Thursday, November 30, 2006

Effects of donating blood on running

The last few times I donated blood, I've been trying to see how it affects my running. A few months ago, I tried biking about five hours after blood donation. That felt alright. Next time too, I biked the same distance (~4 miles) and about 40 hours later, went for a 7 mile run. That too went off without problems - no blood, no tears, only sweat (it was a hot day). This month, I went for a 3.5 mile run at about 8:00 minute/mile pace and after about 5 hours, went in for the blood donation, and about 3 hours after that, went for another 3.5 mile run. I consciously dropped my pace to around 8:40 minutes/mile from my usual easy run pace of 8:00 minutes/mile since this was a first experience for me. I was mentally prepared to slow down to 9+ minute pace and even walk if needed, but, to my pleasant surprise I had no problems whatsoever. Indeed, at the end of the run, I felt that I could have gone at 8:00. Next time I think I will increase either the distance or the speed, most likely the distance.

One of the things that happens with blood donation is that you instantaneously lose a pound of body weight. Maybe that makes you a bit faster. Of course, don't tell that to the nurse at the blood center. This time, when one of them found out that I run, she made it a point of telling me - "Absolutely no running for at least 24 hours."

Browsing the web, I came across a wide spectrum of experiences that other people had - from feeling absolutely normal to feeling very weak, from nausea to headaches. If you are racing, then blood donation seems to have more of an effect than if you are simply out for a jog. However, I wasn't able to find any specific study on this subject. I'll post links here if I find them.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon

Today I went to the San Jose Rock 'n' Roll half marathon.This was the inaugural edition. I went there to see Meb Keflezighi, the American champ. Unfortunately, by the time I reached there it was about 8-9 minutes past the hour. The winner, Duncan Kibet, had already finished in 1:00:22, which, according to the announcer, was the second fastest time on U.S. soil, after Haile Gebreselassie's. Later I checked the results and couldn't find Keflezighi on there. Wonder if he didn't show up or didn't finish?

The shot above is that of the women's winner - Silvia Skvortsova of Russia. The other shot is that of a guy in a mohawk. Check the time - 80 minutes. That's about a 6:07 pace. Pretty impressive. Wonder how many minutes he could shave off if he shaved off his mohawk. There was another guy a few minutes later, wearing what looked like capris.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Encounter with a hawk

This past weekend, we went to a nearby park to get in a leisurely run. After the run, we were cooling down by the lake, looking at the little ducks on the water, when out of the blue skies something descended swiftly. Not Superman, not an airplane, but a bird, and at a speed much faster than a 4 minute mile pace. We turned and looked - it was a hawk with a pigeon gripped tightly in its claws. I was lucky that I had my camera with me. Over the next half hour, I watched the hawk literally eviscerate its prey. Here are a few pictures from its Sunday brunch. In one of the pictures, you can see a sailboat on the lake in the background in the right.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Running in Alaska

I was in Alaska this month for a couple of weeks. Summer is Alaska has got to be the best time and place on this planet for running. Long days and many trails. Anchorage, which is in the south, gets about 20 hours of daylight. Technically, the sun rises around 4 a.m. and sets around midnight at this time of the year (mid June to mid maJuly). However, even those 3-4 hours without the sun are kind of like a twilight zone - you can see everything quite well. The city seems to be crawling with trails. Two minutes into a trail and you don't feel that you are in a city. What this all means is that you can go out for a great run whenever you feel like it, without having to worry about the need to carry little LED lights or about getting back before it turns dark.

From Anchorage, I hopped on to Seward, a port city about 120 miles south and the site of the second oldest race in the USA - the Mt. Marathon race. This 3.5 mile race is held every year on the 4th of July and this year was the 79th edition. It starts from the town (at the intersection of 4th and Jefferson) and goes about a half mile on the streets before hitting the base of Mt. Marathon. What follows next is just under 1.5 miles of unmaintained trails that seriously question your ability to persevere, while taking you up 3022 feet (from the 30 feet elevation at the start), with the average slope being 38 degrees and the maximum being 60 degrees. Far from a little hike in the woods. (Check out the caution notice in the picture.) The total race is about 3.5 miles and the record for the course is 43 min 23 sec, set in 1981. Getting into the race is next to impossible if you are a first-time aspirant. You can pay your $45 application and hope it gets selected in the lottery. Most likely, you will end up writing it off as a donation. If not, there's always the auction for 10 slots, which is held the day before the race. This year the highest winning bid was $1170. During the July 4th weekend, the town's population swells from about 2500 to about 30,000.

I didn't make the selection cut, and didn't feel the desire to shell out a thousand bucks, and so, instead I decided to run (more like a fast hike) up Mt. Marathon by myself, a couple of days before the actual race. I made my way up slowly, struggling to summon all my horsepower in order to lift my weight against gravity and a much more formidable entity - the slope of the mountain. Combine this with the slippery trail and you find yourself in situations where you are hiking all hunched up (think of an imaginary 50 lb backpack on your back) or just plainly on all fours like a bear, except much slower. Time passed by, almost in slow-motion, until, finally, I found myself at the top, looking down below at an amazing view of the entire bay below. It's a beautiful sight from the top well worth all the trouble. Coming down is equally challening. It took me just under an hour to do the whole thing from the base of the mountain. After the hike, I fueled myself at the Resurrection Art Coffee House, a cute little coffee shop at the intersection of 3rd and Jefferson, followed by lunch at a Greek restaurant - Apollo. Salmon pizza! One of the best I've ever had. Seward is a cute little town. Check it out.

