller than expected but that’s not the fault of the company. They have mentioned in the website that these jerseys fit snugly (If anyone wants to order them, then please go for one size larger )

wpid-2013-07-26-15.22.06.pngwpid-2013-07-26-15.21.42.png

The final mapping is now completed and the brochure has been sent out too. Hotel bookings and transport arrangements all re-confirmed. Had a wonderful meeting with all those involved in the organising group which was very productive. Decided to get medals made for the final reception. The excitement in the air is palpable , just cant wait!!!!! Rashmi and Sanchita will be coming, kids and champagne in tow, to receive us at the Eiffel tower. I think I am looking so far ahead that I keep forgetting that I have to endure a 3 day ride before that .

wpid-2013-07-26-15.29.34.png

But still, all I know , is that today, I am one of the richest people in the world  with so many friends wishing us all the best in our long journey to make the world a better place than it already is!!

London to Brighton…..Its definitely not a downhill route to the sea!!!!

1976, 60 Riders and a 95 Mile Route!

 London-to-Brighton-1976
The first ever London to Brighton Bike Ride was in 1976 when 30 friends cycled from Hyde Park to Brighton. The bike ride is approximately 74 miles long and goes through some breath-taking country lanes in Surrey and Sussex and ends on Brighton’s world-famous seafront.
 
Approximately 750, 000 riders have taken part in the BHF London to Brighton Bike Ride since 1980, cycling 40 million miles between them!   Speaks volumes about this route and the ride in particular , isn’t it. Partly famous as it is the day 1 leg of the London to Paris route, via Newhaven and precisely the reason we decided to try it out 4 weeks before our London to Paris ride.
 
 
On average, it takes around five hours to complete the ride ( are they joking!!! it took us a good 8 hours )
 

Our intention was to map out rest places ( pubs, restrooms, hills, etc) but nothing prepared me for what i experienced…..nothing at all!!!!

 
So finally it was saturday and we eagerly and excitedly caught the 6.30 am train from Solihull to London Marylebone. Our Duracell bunny, mom, was up and ready to say goodbye to us at the station. Of course, Vazzy took another nap in the train too….( i am tempted to put the photo of Varun snoring away in the train but dare not 🙂
 IMG-20130708-WA0032
Reached London Marylebone at around 8am and soon we were immersed in the steady stream of commuters and holiday makers. London! this city never ceases to amaze me…there is a certain magic in its air, a sense of freedom, thrill, suspense and mystery too.
 IMG-20130708-WA0025
                                Passed a whole rack of bikes parked right on the platform.
IMG-20130708-WA0027
 
Some were really interesting, some pure innovative.
 
IMG-20130708-WA0028
Soon enough, I was reminded of my mummy status…the boys left me alone, juggling with 3 bikes. Felt so embarrassed
 IMG-20130708-WA0030
 
Soon we set out on to the streets of London. The first thing that struck me was that London had become extremely bike friendly. There were Boris bikes parked everywhere, bike lanes on most streets and lots of people commuting on bikes. Impressive…..

Passed some wonderful spots  and onto the cycle highway 7, a nice broad expanse that took us all the way from central London to the suburbs.
However, Ram’s experience of cycling in London does sum it all up too….
Cycling in London was some what a bizarre experience. It’s rare to find a place that is so geared up for cycling and yet to have drivers on the road hell-bent on knocking you over isn’t it? Given the number of cyclists on the road and the cycle super highways it’s quite strange that the cars and the lorries have such a scant regard for anyone on the road traveling without a steel cage around themselves. ! It took a while for me to get used to negotiating the streets , not really helped by the constant shrieking of the wife behind me who thought that I was on a suicidal mission.
 
Of course, what I would rather forget is the path via Tooting and Morden. The roads soon narrowed here to a single lane . Cycle lanes were virtually non-existent because they were hidden by  innumerable HGV s along the road. Fruit markets, saturday shoppers, Big Issue vendors, kids in prams, moms in tow, half in and half out of the shops, etc etc…..in their midst, my men were on a mission…..they were trying to outdo James….our James Bond yaar…..by nipping in and out the traffic. sometimes it was Ram, overtaking from the left, or else it was  Varun from the right. They would shoot off leaving me huffing and puffing, in all sorts of stress, phone less and helpless. so obviously as you can imagine, for  the first 2 hours , there was hardly any chitchat amongst us. The moment our eyes would meet, we would just bark at each other and Varun would growl too!!!!
 
