Running on a hog’s back…

The Route - Hog's Back Race 2014
The Route – Notice the Hog?

The ridge / hill we live on is called Hog’s Back, and there’s an annual running race organised by Guildford & Godalming Athletic Club based around it – The Hog’s Back Road Race.

The race seems to be a big thing amongst local running clubs. I missed it last year – discovered it late, and by then I was already signed up to run my first trail run, the Mud Man, on the same weekend. So, I’d been looking forward to it this year.

It being my last event for the year might also have something to do with why I was looking forward to it ;)

I’ve been in good shape – general fitness and running form wise – recently, so was confident about the run, despite the painful climb up the Mount. There had been a niggle in the old bugger – the right hamstring – but taking a couple of days off all training helped with it. The only handicap was I got barely 3 hours of sleep the previous night. Bad, but nothing that a strong coffee couldn’t cure.

Coffee drunk, standard pre-race meal of toast and Eat Natural bar consumed, lots of wrangling to get the race number on the new running belt done, it was time to run.

The start was unexpectedly fast. I’d planned for a 6:00/km pace avg, with a 5:30 avg on the flats. The first 4 km, with small hills, went 4:32, 5:14, 4:29, 5:14. Something had to give. And it did. Midway through the big climb of the day, I was forced into the walk of shame. Just a few 10s of meters, but a walk it was. Km 5 took 6:50. The next K involved recovery, saying hello to Coco, and running on familiar ground of the Hogs Back. 5:23. 4:51. 4:27. 4:46. 4:37. The 10K took 50 min 23 sec. Just 50 secs off my PB, and it included a hill and a half! If only I hadn’t walked the hill :(

Hogs Back Road Race, 07 Dec 2014
Running tall… maybe fast too

The 11th Km included the tiny, surprise ascent back to Loseley park. It hurt more than the big hill had. I walked again. Just about 10m, but a shameful walk it was! 5:11. That last 5K went in 23:52 – just 6 secs off my PB! If only I hadn’t walked those 10m :(

Hogs Back Race - Profile
There’s a tiny bump in the final incline. It hurt!

Sprinted, as much as those mulching leg muscles would allow, the last 700m. Finished in 57:45 (official time 57:59). About 12 mins faster than the race plan! I was, obviously, smiling for rest of the day :)

Hogs Back Road Race 2014 Medal
Ran my fastest 11.7Km, just to get my hands on this Hog!

My hypothesis on possible reason behind the surprisingly fast run: Either, or more, of these work – sleep less, drink coffee, race on the road (all my training runs are on soft trail), get partner to drive you to the run. Or possible the lure of that Hog-shaped medal :)

Met Chewie and her caretaker, hugged Chewie, kissed the caretaker. Received medal, gave it to Chewie for safekeeping. Got a banana, shared it with Chewie. Drank water. Lots of water. And headed back home after a quick photo op with Chewie, sans the caretaker.

Post Race Recovery Photo Op
Post Race Recovery Photo Op

The caretaker, also known as my partner Rags, took off for her weekend run soon after we reached home*, while I stretched and went for the ritual ice-cold shower.

I’d considered going for a short, 20-mile ride after the run, but lethargy took over, and warm bed won out. Sorry bike!

Continue reading “Running on a hog’s back…”


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),



Mud and flood weekend 1

Mud & Flood part 1 at Wildman Trail Run in Ash Vale
Mud & Flood part 1 at Wildman Trail Run in Ash Vale

It was the a truly autumnal weekend – persistent rain, chill in the air, muddy trails, flooding on the roads, and return of Human Race’s trail run series. It was also the weekend I decided to move into 2nd gear with my preps for next year’s run and ride fiesta.

After our move to Guildford last October, I started taking Chewie along for my runs. Couldn’t let all the trails of Mount/Hogs-Back behind our backyard go waste, after all. As we graduated from our slow, me-pestering-him-to-stop-jumping-at-me runs to the still slow, him-giving-me-the-look-asking-me-to-keep-up runs, Raghi suggested that we try out a canicross trail run. That was the start, last autumn, of our trail running events.

Over the winter, Raghi felt left out, so did the C25K course herself (thanks Laura!), and got hooked into running. Come autumn, she’d registered, before us, for the Human Race’s trail run series. All 3 of them! brave girl

Not wanting to let her get all the mud fun alone, Chewie and I too registered for Wildman, which we’d missed last year after I got a back spasm the week before.

