Back to the park. Richmond Park :)

Richmond Park Run 1 +  BITSAA 2014 Run
Priyank, Rags, Me & Chewie, Aruna, Ashish

Rags is a BITS Pilani alumna , and this last weekend was their annual run – students and alumni of BITS run a distance (usually 5K) wherever in the world they are. She decided to run on Saturday, instead of Sunday like everyone else, and I and Chewie decided to pile on. Since I was bored with running on The Mount, and Wimbledon Common and Frensham Ponds were expected to be boggy, we decided to run in our old favourite haunt – the ever so beautiful, Richmond Park.

Priyank, apparently the only other BITS alumnus in the London region crazy enough to run on an autumn morning joined us, as did our friends the A’s.

The run plan was simple. We start from Roehampton gate cafe. Everyone runs whatever distance, route, speed they’re comfortable with. We meet before the start and, if possible, at the end. And Chewie runs with me.

Aruna planned to run the small loop, clockwise, via White lodge, c 5K, and Priyank decided on the same route.
Ashish ran the outer loop, clockwise – brave enough to take on the Broomfield hill early on – totalling little over 10K.
I was planning to run 15K – the outer loop anti-clockwise, and the small loop via White lodge.
Rags had planned the longest run – 15 to 20K including at least one full outer loop, anti-clockwise.

The sun was out, temperatures were mild, wind non-existent. It was beautiful weather for end November, we were in beautiful Richmond Park, and everyone wanted to get started.

Rags started off first, considering she was planning to take the longest – she’d warned me I’d have to wait up to an hour for hour. I’d barely started changing out of my driving clothes when she took off. The A’s and Priyank started off next, while I stretched. After a bit of stretching, warming up walks, Chewie’s morning poo, and a return to the car to get my knee band, I and Chewie started off as well… a usual 18 mins after Rags.

The 1st km or so was easy, warmup jog, with a handful of stops as Chewie stopped to stay sm-ello to fello quadrupeds – dogs, squirrels, rabbits. Thankfully, no deer yet. That 1st 1.2Km was also what it took for my brain to warm up and tell me that the watch was still on bike mode. Stop. Reset. Change Mode. Start.

RP Run 1 Part 1
RP Run 1 Part 1

Started again, paused again (many, many times) for Chewie’s sm-ellos, but still managed a good pace. Sawyer’s Hill didn’t feel as much of a hill as it feels on the bike. Richmond Gate went past quickly. Met some lovely mutts near Pembroke Lodge, including a beautiful 18mo Great Dane. Wondered if I could borrow her for some of the hillier trail runs.

Running down from Pembroke Lodge towards the Ham gate intersection, saw Priyank running towards me. He was either way lost, or decided to take the longer route. I was hoping for ‘chose the longer route’. He was lost. He’d missed the left turn at Robinhood gate, following Ashish up Broomfield hill, taking a shortcut through the Coronation plantation, had reached me. Asked him to join me.

Wanting to get Priyank back via the shortest, simplest, easiest route, decided to take the left off Ham intersection. Dropped him near Spankers Hill car park with directions to get down to the Robinhood Gate, and take the left trail back to Roehampton gate. Crossed my fingers and headed left, down the beautiful Pen ponds.

This was a big positive from helping him out. Instead of running the not-so-interesting small loop, I could now run the trail from Spankers, via Pen Ponds to Richmond Gate, and then back on the outer loop.

Chewie met, and played with a young Border terrier near the ponds, while I cursed myself for not carrying the phone. The views towards, both across the ponds as well as towards White lodge, were amazing. Across the ponds, halfway up the Sawyer’s Hill climb, Chewie was off lead again, trying to catch a beautiful, young, greyhound, while I trundled up to the top. Play done, Chewie was back on the lead (disheartened at never having gotten even close to catching), and we headed back on the outer loop.

Aside: I think I saw Smernicki running in the opposite direction as we approached the Pembroke lodge. Wasn’t sure, so didn’t bother him. Confirmed later, on Twitter, that it was indeed him. More importantly, he too was running with his dog (which I missed), so Chewie would’ve loved to say smello as well. Next time.

Took a quick break at the Pembroke lodge. A gel, some water, unsuccessfully coaxing Chewie to drink some water, throwing some cold water on Chewie’s head to bug him, Chewie getting fawning attention from a couple of ladies. And we were off.

The so far uneventful run was just about to change.

Despite running for almost an hour, we still hadn’t seen a single deer in the park. It ended now. Just as I was picking the pace up on the long steady descent towards Ham intersection, out of the bushes on the right came sprinting a couple of (what Aruna called) cow-sized deer on our either side. Another dozen paused just a few metres away on seeing Chewie – making up their mind on which way to go. A herd of deer trampling me wasn’t what I’d considered when I was thinking about the risk of running with Chewie in the park. We stopped. Rather I stopped, and Chewie started pulling. The deer, better than me, made up their mind quickly, and ran past us in two groups – ahead and behind – chased shortly by 2 whippets (I think). Good luck, to whoever owns those whippets, getting them back.