However all this changed once we reached past Mitcham.
 
Eventually the madness of the traffic gave way to the familiarity of countryside lanes.
 
That was the beginning of the climbs, one after the other….just long shallow climbs…..so we just saved all our hisses and spats for use at the end….. 🙂
 
bm3g_bfcuamomlo
After a nice downhill stretch on A237 manor road, we reached Coulsdon road, which was the first hill.
 IMG-20130708-WA0016
Slow and steady on jubilee way near grange pub.
 
Took left on to Rook lane and the left on to Alderstead lane which led to Shepard hill, another climb….aaarrghhhh
 IMG-20130709-WA0000
After a few twists and turns, we reached our much awaited next stop!!! By the side of a cricket field!!! Of course, it has to be….you are not an Indian if you don’t pause by a cricket ground and pay respect to it….whether there is a game going on or not!!! Dad and son dutifully stopped and ooh-aah-ed the game while I happily clicked some horsie pics to the left of the field :)))
 IMG-20130708-WA0033
The next few climbs kept feeling tougher and tougher and our progress slowed down to a crawl. Vazzy who is normally a very strong cyclist seemed to be flagging. The heat was relentless but we kept egging each other on.
One thing that seems to happen when you cycle with a group is that you can almost predict when the others want to stop and when someone will get lost
Ram: I am now quite used to getting an earful from Smita on most of the trips for zooming ahead of her……
 IMG-20130708-WA0029
Another climb awaited us : Rookery hill, loved it as we passed through its welcoming cool canopy of large leafy trees. Stopped again at the Dog and Duck pub to refresh and reload our bottles.
IMG-20130708-WA0034It was a lovely place and I wished we would turn back at this time. but the look on Ram’s face when i just had that thought in my mind made me hastily change my decision!!! By then, we came across some more cyclists who were headed to Brighton as well.
 IMG-20130708-WA0020
Back on the road and another climb just after Balcombe road….felt very dizzy and light headed….but carried on. Vazzy had disappeared and Ram was struggling too. Felt so weak and tired that i just couldn’t carry on, so we stopped at a petrol station to get some refreshments. I had heard somewhere that cycling for an hour burns 500 calories, so I had already prepared Ram all along the way that since we would be burning around 5000 calories, there should be no restrictions ont he junk i eat…..so there we were, munching away happily, on crisps and chocolate bars….ahhhh, heaven at last!!!
 IMG-20130708-WA0024
 
But alas, that was not to last long…..we were back on the saddle with renewed vigour ( what a difference calories make – positively and negatively too). Saw the hazy silhouette of a mountain range ahead of us and brushed it aside as it seemed too far away. Varun asked me if we were headed that way and i confidently replied that it was too far away and anyway, silly, we are heading towards the sea, we will go down from here, of course. Aaahh, how wrong  I was !!! Each agonising turn of the wheel led towards the mountains and soon we were doing the painful but as promised by Ram, the last  hill climb towards Devil’s Dyke. It was worth it and we were greeted with stunning views of the area.
wpid-IMG-20130708-WA0015-1.jpg
A hot air balloon magically rose up and i really really wished i could fly away , then and there in that 🙂
 
IMG-20130708-WA0013
(Ditchling Beacon is the highest point of the Ride at 815 feet. Takes around 45 minutes to reach the top, most of the people walk through rather than cycle!!)
 IMG-20130708-WA0023
Once that was done, the ordeal was over. The route was pretty flat after that and downhill sometimes too. we soon reached Brighton and cycled back amidst civilisation along the promenade. But there was a strange silence between us….no, we were not waiting to spit and hiss at each other again….in fact, we were rather in a melancholy state because we were at the end of the ride. the pain and effort that gelled us together would disappear soon and we would blend in with the daily shenanigans of life.
 
Reached a pub who directed us to another pub up the road. I dragged ram and varun towards that side uphill again only to find out that I had taken the wrong route ( drat!!! we cycled 80 miles without losing our way and I had to guide them along 200 yards and still I managed to get us lost!!! ) What followed afterwards was pure heaven: Pimms, wine, fish and chips and chocolate brownies!!!! Could you ask for more……oh yes, need a bed!!!
 