Mud & Flood, Part 1 – Wildman

Saturday morning. Temperature was mild, for time of the year. Rain was inconsistent, but enough had fallen over the preceding weeks to leave lots of bogs and floods all over the course. Spirits were high, except in Chewie, who was wondering why on earth were we out in the soggy woods this early on Saturday morning. That was till he saw the dozens of other dogs, and smelled the sausages being grilled.

Rags started her 10K with the big group of humans 20 mins before Chewie started dragging me around the course. That’s how most of our runs are – 2K of him dragging me while I attempt to stay on my feet, 4-5K of him running just comfortably ahead of me, 2-5K of him running next to me, and thereafter me dragging, cajoling, carrying him to the finish. Thankfully, we caught Raghi before the finish, and Chewie decided he wanted to run with her. Running with them slowed me down while I escorted them both to the finish, but with Chewie gone to the finish with her, I was free to run the final 5K loop at my own pace :)

The first 10K loop was easier than what I remember my last run – Iceman – to be. It still had climbs, and loads of mud / bogs, but it also had long sections of flat and false-flat tracks. Running on the not-so-flat terrain of the mount had me well prepared for that, and I could pace myself comfortably through it. The 2nd 5K loop was more like what I remember the trail runs to be. Still not as crazy as the 2nd loop at Iceman, but a lot more frequent climbs, narrow, muddy paths, and the beloved water hazard! Boy, would Chewie have loved the water hazard, had he still be running with me. Raghi, might have had to swim across ;)

The story of 1st loop was – start fast, leaving behind a lot of fellow canicrossers, followed by a long steady leg of keeping a comfortable pace, ending with a slow-ing finish where many of those canicrossers, and a whole horde of fast duathletes overtook us. The 2nd loop, on the other hand, was a lot more even – me overtaking a decent number of tail-enders from the non-canicross 15K runners. Last year, I was the tail-ender. This year, I was running past a few of them. Experience definitely counts in this trail running malarkey ;)

The run finished, just as it’d started – fast. Felt good to still have spare energy in the legs after the run. The plans for a sub-1:50 HM at Wokingham are looking good :)

After a tiny bit of stretching, and drinking a couple of bottles of water + VitaCoco (each!), it was time to head for the final trail running ritual – Sausages!
Rags and I got ours with the bun, ketchup and mayo on top, while Chewie got his clean. 10K in the mud, warm sausage in the stomach – he was ready to sleep for rest of the day.

Mud & Flood, Part Deux – The Rain Ride

While Chewie and Rags decided to take the Sunday off, to recover from their first trail run of the season, I had miles to go before I could sle…

Training for Fred Whitton 2015 means, I’ve got to (learn to love to) ride in all weathers. This Sunday, it meant a 50K ride in non-stop rain, on roads that were either flooded, or layered with mud. Or both.

My wuss’ plan as I headed out was an easy 25K ride: Home – Compton – Wonersh – Black Heath – St. Martha – Compton – Home.

Once on the road, I discovered an unexpected side-benefit of riding in crappy weather on Sunday afternoons – no traffic on the roads!
The ride plan soon changed into: Home – Compton – Wonersh – Black Heath (from Wonersh) – Shamley Green – Framley Green – Shere – Up Coombe Lane – Down Coombe Lane – Albury – Up Guildford Lane – Down St. Martha – Black Heath (from Chilworth) – Wonersh – Compton – Home.

Mud & Flood - Part 2
Mud & Flood – Part 2

3 easy climbs turned into 6, and then some. However, there wasn’t one moment when I didn’t enjoy the ride.

Not when, in the middle of a descent I was suddenly faced with a 50m long, flooded section of a single-track road. The car on the other side patiently waited for me to slowly, and carefully ride across the middle.
Not when, climbing hard out-of-the-saddle, I take a corner to see the whole road covered in an inch-thick layer of mud. My skills staying upright almost convinced me to take up cyclocross.
Not even when, the mountain biker standing around at St. Martha – first other cyclist I saw on the whole ride – didn’t return my hello!
Not when the boy racer overtook me dangerously closely while I was climbing up Guildford Ln. It helped that the car behind him kept his respectful distance and waited for me to slow down into a passing place, and then thanked me for giving him space.
And definitely not the innumerable times when the chain refused to shift into the large chainring. Even stopped and did it by hand a couple of times.

It helped that while it was wet, the temperatures weren’t really low – hovering in low double digits for most of my ride. Climbing half a dozen hills also meant that the body got enough opportunity to keep the boiler running, and keep me warm.

While on the ride, I realised how much I love running-riding-hiking in wet, mildly-cold weather. On the other hand, for a fella who grew up in 45°C heat, I wither surprisingly fast in even 28°C summers we have here.

