The Year that was (2013)

2013 has ended on a wonderful note for me. I learnt a few lessons and I am beginning to understand what is important in life and what is not.

The year started with lots of tears and emotions, if I remember correctly. It was yet another New Year’s eve where my husband and I were miles apart. I was really fed up of what my life was throwing at me. I was in the same state of mind almost till November. Time and again, I used to wonder why God is making me live this lonely life. But right towards the end of the year, I stumbled across an article that discussed memories.

It seems even though we had a happy childhood, years later, when we look back, we only remember the sad and unhappy moments vividly. As soon as I read that, I realized that most people around me, including me, only remember the unpleasant happenings from childhood. Our memories make us believe that we had an unhappy childhood, which is not true. 

It was like a revelation for me. By worrying and feeling sad all the time, we only etch that ‘one unpleasant’ happening in our memories, whereas, the all other happy moments are forgotten.

I then realized that I should try my best and make my children’s childhood happy and memorable. I wanted their memories to be mostly happy. Happiness starts from the phase of ‘being content’. From then, it has become my new motto. Be Content and Be Happy. If I am happy, then they would also learn to be a happy person, isn’t it?

Despite being alone and miles away from my husband on yet another New Year’s eve, I am happy and content of what I have at this moment 🙂 I am surprised that I am not feeling sad and depressed. Wow, what an improvement!

I am ready to welcome 2014. May this year be filled with happiness, good health for everyone! Happy New Year 2014…

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Eco Femme cloth pads review

After knowing about the harmful chemicals present in the disposable diapers and constantly adding to the garbage pile, I switched over to cloth diapers for my babies. Only then, it had occurred to me that I have been adding to the pile every month during menstruation. I imagined that cloth would be very messy to use. But after reading some experiences of cloth pads and getting a recommendation from my friend, I was game for trying it out.

I had ordered 3 Eco Femme cloth pads through Shycart (I had blogged about that experience earlier over here). It was an order of 2 day and 1 night pads. I had purchased this to see if it was really possible to use cloth pads after years of using disposable sanitary pads.

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To be honest, it was a hassle when I tried this in the last cycle. It was not because of cloth pads itself but because of the small number of pads I had to begin with. From what I read, advice is to start with around 6. But I was not ready to invest in 6 pads without being sure if I would like it. After using it last month, I placed another order. Now I have a total of 5. Yes, these pads are here to stay with me, as far as I am concerned.

Things I liked:

  1. Soft: As we know, the disposable sanitary pads that are sold in India are nowhere near as soft as it would be in the US. This actually felt soft, softer than any pad I has used before.
  2. Stays in place always: Press buttons are sewn on to the pad to secure them to the underwear. Surprisingly, it stayed in place throughout. Did not bunch up as I had perceived. It was a little bulky than the Ultras I was used to, but not as bulky to feel uncomfortable.
  3. No smell: I was really skeptical about it. There is actually no odour emanating from this after use, unlike the disposable napkins. And, if the pads are soaked, rinsed and washed as per the washing instructions, they get clean and fresh as new.
  4. No overflow: For years, we were made to believe that only disposable pads absorb the liquids quickly and there was no way that a cloth could absorb even half as much. Well, this is absolutely wrong. There was no overflow of any sorts when I used them. I wonder why the advertisements by the major brands portray this in that way.
  5. Minimum carbon foot print: Finally felt good that I am not adding to the trash. Due to the rains and the small number of pads I owned, I had to use disposable for a couple of times.

I really liked using these pads and hence I took the pain to wash them whenever possible to ensure that I did not have to use disposable. There were a few things which I found it difficult to handle.

Things I did not feel comfortable with:

  1. Washing and drying: Though the steps were simple, it was a bit of a hassle. I think this feeling is mainly because I am not used to this and also because I tend to not tell anybody about my periods. That would no longer be possible as these have to be hung outside to dry. In fact, my mom in law spotted it last time and was having a look from all angles. Thankfully she did not ask me about it! Being a shy person does not help here J
  2. Long drying time: Due to layers of cloth sewn together, it took quite a while to dry. The cloudy skies and the occasional rains did not help. A machine wash would have definitely brought the drying time down.

Apart from these, I really liked everything else about the product. I would definitely recommend it to my friends and family.

If you are here wondering if this will work for you, I say why not try it first. You could try these on days where you would be home (on a weekend or something) or on light days. Once you gain confidence in the product, I think you would definitely use it regularly.