Caught the train back to london and reached at midnight….once again, London, i love London!
wpid-IMG-20130708-WA0012.jpg
Cycled along the mad streets to our hotel and crashed straight into the soft welcoming bed of our deluxe suite ( free upgrade after seeing our sorry state, i think ) in the Bloomsbury Hotel, very close to all the stations.
IMG-20130708-WA0011
It was only the next morning that we realised the beauty of the place….and excellent service too. Had to leave soon and headed back home…..
wpid-IMG-20130708-WA0014-1.jpg
An interesting conference noted in one of the Bloomsbury hotel suites – Learn to be rich workshop: Rich Dad Education…..Hmmmmm, i wondered what education we were giving our son, who was busy oiling the wheels of his bike, trying to impress the two blondes who went past him, eyeing his cycling gear all over :))))
 
Ok, back to  the pain…..hmmm, lets say it lasted for a while :/
would i do it again….of course yes….
 
AU REVOIR
 
 

” What’s in a name? That we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.

20130616_094545

Stratford upon Avon- a name that is synonyomous with Shakespeare and thronged by millions of visitors each year. Being only 21 miles away, for us, reaching there and back has always been one of the easiest ways to grab bike miles , however, it has always been a very daunting task. Especially when you ride with bike-demons like Mahesh in the group who is known to do the 40 mile return journey in less than 3 hours without a single crease on his forehead.
Anyway, last weekend was the day we decided to head for the S town and capture it. As usual, our ever so punctual group started off a good 45 minute late ( but hey, thats the IST ( indian standard time :). The main and most cheerful addition to the group was Rashmi. It would not be politically correct ot say that I would prefer her to Subhash as a co-rider , but then hey ho, who cares!!! Subhash ( the other half-better or worse, hmmmm….) cant giggle like she does, nor can his peals of laughter ring and scare the colws in the countryside ;)).

We took the usual route from Solihull to Stratford via Henley in Arden. The day was perfect with the odd shower. Passed this field of yellow buttercups and spotted Mrs Moo’s family , taking an early morning siesta, wondering what in hell are these guys doing breaking out into a sweat….for a moment, that thought echoed in my mind too :). Stopped for a quick pic and sped ahead.

20130608_083616

Mahesh came across an old friend, a recycled scarecrow. No idea why he was placed there, in the middle of a residential area and no fields in sight! Probably a scarecyclist rather than a scarecrow 🙂

20130616_09340920130616_093528

A few miles ahead, we spotted some huge horses with the most delicate and kind eyes you could ever see. Ram was a bit intimidated by them initially and soon they were munching greedily on grass from our hands.

20130616_130157

Soon, we were back on A34 in Henley in Arden and thats where the thoughts of the cows started re-echoing in my mind. There was a sort of competition between the beasts on the road to mow us down. It is indeed really scary when these 100 ton machines whizz past you, leaving you shaking like a sole leaf in autumn.

20130608_08363420130616_120141

One of my favourite stopping spots: the Manor hall in Wooton Waaven. There is something very magical in the way the water flows down this beautiful waterfall , which always always slows me down. I have taken so many pictures but still keep going for more.

Ah, and my loyal steed , proudly posing on the bridge. Isnt she a beauty!!! so proud of her 🙂

20130616_094721

Soon we were at the outskirts of Stratford….all excited. It was great to see Rashmi still pedalling. a bit envious too as I remembered my first ride to Stratford and fighting with Ram midway because he would not let me have the desired breaks ( although it was bc i was stopping too frequently for more photos 🙂

20130616_11075220130616_110824

Loved the moments spent resting by the canalside, watching life go past, as if in slow motion. Moments we all have experienced and forget so quickly. The pleasure in sharing the same cup of coffee and hot chocolate with friends, of stealing bites of a sole sausage roll and taking innumerable useless photographs.

The rest of the ride into S town was a breeze with ram being ‘mobbed’ by a group of chinese tourists for photographs who demanded that he should pose on his bike and not just stand with them 🙂 Although he denies it, i think he was pretty chuffed at the whole experience….