Another place to get in some great running is Denali National Park - about 240 miles north of Anchorage. Here, the sun sets after midnight and is back up around 3:30 a.m. I had one of the most memorable runs ever - at 2 a.m. Beautiful, surreal twilight - like the kind you see in some of the movies. I went for a 3 mile run along the road, with not a soul in sight. The only moving entity I encountered was a fox with a rabbit in its mouth - early breakfast. Denali is beautiful - and that's an understatement.

Alaska is an absolute paradise for running. At least, in the summer. Winter might be a different story, but that's another topic for another day.

Sunday, June 04, 2006 - running routes around the world is a site with descriptions of over 4200 routes in over 3100 cities all over the world. It's been running since 1996 and is still going strong. I find myself quite often referring people to this site when they are looking for places to run on a trip somewhere, especially to other countries. I've added a couple of descriptions myself. I encourage you to take a look and while you're there, add a few of your favorite routes.

There are other forums, newsgroups, and bulletin boards where you could find more information about running in specific cities by posting a question or by searching the archived messages. However, what I like about is that I can simply type in the city name and it will take me to a page with descriptions of all the routes for that city. The difference is that it is solely focused on running routes unlike other media where there is a lot more information about a lot more topics.

Monday, May 29, 2006

London marathon - live on the net

In April, I saw the London marathon (more precisely, a tiny part of it) live on the Internet. The quality wasn't really anything to wax eloquent about. Nonetheless, for a runner deprived of live TV coverage, it was a blessing, especially given the field. At least, you could hear the commentary clearly.

It would be interesting to see if we could leverage the power of technology even further. Imagine a marathon (or any other race) website streaming the live coverage along with a list of the top N runners at any given time. You click on any name and it displays the current data for the runner - current heart rate, current pace, average pace, and other interesting statistics. Given the plethora of personal monitoring devices (e.g., heart rate monitors, etc.) that exists today and the availability of wireless networks, the task in itself shouldn't be too complicated. Of course, it would be up to the runner whether he/she chooses to have that data streamed. On the other hand, if everyone or even half of a field in one of the big ones such as London or Los Angeles decided to go for this, it could pose some interesting scalability problems for wireless delivery.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Recycling old shoes

Last week, I collected a bunch of old shoes from colleagues at work for recycling. All I had to do was send out a company-wide email and put up a large bin in an accessible area. The shoes came flying in. I'll be dropping them off today at a nearby running store that I'd contacted before embarking on this drive.

I learned something in the process. Most of us don't recycle shoes since we don't know that it can be done. Instead, we just put them in the garbage and ultimately it ends up in a landfill somewhere. However, if more of us knew about recycling, more of us would be willing to do so. One of the questions many of them had was: what happens to recycled shoes? I must admit, I didn't know much other than that they were broken down to be used for playground surfacing. I looked it up online and it's a bit more exciting than that. They actually break the shoes into their constituents such as fabric, foam, and rubber. These are then ground up into tiny bits which then go into the surfacing of playgrounds, soccer, football, and baseball fields, athletic tracks, padding under the floors of basketball/volleyball courts, weight room flooring, etc.

So, if you want to do something similar, it's very easy. Simply contact your local running store and see if they recycle shoes. Most would. Keep in mind they only recycle sports shoes. No dress shoes, no hiking boots, no thongs, no sandals. You could then contact your neighbors or work colleagues and tell them about your sole intention. Most people are very willing to cooperate and would be more than happy to get rid of their old shoes sitting in the garage/attic/backyard, if they know that their shoes are going towards a worthy cause. Go for it!

Sunday, March 05, 2006 to map running routes

Check out It's a google maps hack that lets you calculate the distance of your running route. You click "start recording" and simply double click on each point that you want and proceed to the next one on your intended route. The cumulative distance is shown so you know how far you would've run. This is a very useful tool for runners who would rather not have to measure their route in a car or wear a GPS unit.

Just out of curiosity, I compared it to's maps feature that I wrote about in my last post. For a specific route, I calculated the distance using both these methods. What do I get? Exactly the same distance. I think they differed in the second or third decimal point but that could be attributed to where I placed my points on the maps. This one was slightly faster than, but it's not exactly a fair comparison since this is a utility that was built on gmaps. It could have as well been built on Overall, I think it's very good.

Friday, March 03, 2006

maps at makes it easy to map running routes unveiled its new interface this week. I played around with the maps feature and found it to be immensely better than any of the current offerings out there. You can put in a start point and add as many destinations as you want. But, that's not the best part. The most compelling feature, in my opinion, was the ability to drag and drop the pins that represent the destinations. You can drop it anywhere on the map and it will automatically calculate the new coordinates for you.

This is exactly what I'd been wanting for a long time. In the past, when I would want to map out a route using web-based maps, I had to put in the street intersections for pairs of starting and ending points and do that for all the segments that made up my intended route and finally add up all the distances to get my final mileage. Needless to say, it was a tedious task that required quite a bit of time. This makes it really easy. Very impressive.

I don't expect it will be as accurate (down to the decimal) as using a bike odometer. Nevertheless, it could be a good tool to get a general idea of how long a route is.

Off to find a few new routes to go running.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


This is where I'll blog my running activities as I run through the race called life. Stay tuned.