Detailed washing instructions and encouragement to try these cloth pads can be found here

My first 10K at TWCM 2013

I woke up at 04:30 am surprisingly feeling well slept. That was a complete contrast to reality, as I slept at half past midnight. May be that was because of all the adrenalin rush in the lead up to the race day.  Since the weather forecast had predicted rains at 50% chance, I glanced outside and was relieved to see no signs of rain. After a light breakfast at 05:00 a.m. (Glass of milk and a small banana), I was ready by 05:15.

Just when I was about to wake up my brother for a drop to the local railway station, heavy downpours started. I was dumbstruck. I was scared that these rains were going to spoil my plans. I was game for a run in the rain, but I was pretty sure my dad would not approve of that. But when I nervously glanced at my dad,  to my surprise, he asked me to go to the venue and return back if it continues to rain. I heaved a sigh of relief. After checking on Arjun and Aditi one last time and giving mom some last minute tips on how to handle them if they start crying for me, my brother and I made our way to the Mandaveli MRTS.

When I entered the station, there were just a handful of people waiting for the train. But as time went by, more and more people made their way into the station. The excitement and butterflies in the stomach started soon after. A few of them had already started warming up. Even I tried to loosen the muscles a bit by walking around and doing high knee ups. Since the starting point of the race was right next to the Indira Nagar MRTS station, we were encouraged to use the train.

This being my first race, I had a lot of questions, concerns and nervousness. My major concern was restrooms. Would the portable toilets be available near the starting point? I dreaded at the possibility of having to run with a constant urge to look for restrooms. After having a near dehydration experience in the mock long run of 8Km, I took every effort to avoid dehydration. I drank electrolytes the previous day, to stock up on all the salts. The other concern was, I never run 10Km before the race. I was skeptical about my own abilities. But come what may, I was determined to cross the finish line, even if it meant that I had to walk for most parts.

As soon as the train reached Indira Nagar, the station was filled with people in orange. It was orange all the way outside the station too. Why wouldn’t it be if more than 7000 were to participate in the 10K event. After a quick bathroom break at a Porta potty, I made my way to the starting point. It was a festive atmosphere with loud music and lot of people, big and small, old and young, Indian and Foreign, strong and differently abled, raring to go.

The starting point was divided into bays based on the time in which one expected to finish the race. The first bay was less than 50 minutes. I quietly walked past it. Then, there was a 1hr bay. With a little bit of hesitation, I walked past it too. Then was the bay for 1hr and 10 minutes. Though my estimate was around 1hr and 15minutes, I decided to stick to 1hr and 10 minutes bay.

With less than 15 minutes left for the race to start, I tried to warm up a bit. Thankfully, I did not feel self conscious as many other people were doing the same (Since I run alone daily, I am constantly looking for ways to avoid amused gazes at me). I wanted a picture taken for my own records. A lady kindly agreed to do the honors in my obsolete smart phone. I needed proof for participation, so how could I let go of the opportunity 🙂

At the starting point

At the starting point

There was a timing chip stuck to the bib to record the timings. The start time for every person is recorded only when a person goes past the start line where a timing mat is placed. So, it actually does not matter when we cross the start line. What actually matters how long it takes to reach the “Finish line” from the “Start line”. The organizers were repeatedly announcing this information over the loudspeaker in order to avoid any panic situation, as for many people, like me, it was going to be the first race.

The race was flagged off at 07:00 a.m. as per plans. With the loud speakers playing ‘The Final Countdown’, it was an electric atmosphere. I am sure everyone was excited and filled with positive energy. I even got goose bumps at this point of time. I slowly jogged with the crowd. It was difficult to get past all the slow joggers/walkers. I know it was not a serious race where only professionals participate, but it would have been a nice, if actually everyone stood in their respective bays. There is no problem with someone jogging slow or walking. It is just that they should have started in their designated bay as it was quite unfair to others. Nevertheless, with a race with 7000+ participants, all these were to be expected.

The first 3 KMs was all about finding a way in between other participants. Initially I had thought that I should stick with someone who runs my pace, but that proved a difficult find. So, decided to run at my own pace. I took a walking break of a minute before I reached the 3KM mark. Volunteers were offering water, glucose, lemon and salt at the 3KM aid station. I grabbed a cup of water and moved forward.

Beyond the Madhya Kailash junction, traffic was closed in one side of the road. Other side of the road was used by all the runners, viz. marathoners, half marathoners and the 10K participants. Needless to say, it was congested. So the task of finding a way in between the runners continued. Volunteers were present all through the route ensuring that runners run in the lane allotted, one lane was for people running towards Madhya Kailash and the other was for people running towards Adyar flyover. I continued jogging at the pace I was used to. When we reached Adyar flyover, I saw a 4KM marker and the clock read 07:28. It was well inside my estimates. I continued to climb the flyover, huffing and puffing. Incline was a new territory to me as I had only ran on flat surfaces. It was difficult, but somehow managed to scrape through. Downhill was relatively easy and once we crossed the flyover, I was happy to spot the aid station. Grabbed some glucovita and continued over Thiru Vi Ka bridge.