20130616_102154

Prashant did try and go upto the chinese tour bus in an attempt to get noticed and have his star shots taken too, but for some reason or another it didnt work out. We managed to cheer him up with a solo shot in front of the Shakespeare museum 🙂 now proudly his facebook profile picture

20130616_10452620130616_104423

Stopped for breakfast at this riverside cafe The Encore. It just seemed so perfect and quintessentially english! Soon, all that vanished because it had items on the breakfast menu like florentines and egg benedict. No full english breakfast with hash browns and sausages, that is blasphemy if you ask me!!!!  That was  a total no no. It was then no surprise that the restaurant was the haunt of the pretty Stratford upon Avon ladies in summery white dresses and gladiator sandals with perfect blond hair and equally perfect kids to match :/ . However, due to hunger pangs, even the guys agreed to cross the road to the sausage rolls and egg bacon bar and feast their tummies rather than their eyes 🙂

20130616_104458

But of course, being the shameless cyclists we are, we jsut had to take a small peek in the washroom….the above picture is of the Wine cellar en route to the wash room…aesthetically decorated place. Would love to come here in the flowery summery dress routine ( ahem/amen to the pretty and blond and delicate stuff )

20130616_104300

Anyway, the decor inside was admirable. The doors of the washrooms were really interesting; in the design of old books,  really impressed ( will pardon the egg benedict or some saint’s name. Imagine calling something Krishna chicken or Narayana egg roast  😉

20130616_10261720130616_102445

On the other hand, guilt ridden for having left Subhash behind and that too on Father’s day, Rashmi tried to get something for him and settled on cheescakes instead ( now i am not to be fooled into thinking that she wanted to cycle with cheesecakes packed inside her backpack!!!)

20130616_11241420130616_102407

Well, the truth surfaced soon and so the cheesecakes disappeared (un)grudgingly . We continued peeking into the shops at all the nice nice nice things inside…..

20130616_11343020130616_113514

only to realise that the boys were keeping themselves busy peeking at all the nice nice nice things outside ….hmmmph fake tans!!! Need i say more- the grin on my man’s face says it all :)))

the cheesecake disappeared suddenly and we set off;

Another ride done, another wish fulfilled, another dream dreamt……45 miles clocked and one step closer to fulfilling someone else’s dream.

20130616_120313

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step !

 iphonebackup 609

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!

 iphonebackup 227

Once again, its Saturday morning…..my eyes fluttered open to the chirping of birds outside, soft breeze wafted in through the small slit of our window, lovely golden sunshine lighted up the face of my angel who had managed to squirrel into our bed sometime during the night…..and suddenly BANG, CRASH, OUCH, the opening, closing and painful exclamation of someone who was trying to get into gear early in the morning!!!!

 iphonebackup 171

Good morning, Saturday……and once again, its time for the training ride.

As I groan, turn away and try to nab a few more winks, the cycling fairy in me takes charge. I change, still grumpily, into my cycling gear, which by the way, is in dire need of update (unless you think red bike with pink helmet, yellow fluorescent shirt and blue shoes match).

Hubby is busy competing with the morning bird outside the window, both in terms of chirpiness and speed, getting things ready for the ride. Backpack, food bars, drinks, puncture kit, tissues, waterproofs, etc etc…..well, being a woman in a man’s sport does have its advantages 😉

 iphonebackup 044

And soon we are off, on track, on another training ride. ( Ram annoyed at my lagging behind while others are ready to shoot off!!) Its times like these that I always wonder as to why I am in a situation like this….why cant I be like the hundred other mums, enjoying a late breakfast on a weekend morning, sipping coffee with loved ones and snuggling back into bed just because…..well, just because! That was when I remember a title from a blog I read recently, interestingly a Solihull based cyclist blog- the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!