If you see a spike in my HR chart for the run, it isn’t a climb, or a sprint. It’s those deer.

Deer past, a couple of ladies calmed, we continued on the run. Ham Gate. Kingston Gate. F*%%^ing Dark Hill. Lovely descent of Broomfield hill.

After crossing the Robinhood gate, I took the boggy path next to Beverly brook, so Chewie could enjoy the water. Bad choice. Waiting near the water was an (otherwise lovely) local staffie who was determined to own the stream. Barely had he started jumping around in the brook that she attacked him and pushed him out of the water. He hasn’t run back to me as fast even when I’ve got a sausage dripping in salmon oil.

Took him another couple of hundred meters before he got comfortable, and went back in the water. Never really enjoyed it though. I don’t like that staffie! :/

As we approached the cafe, the watch was reading 15.5Km, so I took a small extra jog towards the Roehampton gate just to make sure I got over the 10 mile mark – 16.15Km.

RP Run 1 Part 1
Rest of our RP Run route

The A’s were waiting at the car for us, having finished long back. Priyank had already left. Rags finished soon after, having run her 16K, but bugged at me for running more than her, again. Chewie was so knackered by now that he curled up and dozed off on the parking tarmac while we stretched and changed. The warm sun must’ve been helping him as well.

Changed, and stretched, we moved to the cafe for lunch in the bright sunshine. Lovely atmosphere, not so lovely food. For the prices. I made up for it by admiring some of the really special bikes around – both steel and carbon. Don’t think the others even cared – all of them had done distance PBs: Rags 16K (prev 13K), Aruna ~8K (prev ~7K), Ashish 11K (prev 10K).

Quick drive back, and cold showers later, it was time to head out to the Guildford high street for Saturday shopping (and loitering).

The Sunday Ride

Sunday came, as it always does, and it was time to head out for the ride. Important matters were to be dealt with before that, though. Went to Surrey Sports Park to sign up for annual membership, making use of their Black Friday discounts, and then to Harris + Hoole for coffee and a light brunch. Add to these a late wake up, and it was already half past 2 by the time I left for my ride.

The plan was to do the usual route (a.k.a. last weekend’s route) with the addition of Staple lane. The intent was also to ride 60K+. Sadly, adding 5K of Staple lane (2.5K each way), didn’t take the previous total of 50 to the desired 60. Result was a discovery of route back via Godalming & Farncombe, in pitch darkness!

SW Guildford Ride 62K
Loved Staple lane, not so much return via Godalming

Still, it was better than last weekend’s ride – no constant rain, no floods, a lot more returned hellos from fellow cyclists, seeing an MTB’r ride up St. Martha with his dog on lead running alongside, and the steady climb of Staple lane. The country lanes were still covered in mud and grime, but that isn’t going to change anytime till next summer (at best), so no point even considering that as a factor anymore.

The only really bad bit of the ride came when I hit 2 deep potholes on the way into Shamley Green from Blackheath, in the dark. It’s a tricky section of single-lane road with mud and potholes leaving just a single, winding clear path through. Additionally, it comes at the bottom of a small descent. 2 powerful lights, and a decent memory of the road helped me negotiate almost all the potholes and the mud patches, but forgot about these last two, and got the jolt of my life. Had to stop immediately after to check if the wheels were still true, and the fork wasn’t cracked. Thankfully, the only disturbed bit (other than me) was one of the rear lights, which was dangling from its loop. Fixed it, and carried onwards. Crisis averted.

Reached home tired, mostly from previous day’s run, and cold. Got the usual scolding from Rags about riding after dark, and the flood of licks from Chewie for coming back to play with him. Another cold shower, and it was time to cook :)

Looking forward

I’m running the Hogs Back Race coming Sunday (mainly for the medal). This means the weekend schedule of long runs on Saturday, and bike rides on Sunday will be disturbed. I’ve already attended a 1 hour, quad-killer spin class this week, and ridden a 45K bike ride, so the ride wouldn’t be such a big loss. Still, thinking of going for a 20-something Km ride after the run, if the legs have any energy left.

It’s been a hectic 1.5 months since I started kicking up the training schedule, so planning to take the training down a notch next week. 2 easy runs, instead of 1 easy and 1 tempo run. No mid-week bike ride, but will still go for the spin class. Monday evening swim, and 2 full rest days. Will decide next weekend’s plans based on how the legs feel on Friday.