The entire route was familiar to me, but still, the roads looked very different with runners all over the road and curious onlookers on the sides of the road. Some were cheering us, some were wondering what we were up to. I was sure of one thing though, the people in their vehicles must have been cursing us for creating traffic congestion early in the morning on a Sunday! Nevertheless, we continued to run cheering the fellow participants who were on the other side of the road. Most of them were half marathon runners. Looking at some of the older runners, I gained much needed determination to continue running and not resort to walking.

Once we went past the bridge, in about 0.5KM or so was the U turn point. It was 07:43 when I crossed it. I was off my target by a minute or two. But since flyover was not a part of my training, I was not disappointed. I continued running. By now, my legs were tired and my pace dropped. The trouble was when I had energy to run, the road was crowded and hence I was finding it extremely difficult to do justice. It was not just me who was in this situation. With these thoughts, I continued plodding along with the crowd.

When I reached the bridge again, I noticed that nobody was using the pavement on the side of the bridge. I took that and started running. As there was no one to pass, I was able to pick up pace and sustain it for a while. The surface was uneven and the rain water was on the pavement here and there. So, I tried my best to be careful too. A gentleman clicking photographs sitting on the edge of the bridge warned me about the uneven surface and asked me to be careful. I thought, both of us were potentially up to dangerous stunts J

I lowered the pace a bit and continued until I reached the aid station. Gulped down glucovita once again and got ready to run over the flyover once more. I was really not looking forward to it. Walked, jogged, walked and jogged until I climbed the flyover. Once on top, I started wondering how many more KMs to go. Though there were markers every 2KM, I noticed only one at the 4KM point. I wondered if the volunteers would know. I started looking for ways to distract myself to continue running. It was at this point, I saw some amazing runners. There were blade runners, there were participants on their pedaling with their hands and there were also participants pushing their dear ones in a wheel chair. These participants gave me the motivation to run.

When I was about to reach Madhya Kailash, presuming there is about 2KMs left in the race, I saw a marker saying 1KM to go. That sight was enough to push me through the last stage. After grabbing some pieces of banana from the aid station, I ran with a determination of finishing strong. But again, the roads were congested with runners. The pavement was uneven and the roads were water logged at some places. So, I could not continue with the same enthusiasm. There were a lot of people cheering us when we entered the CPT campus. Volunteers were saying last 200 metres, keep it up. But I just could not run any longer. So walked for a minute inside the campus and then ran in the direction guided by the volunteers. It was at this point, I spotted the “Finish line”. I sprinted the last 50 metres and finished the run. I have no words to describe how I felt after crossing the line. I was delighted, exhilarated, jumped with joy and when someone handed me the finisher’s medal, it was as if I had conquered the world. I was super happy :). May be, this is what they call as “Runner’s high”! The feeling of accomplishment, the feeling of winning a battle in which you were only fighting yourself.

My family could not be there to see me finish. I was sad for that and I missed even them more when I looked around. Most of the participants were with their family or friends or fellow runners. People like me, who were all alone by themselves were a very few. How I wished my husband was here. He would have been proud of my achievement. May be next time, I will ensure that my family including DH is there to cheer me at the finish line.

My official time was 01:07:59. Never in my wildest dreams had I thought this was possible. Not after stopping my 10K preparations mid way, owing to reasons beyond my control. I was very happy with the final result.

When I sat down to stretch a bit and much on the breakfast, a nice guy stopped by and congratulated me. I never knew him or had seen him before. It seems we were in the same bay at the start line. He said I did excellent and wondered how I got the prediction right and stood in the 1hr 10minute bay. I just smiled 🙂 in reply. Only I knew that I was supposed to stand in the 01:20 minute bay.

It was time to rush home and I was happy to hear that my children did not give much of a problem. They were all excited to see me and my parents were extremely proud of my achievement. Dad especially was excited to see my finisher’s medal. When consolidated results were out in the following days, I found that I stood 29th amongst women. Not bad, isn’t it? If someone, 6 months back, had predicted this (when I did not even start jogging), I would have just laughed.

