Friday, December 31, 2021

The pandemic seasons (2020-2021)

My last real race was in 2019 and since then, becoming a new dad in 2020 and the pandemic made sure it remained the last race until at least 2022. Somehow at the end of 2019, I convinced myself to buy tri bike (Cervelo P2), even though I knew I wouldn't be putting it to good use for the next year or so ;)


All this while I did try to keep myself moving by either hopping on the bike trainer or running outdoors. There were really hard months especially after Piku (aka Samaira) was born. Running felt very hard and I think that was primarily due to lack of sleep and good sleep quality; something I had never experienced before for such sustained periods of time. Now, when I say hard, it was really small compared to Neha who struggled a lot post-partum (C-section, painful and slow but good recovery over weeks).

Just had fun with a lot of stroller walks and runs, went outdoors a few times on OLH and such, rode on the bike trainer and just kept it going whenever I could. (off-note: a smart trainer has been one of the best triathlon related stuff I have bought. Paired with apps like Rouvy has made riding indoors not too far off from outdoors, or least way better than riding on a dumb trainer).

To motivate myself, planned to run a half marathon on Jan 1, 2021 and trained hard for it to target the best time I could; something I had never focused in the prior years due to chasing other goals, mostly triathlons. I trained hard in winters (my fav training months for running) and finished a 13.1 with the fastest time ever: 01:48 hrs or 8:10 min/mile.


Came 2021 and overall the body started feeling better. I was able to run with a feel closer to what it was like before, though much lesser volume. I had gained and sustained a few more pounds than my typical weight over this time making it a new normal for me. My goal was to just keep moving and having fun while keeping mental and physical health in check.

The way I target my off and on seasons is to just focus on a subset of things and/or try new stuff to keep things interesting. For 2021, I started off targeting Everest worth of climbing in a month, riding mostly on the trainer. I was lucky enough to realize that the Venki-led TA biking group (that had gone rogue during the pandemic doing crazy climbs) were doing the Mt. Umunhum climb, which had remained an elusive climb for me over the last few years. I joined them and had an awesome climb with the awesome and strong riders. Finished 29k+ feet of climbing in Jan over 12 rides.

Months of Feb, Mar, Apr were really stressful. Some org/leadership mess forced me to look for a new job and I spent the remaining part of my paternity leave preparing and doing a lot of interviews and landing a job at this startup where I had some of my ex-colleagues from Google whom I had fun working with in the past. So in the meantime, I had shifted my focus off of running to have fun on the new Tri bike that I had not ridden much on flat terrains or outdoors in general. The pandemic gave me a really good place to ride flat traffic free loops -- Oracle parking lot in Santa Clara, just a quarter mile from home. It was a mostly rideable-without-brakes 2 km loop. Rode a few times targeting 30 mins or 60 mins ride with consistent effort and was able to get to riding 60 mins at 20 mph pace. It was a good learning experience and honestly riding fast on a flat terrain felt a bit harder mentally compared to climbing because there is always an option of slowing down :)

Neha also worked hard on losing weight and gaining fitness over the last few months and I supported her as much as I could to have her run a half marathon before the Piku turned 1!

TA was starting with their Tri season in the spring after a 2020 pandemic washout, so I entertained the idea to join them in the open water swims assuming I could maintain my distance socially without risking covid. I knew I wouldn't be going to the pool just to keep it safe. Started doing swims once a week with the group and inadvertently started training with folks who were signed up for Alcatraz swim or Ironman. I realized that I was able to ramp up fairly easily in a month or so in doing distances over a mile/mile-and-a-half in cold waters, by swimming just once a week. Of course the form and pace was not very close to my best, but not too far off either. So I continued with this experiment and signed up for Alcatraz and convinced coach Char to give me company for an Alcatraz crossing in June.

I started going to a pool once a week or so and continue with the OWS. Decided to make a trip to Donner Lake (an annual TA tri group tradition) and swam the 2.4 miler in July. Continue with the swims, runs and rides on and off and then did another Alcatraz crossing in Oct to give Nakul some company for his first crossing!

Now winters were approaching, so I decided to bookend the year by target another half marathon on Dec 31. Again trained hard and was able to get yet another PR: 1:42 hrs, or 7:50! (first ever sub-8 pace long run).