Till next update (hopefully with a photo of the interesting medal I’m running 12K this Sunday for),




Failed the brick session today. Didn’t hydrate on the bike properly, so had to cut down the run to just 5K. Pissed at my stupidity!

For someone born and brought up in a place where temperature tops 40C for months in a row every year, I’m disappointed how even high-20s heat crashes my body’s engine so spectacularly :(

Hope the heat relents next weekend. I’ve got a 125 mile ride, and really don’t want to suffer so long in 25C+ temperatures.


25/365: A perfect Sunday

It takes a brave man to ask people to describe their perfect Sunday on a Monday/Tuesday. That brave man is Scott, the bril fella behind the DailyPost blog.

Before I share, a few clarifications. I’ve always been a 5-day work week person so most of my dream Sundays start on a Saturday. India’s too big a country with wide variety of climates, cultures and people. So, the perfect weekend I’ll have at home, near Delhi is very different from the perfect weekend in Delhi or Joka or Bombay or Goa. Due to this huge variety, and my in built lazy chip, I shall skip it and concern myself only with the perfect weekend here in the UK. Which for me means mostly LDN.

It was a rare sunny summer weekend in LDN. The fact that I was still hungover suggested it might be a Saturday. Or Sunday. Assuming it was a Saturday, I got out of bed before 11AM and started the process of getting ready. Booting up: Brushed teeth, emptied bowels, drank a glass of orange juice, had a bowl of cornflakes and caught up with Google Reader and email. Logging in: Filled the water bottle and water bag, packed a banana and a chocolate bar or two. Checked contents of backpack, tire pressure and brake pads, strapped on the HR band, wore the lycra shorts, covered with baggy shorts, wore a light tee and the sleeveless hi-viz jacket, shoes on. Kissed Rags bye as she still lazed in bed catching up with her twitter feed on the phone. Took the bike out, started Garmin. Launched.

5 hours on the bike with short breaks for banana & chocolate bars. And a Cafe Americano at St. Albans. Long hours on small countryside roads. Small villages. Big Gears. Sunshine. And a smile. It may have had been over 100 kms but I’d felt just as I did on those rides around the neighbourhood as a kid.

Got home, took a quick shower and Rags had already finalised plans for the evening – latest Hollywood thriller / rom-com followed by drinks and dinner at one of our favourite Mexican restaurants. She seemed pretty happy, despite me being missing for quite a few hours on a Saturday. Or was it because of me being missing for a few hours on a Saturday. Must have been on the phone for hours with her girl friends back home sharing gossip and plans. I was just happy that I was getting Mexican for dinner.

Sunday morning. Rather noon. Got pulled out of bed by Rags. All that hugging, kissing and pleading barely won me an extra 15 minutes of shut eye. Made a mental note: disable her Sunday morning alarms before sleeping and put the phones on silent. I was informed, pretty sharply,  that we were late for our brunch meeting. Washed up. Actually dry cleaned, as we use to call it back in the day. Dressed up. Checked her bike tyres and brakes. And off we went.

Biked to Holborn for a late brunch with friends. It’d been an year and they’d still shown surprise that we cycled around. Biked around, I’d corrected them. It’d been 6 months since I first came to this place – My Old Dutch Pancakes – for brunch. Had faithfully visited it at least once a month ever since. Still do. A large Dutch pancake and an espresso shake later, set off for the longer bike ride – to Richmond Park. Chelsea. Hammersmith. Castelnau. Barnes. Richmond. It was her first time there. And was she excited to see the deer! Of course she didn’t ride up the Sawyer’s Hill. And she spent two hours just lying around in the grass. I used the opportunity to put the camera to some use. And took in some sun. Ahh summer sun. You were some beauty that evening.

Getting Rags started again was a struggle. I wonder if it was the summer sun, the beautiful park with its deer or the thought of a long ride back home. Anyway, we did get home after I got cursed at a few times for going ahead too fast. Or too slow. Don’t remember which one it was. Do remember getting cursed though.

It was still sunny outside, so, after a shower, we headed back out again. Some really wacky Sallu bhai movie had just released and Rags being a die-hard fan had wanted to catch it early. I agreed, there wasn’t a better way of taking our mind off the Monday morning and its blues. Don’t remember much of the movie but 2.5 hours of Sallu bhai’s antics were enough to give us a pain in the stomach from laughing. Helped her forget any pain in the legs as well. She dined on her favourite cinema hall hot dog. I stuffed up on nachos. Got home just as the rain predicted for Monday made an early landing. And, just like that, it was over.

A perfect weekend. A ‘just another’ weekend.

So, there. Done with another post a day. And when you’re done pondering over all the grammatical errors in the post above, do read Rags’ quick take on her perfect Sunday. Typical Rags, I tell you – wants everything! :)


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25/365: A perfect Sunday