 iphonebackup 159iphonebackup 168

( via brueton park: oh how i would like to just stop here 🙂

Life has been kind to most of us. In the sense, I don’t mean that we all had cushy lives, we all have had our fair share of problems too but we have managed to make it this far. The only way to be thankful to what life has given us is to give it back in some form to life itself. All we need to do is a very simple thing- you just need to make others happy. Life for them, whether they are your family, friends, neighbour or colleague (with the exception of kids, of course! You don’t have to do anything for them because its instilled in you. Living your life for your children comes automatically, according to me)

 iphonebackup 360iphonebackup 367

( Now when did he grow so tall….dont remember the in-between years at all 🙂

Hence the whole idea of cycling appealed to me over the last few years. Although I started it reluctantly, mainly to keep an eye on hubby’s safety, it soon turned into a passion. Soon, our son joined in with us and weekend rides were one of the things we would all look forward to. There is something special in the air when your teenager rides with you. Flashbacks from the past, of his first tricycle, then his bike with suspensions and his first fall come gushing and so do the tears ( well, I am an easy one at that!!! Years of experience, I guess 😉 Soon, others joined in and it was really heart-warming to notice how we grew into a brood, all happy, relaxed and committed.

 iphonebackup 349iphonebackup 294

( can cycle along these lanes forever )

Raising awareness for causes by doing long hard rides soon had its fruits and from a small group of 6 cyclists, we are now 22, riding all the way to Paris. Eventually we will raise a lot more awareness and money for our charity than what we would have done as a small group. My thousand miles journey has just begun and I have no idea where its destination is. All I know is that I will have lots of people joining in with me, great hours of fun on the saddle and happiness in the fact that we will be raising awareness for a cause which will benefit the life of others.

 iphonebackup 290iphonebackup 379

Cycling and other events last year helped us build an entire floor in the village of Bodarli, near Burhanpur, MP, hence led to more education opportunities in India. A girl child will not have to go uneducated and will be able to offer better care to her family in future. Events also helped fund part of a van to transport children with special needs in Solihull, UK as well as a van in India for patients will mental health issues. And all this started with a single step, a small thought and a lot of ideas……

We have already started our first few steps this year as part of our training for the London to Paris ride in exactly 8 weeks from now….OMG , where is the panic button!!!!! Hence, here I make a promise…..Saturday morning, I will not moan, groan, complain , bitch or be jealous of all ye mums snuggled at home at 6 am in the morning……my aim of a thousand miles will start with my first few miles…wherever I am, whatever I do …..Viva la Paris, here I come …

iphonebackup 293iphonebackup 363

A step closer to a better life….a better future 🙂

iphonebackup 292

DOULEUR DANS LE TRAIN D’ATTERRISSAGE- Rod Ecclestone

DOULEUR DANS LE TRAIN D’ATTERRISSAGE

Pain in the landing gear! ( google translation)

Route: Solihull to Warwick

Distance: 40 miles circular

Ride 2 : 26.05.13

Back on the saddle for another gruelling 40 miles on the road. Decided to take the Solihull to Leamington spa route.as usual, I was a bit apprehensive as we had never been on that route before.

IMG_8522

The combinations in the group were different too. This time, we had 2 newbies in out toon town- Prashant and Nishant. P had been gearing for this trip for days and was the first to arrive home, with his bike in tow , but with no air…..lesson 1: to reach Paris, you need to learn how to fill air. The others reached sooner or later and we set off, once again through brueton park. Ram, Nishant and me reached the park but the others were no where to be seen. thanks to the wonders of modern technology, realised that they were further ahead, having taken t he ‘short-cut’

Lesson 5: stick to the map!!!!guys, there is nothing more annoying than waiting for someone 🙂

I wouldn’t complain though…gave me time to get some nice clicks.

IMG_8538

IMG_8544

Went along brueton avenue and up the bridge crossing the M42 into Knowle….thats where my backpack started feeling heavy ( who asked me to carry the big camera!!! Moi, of course) and who would be the first one to point it out- the hubby, of course….my ‘I told you so’ man snapped but eventually gave in and carried it for the rest of the ride , awwwww.

The ride was brilliant with some lovely views. Kept worrying about N and P but they were doing great. Nishant’s cheeks started turning red in varying shades and you could tell that we were increasing our efforts by the deepening beetroot colour he had acquired in the next 20 minutes.

Came across fellow cyclists who waved and cheered everytime they passed ( except for P, who felt that he was ignored bc he was not in proper cycle gear- now who told you to wear jogging bottoms and tshirt. Mahesh reckons they feel that he is out to buy milk and eggs from the local grocer 😉

Reached Warwick ( no idea how leamington route converted to warwick) and past a steep incline in town, reached a welcoming pub.