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After the race

Of course, I did not let go of the opportunity of posting a picture of me with the finisher’s medal on facebook. My friends were happy to know about my participation. A few even asked me if I was a sports person to begin with. They were all amazed to know that I started jogging only 6 months back. I kept telling them, “If I can, then anyone can”. I hope to pull some of my friends in the next edition 🙂

I sincerely thank the organizers, volunteers, garbage warriors and police personnel who helped in organizing this wonderful event. I definitely look forward to the future editions. Kuddos to everyone who was involved with The Wipro Chennai Marathon 2013, for making my first running event a success!

Needless to say, I am eagerly waiting for the next opportunity to participate in a running event. Once my husband returns from his call of duty in January, we will move to Karwar. After that I have to look for events organized around that area. I hope for more opportunities to be motivated, so that I can continue to jog every other day for as long as I can.

How I registered for my first 10K and prepared for it

In July 2013, I took up jogging seriously to lose weight and become fit. When I started, I could barely jog for 0.5Km, but I tried to do walk/jog as much as I could. As days went by, the weight started coming off my body. I was also getting stronger and by end of a month, I could jog for a mile (1.6Km) without stopping in between.

TWCM

Feeling upbeat, I decided to look for ways to stay focused on this jogging plan. Participating in a running event has always been a dream. Since I was going to stay in Chennai until Jan 2014, I looked up for the Chennai marathon’s date. Only then did I stumble upon the news that registrations were already open for ‘The Wipro Chennai Marathon 2013’ that is to be held on 01.12.13. When I told this to my husband, he tried to coax me into registering for the event. Since I had wanted to enjoy such an experience, I was excited too. The only thing that stopped me was my dad’s impending transfer. There was a possibility that dad could be transferred out of Chennai and if that was the case, then there was zero chance for participation (Travelling with 2 kids for a running event in Chennai is always out of question). But DH’s point was, in the worst case, the money spent for registration would be a waste. Considering that we waste as much money on unimportant stuff, I was bought by this argument and registered for the 10K event in August 2013.

This registration motivated me to keep my jogging routine going. Usually, Arjun does not let me step out of the house without him. Even the iPad bribe would not work, if it is for allowing me to step out. So, I had to take up my jogging after dropping him off at school at 10:00 a.m. Sometimes the weather was awesome, but there have also been many instances when it was very sunny cutting short my workouts. But whatever be the conditions, I could only do it for a maximum of 40 minutes as I had to be with Aditi for sometime before it was time to pick up Arjun.

As days passed by, the ease with which I jogged improved leaps and bounds. As the weight kept falling off, my stamina also improved. One has to be careful here as running everyday is not recommended. But as a beginner I was not aware of that and hence was left with a lot of pain at the end of a jog. When I researched online, I found a lot of articles recommending running alternate days. I was thankful for finally knowing what to do.

My routine was a jog alternate days (3-5 days a week). I also did a little bit of strength training (squats, arm exercises, abdominal exercises, standing on tip toes for calf muscles) when I have time and energy after the jog.

Right when the preparations for the 10K were on track, I hit a roadblock. Wedding of my parents’ friend’s son was supposedly fixed on the same weekend as the marathon. I was disheartened as this would mean we would all be in Erode that weekend and not in Chennai. Since both my parents’ wanted to be there, there was almost no possibility of participation. After all this, I still was a tiny bit hopeful and continued my jogging routine. I was not working towards a long run every week and increasing the long run mileage gradually. So, I was not actually working towards running the 10K.

Two weeks before the marathon came the good news. The wedding date was not 01st December as we had assumed, but 11th December. I was overjoyed, to say the least. I thought all was not lost and tried to do a long run before the event. But due to a chest infection early November, my jogging routine was not on track. I was not very fit at that time. Hence, when I tried to push myself to 8Km on the treadmill 10 days before the marathon, I ended up being sore and dead tired. If this was how I felt after a long run, I was not hopeful of running a good 10K.

The mistake I had done here was trying to increase mileage by more than 30% in a week and sadly, I did this when I was on the road of recovery from a chest infection. Experienced runner’s advice is to increase 10% mileage every two or three weeks. It also goes without saying that we need to rest the body well after illness and we should in fact start slow. But what is done is done. I decided to keep these experiences in mind for future experiences.

Once the soreness and tiredness lessened, I jogged outdoors as usual. I did not overdo it and stuck to around 4 Kms on Monday and Wednesday. Since Sunday was the race day, I decided to rest after Wednesday. I drank a lot of water and fuelled my body with all the good nutrition from fruits, nuts, eggs. It was indulgence in the name of fuelling, to be honest J

On Saturday as soon as I collected my kit bag, I was excited. Yes, I am really going to participate in the first race of my life on Sunday. How was the first 10K experience? More on that in the next post.