Sunday, October 26, 2014

Parks Half Marathon

I had been training for the past 6 months to run the Marine Corp Marathon 2014. I took part in it successfully today. More on that later.

As part of the marathon training program I ran two 1/2 marathons; one at the beginning of my training, in early May, and the other in September. I wrote about how I fared in my first one, in Delaware, here. I was disappointed with my time which was nearly 2 hours and 50 minutes! But poor results told me something, unequivocally. I was not ready.

The second race was at the tail end of our training in September and it was a local race sponsored by the club I run with The Montgomery County Road Runners Club or the MCRRC. It was the Parks Half Marathon.

The weather was cool and stayed cool the whole time. It started near Rockville metro and ended near Bethesda metro station, while traversing some of the most beautiful trails in Washington DC area. Our pace group coaches told us to run our best. This was in opposition to the advice given by the marathon coordinators! The coordinators wanted us to run at the slower pace we train in. They were afraid that we would suffer some injury or ailment that would prevent us from training to run a marathon. In their opinion that was the purpose of the rigorous training. On the other hand our coaches were of the opinion that running well would show us how far we had come in our training and motivate us to train better.

Omar, one of my two coaches, set the tone early by leaving me in the dust. Typically we run a tortoise-like 12 minute 30 second per mile pace. But as the course was mostly downhill during the first few miles, I found myself running at about 30-45 seconds faster than my usual pace. Around 4 miles I met up with Sri my brother-in-law who typically run at 12 minute per mile pace and we fell into a easy conversation. Sri recounted so many comic incidents during his travels that the time just flew. Around 10 mile mark we stepped up the pace even faster than the pace we were running. We were now running nearly 2 minutes faster than my typical pace. We both finished with a time of around 2 hours and 30 minutes. I personally shaved almost 20 minutes from our earlier pace, surely a result of the hard work I had put into this. I was happy! To see complete results click here (I am number 903).

Raag in the middle flanked by his coaches at the end of Parks Half

Monday, October 06, 2014

A Union and a Reunion

During my four years at Delhi College of Engineering nearly thirty years ago, I was part of group of five students. Because we hung out together, we were teased a lot and called the Panch Pandavs. Once we graduated, we went our separate ways; got jobs, changed jobs, got married, and raised families. As a group, we were unable to meet. I used to work in Lucknow and Rajdev was in Kanpur. Then I moved to the US and soon thereafter so did Rajdev. Goel went work for the police force; Suresh worked at various technology firms in India and Sanjay ended up being the only person to use the degree we earned, a EE degree.

During the first twenty years, Rajdev and I would go periodically back to India, but we never thought about coordinating our trips. Our India trips never seemed to be about meeting our friends. It was not that we did not meet our friends; we met them, but we were never more than four during these reunions, as at least one of us, Rajdev or I were always missing. We were never the Pandavs. Around the 25th anniversary of our graduation, something prompted me to try and make this happen. I reached out to Rajdev to see if we can make a trip to India together. After 25 years, I realized something.

He is very similar temperamentally to my wife. Both of them are very obdurate while having built this enviable reputation of being the most easy going people!

I also learned something else about Rajdev. He hates the cold, so he would not go between December and February. He also hated the heat, so he would not visit India between April and October. That basically gave me only two months November and March to make a reunion happen! Again like Jannavi, he says this with such sweetness, that you nod with him and agree that it is very reasonable. How I envy the two of them! Here is a guy that spent his first 21 years under hot conditions that would be considered cruel to animals much less humans in this country, and he no longer has the ability to go back 10 out of the 12 months in a year!

I am sure you have heard of the adage, "If the mountain won't come to Muhammad then Muhammad must go to the mountain". So I decided to go to India in the month of March as well.

Fortunately for me there was a marriage in my family; my cousin's only daughter was getting married during a week in March. I ensured that Rajdev did not plan anything during that week. I purchased my tickets and made sure Rajdev did too.

I had a lot of fun at the marriage. I met so many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins whom I would not normally see.
Aunt, Uncles, and Cousins
After the marriage, I went to Delhi and stayed with Rajdev at his parent's house. They are as simple as they were. Time and their children's affluence had not touched them. They treated me like I was their fourth child.
Pandavs at Ghalib's house
Pandavs at DCE
The Pandavs were together again. We spent 2 days wandering around New Delhi. Our first meeting was at the old DCE campus in Kashmiri Gate. The area has changed very little. It was hard for the five of us not to wallow in nostalgia, but not half as hard as leaving the campus where we had spent 4 years. We finally left and went to Chandni Chowk where walked up to Ghalib's house. I was surprised to see how well maintained it was! From there we went to Red Fort and had dinner at Chor Bizzare where we met with another classmate, Praveen. Praveen was brilliant as a student and is now a successful entrepreneur.
Pandavs with Praveen at Chor Bizarre
On the last day of my trip, we all went to Gurgaon. Suresh's wife has started a new venture called Samvedna Senior Care. I really like their motto "Defining and for our senior citizens". The sheer number of NRI's whose parents are alone in these large cities makes me sure that she is onto something very promising. Afterwards we all met at a trendy bar, The Beer Cafe at the Ambience Mall in Gurgaon where I was introduced to Stella Artois by Suresh and Sandeep. Sanjay C, another classmate of ours, joined us and we had a great time.
Pandavs with Sanjay C at Ambience Mall
The clock was ticking and and it was time to go home. With promises not to wait 25 more years for all five to meet again we parted ways. It was hard but we made some good memories.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Listen to your better half. Always!