IMG_8589

IMG_8590

It was a great feeling and loved every minute soaking in the sun and beer.

IMG_8566

IMG_8607

Was interesting to see the look on M’s face when he got a whole fish, grilled….scales galore, the whole works….( now, for those who dont know, us indians, have a habit of destroying all resemblance and flavours of any type of food with the strongest of spices and fish is no exception, hence it was a surprise when an identifiable object like a fish was on the table 🙂

Anyway, it was not M’s day as he was the butt of all jokes ( pun intended 🙂 but he didnt mind at all and all was in good spirits…..

IMG_8604

IMG_8600

Met Louis, a cute dog, who mainly understood french and very little english. Did try to converse with him in moi french, but like most males, all he cared was being pampered and stroked…..and thats just what i did 🙂

The return journey was a blur, the aim was to keep going on and on. Was immensely proud of P and N, both excelled and cycled back safely, considering that this was a 40 mile ride and not easy even for relatively senior riders….. reached home, tired but victorious, 40 mile veterans , and of course with the excuse of ‘i am too tired’ for the rest of the night!

Lessons learnt:

1. Never underestimate the beginners…..enthusiasm and pride always wins ( cheers to N and P )

2. Wear the ‘proper’ gear if you want to be taken seriously by fellow cyclists ( read as if you want to get the cursory nods and whassups!! )

3. Stick to path, stick to path and stick to path.

4. assess hills and lower gears in anticipation, slowly increasing the resistance.

IMG_8611

IMG_8571

IMG_8576

Life is like riding a bicycle – in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. – Albert Einstein

IMG_8600

AND ITS BACK TO THE START AGAIN

Ride 1: 25.05.13

The idea of the next ride always emerges and solidifies during a charity ride and that was exactly the same old way that the L2P ride was conceived. The enthusiasm and booming confidence of the coast2coast cycling trip spurred the idea of L2P which soon took shape. I was happy being the secretary of the group, booking hotel rooms, reading up various reviews of food ( ah…and wine too), sorting out travel arrangements. The weather too played host and deterred the ‘would love to cycle but…..’ cyclists from going out on their bikes ever since we returned from the C2C.

However, months of cajoling coaxing threatening and bribing ( hot pub food followed by chilled beer!! Told you , food always works with me ;), the day finally arrived when the British weather also parted ways with my meandering mind and decided to shine through. There was no excuse to dig deeper into the duvet and I knew that I had run out of excuses. Ram had already decided and spread the word amongst the group so we knew that the ride was on, come rain or storm !

On day 1, we were joined by the usual suspects: Raja and Subhash and soon we set off through BruetonPark.

Route: http://www.ardenblythecycleway.org.uk/assets/CSM2-0612-final.pdf

DISTANCE: 25 miles

It was a great ride and I was happily clicking away. 6 miles down the road, there was a beautiful bluebell wood and I longed for a peek.

Viola!!! It was as if God heard my prayers and Bang! A puncture.

Obviously the guys got started on it straight away ( I think they feel very much the alpha male when they repair punctures etc, just like a bbq ) while I escaped into the bluebell woods.

The ride continued through a forest trail from where 3 horse riders emerged, a beautiful sight framed by the golden glow of the morning sun. There is something so majestic about horses,the way they trot, head held up high, proud and snooty, but equally deserving.

The rest of the ride continued happily clicking away and then catching up with the guys. Spotted a horse and its pony in a perfect setting….enjoy. It was mother nature at its best that day. had to climb over a hedge to take this shot and cursed myself for not bringing my Canon with me.

Lessons learnt:

1. if you are cycling anywhere in temperatures less than 10 degrees, please layer up. We wore 3 thin layers with winter cycling gloves and a neck scarf ( wish there was a nose clip- nothing is more embarrassing than runny noses during a cycle ride.

2. always keep a good quality tissue on the back of your gloves where the velcro straps to the wrist, useful in dabbing those unglamorous noses.

3. Always carry a spare tube in your bag and puncture repair kit.

4. Do take a good quality camera with you, reagrdless of weight….you never know what you might see around the corner.