I wonder if I’ll still love these wet rides once the temperature drops into low single digits, and the wind starts howling? Getting the miles in then could make-or-break my FW2015 plans.

And, that was the first mud, flood, and fun weekend of the autumn. Time to gird up for the next one. 


When I say experience counts in trail running, I mean it. Last year, like most leading-edge runners and most newbies, I was trying to run up every hill, sprint down every descent, and reaching the finish crawling on all fours. Lesson learnt. This year, I was walking up (as fast as I could) most of those short-steep climbs, jogging up the long-steady ones, and using all the saved energy to put in a much better time on the remaining 80% of the course.

Rags, on the other hand, despite my advice, was running up all the climbs. Or as many as she could, and then shattering to pieces on top of each one, unable to use the descents or flats to get anywhere.

The other bit where experience helped was in communication with Chewie. Last year, he used to pull me up-hill, down-hill, off-trail, on-trail, and then just sit up once knackered, demanding to be carried home.

Running, and walking, together over the year has helped us both get a few bits drilled out. He pulls uphill, on command, and goes downhill gently, on command. When he starts getting tired, instead of pulling himself to collapse, he starts running an easier pace – my pace. He also has a lot more stamina, so that helps too.

Where he still hasn’t changed is in his urge to run as fast as possible on the start, to keep up with (or be) the first dog on the course. Frankly, I don’t mind that part in him one bit :)

That, and our shared love of hot dogs!


Sunday run

22K late evening run middle of this summer. Started slow and easy down the steep Mount, went slightly faster as I turned on to the riverside, passing couples out for evening stroll, and ducks returning for a kip.

7K mark, said hello to a lovely couple sat by their boat reading books in evening sunlight.

10K mark, time to turn around at the neighbouring town of Godalming. Time for a stretch and a gel.

12K mark, dad and 2 daughters on a kayak, in the river. Brief chat as I run the bend. The elder daughter prepares to go for a dip in the river.

14K mark, the couple by the boat have lit a small fire, and a wine bottle has replaced the books. They offer a glass. Alas, I have to pass!

17K mark, the swans and ducks are gone for the night, legs are getting heavy, and the steep Mount is nearing.

Hit the mount. Breathing quickens, steps shorten.

Finish the mount. The sunset view draws a smile, the watch hits 20K, and the end (home!) is almost in sight.

1 hour, 58 mins after I started, am home. Greeted by a girl with beer in her hand, my salty face licked clean by Chewie, and the chicken roast smell filling the house. Time to stretch, cold shower, and feast. Another Sunday has come to an end.

Chewie & Me after a 10 mile trail run

Ups and Downs

Upside Down
Upside Down

That’s how it’s been since spring, my favourite activity period, ended and a sordid (though beautiful) summer started.

Finished Ronde in better time than last year, despite getting beaten by @julykatrae to the line. Up.

Moved my Fred Whitton entry to 2015 after stumbling badly on the logistics bit. Down.

Didn’t go for a ride, apart from commutes, for almost 3 months. Down.

Gained almost 4 kilos, almost all around the waist. Down.

Running re-started well in late April, building up to consecutive weekends of 13 mile+ runs in late June. Up.

Running mileage reached 100km in June, a best for me. Up.

Might’ve increased the mileage too fast. Got a nasty ITB injury in left knee, and old left hamstring injury cropped up again. Down.

Almost zero running in 2nd half of July. Down.

Returned to lycra-clad bike riding with 3 consecutive brick sessions. Up.

Avg speeds, climbing speeds have improved despite the break. Up.

Returned to the pool, after 8 months, with two swims in 3 days. Up.

All parts of the upper torso hurting after just 2 swims. Bad, yet good!

Successful,  swim-run brick involving uphill run from home to pool. Up.

Now, looking forward to 2 weeks of hiking in Scotland coming up. Quite scared of it, actually. The munros are higher, and steeper than our usual hills in Lake District. And we’ve both been concentrating on running and cycling this year, so climbing legs may not be there.

A bit concerned about how my 2yo Chewie might take the longer, steeper hikes. Though, I think he may come back from them fresher than we would :) :(

Continue reading “Ups and Downs”


Bike Racks We Like!

The Olde Times Square
Bike Racks We Like!

New York City’s Department of Transportation held a design competition for bike racks. David Byrne, one of the judges in the competition, designed these special racks tailored to specific neighbourhoods of the city. We, love them.

Here are all nine bike racks: (Images by Incubed on smugmug)

The main image on top is by Augustin Pasquet, for Untapped Cities.