My niece had graduated from high school and my sister-in-law (we will call her J) was throwing a party to celebrate this event. My other sister-in-law (we will call her H) came to town as a surprise along with her two sons and I was tasked with picking them up from the airport.

Much earlier in the day, I was deep at work when Jannavi told me several things; she told me to cook, clean, eat, shower, take care of our younger daughter besides going to the airport to pick H and kids up. Then she gave me various details such as the airline (American), time of arrival (10:25), and the gate (8) they would walk out of. She then told me the various dishes she had cooked for dinner. How she and the kids had finished the dinner, how all the various items are on the dining table, how once I am done, she would appreciate if I put them in the fridge, and finally would really consider it a great favor if I cleaned the table and loaded the dishes. By this time I was tired of the monologue and had tuned out!

Big mistake.

I left the house at 9:35PM expecting to arrive in time at Dulles airport as I expected light traffic late at night. As soon as I was close to the terminal I heard from H that she was waiting for me. I looked for gate 8 and did not find it! The last exit gate was #7! I thought she had gone to the upper level (which was meant for departure) and looked for her there and did not find her there. We spent two minutes talking in circles how I was waiting for her and she spent some time explaining where she was that she saw no signs of my car when a blinding thought pierced my brain.

Could I be in the wrong airport?

If you do not pay attention to what your wife says, then definitely the answer to the question is a resounding yes! H's flight had arrived at Reagan airport whereas I was looking for them at Dulles. So I decided to drive to Reagan.

First problem; my gas tank was empty, I had planned on filling it up after picking them up. Now I was not sure I would be able to get to Reagan. So I made a detour to fill up gas. Then I took the connector from Toll Road to I66.

Second problem; there was both an accident and heavy construction as part of the new metro line they are building. So what was a 30 minute trip turned out to be a 90 minute trip. By the time I picked them up at Reagan, it was past midnight and when we pulled into my garage it was well past 1AM in the morning.

Moral - Read the headline; again.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

You like me? Why?

Recently thanks to Netflix, I have been on a marathon, watching House M.D. A very short synopsis without going into details about the show; House is this genius doctor, but an ass of a person and almost no one likes him. Cameron is this pretty doctor that has a crush on House for a few episodes. In one particular episode one of their conversations goes somewhat I like this.

House - You like me?
Cameron - Yes.
House - Why?
Cameron - That is a sad question

House was of course serious as he could not see any logic in her liking him. In that sense, he has no illusions about himself.

I burst out laughing at this exchange.

Most of my life I lived without any self examination. A whole lot of things happened a decade ago and a whole lot of feedback was received that fell in fertile parts of my brain and prodded me to introspect. Having spent no time in introspection in past, I seem to spend a better part of my time in soul searching. Being better acquainted with myself, I must admit I have felt like House a lot the past decade. The result of self-analysis culminated in one simple question.

Would I want myself as a friend?

The answer is a No and that is very lowering thought.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

My first half Marathon ..

I ran a half marathon today thereby accomplishing one of my resolutions for the 2014. I have been assiduous in avoiding tobacco and if I were to get below 180lb; I am at 182 currently; I can seriously move on to my stretch goals!

I stayed last night with Ravi, Sudha, Svathi, Akshya, and Coco the dog, at their house near Philadelphia. It was Ravi that re-introduce me to running by getting me to take part in Relay Marathons. Since then I have been to at least three of them. In fact two years ago, I was supposed to run the 1/2 marathon but fell terribly sick 2 weeks prior to the run with a cough so bad, it seemed my my lungs would be expelled out of my body!

This year, I took better precautions. I ate well, I exercised regularly, I took care not to run in inclement weather, and finally I rested adequately. Despite all this, I was not fully prepared. I had 6 weeks of preparation with the longest run being 7 miles and here I was trying to run 13 miles! At least I had run 7 miles the previous two Sundays and I had been averaging 17 miles each week.

I started the run very conservatively running an average of 12 minutes 10 seconds for the first couple of miles. But very soon it was clear that the time taken for each mile crept up by 5-10 seconds till I was averaging 13MPH by the 10th mile. But I am proud that in all this time I ran steadily without a break. Even when I had a Gatorade from the stalls on the side, I ensured that I ran slowly. The eventual Marathon winner blew by me around the 9 mile mark! I had run 9 miles and he had already completely 22nd mile! I lost sight of him very soon.

Around 10 miles, my toes and knees started hurting. I stopped tightened my laces and started again but the final hill and my pride proved to be my undoing. I refused to walk up the hill which was a good half mile long. I tendons around my left knee hurt so much I had difficulty even walking. So I limped the last 1/2 mile till I saw the end point when I jogged slowly to the finish. I finished with a time of 2 hours and 50 minutes! My knees hurt but I am glad I did this.

This sets me up well for my stretch goal. I am signed up for Marine Corp Marathon this fall. Wish me luck.


Saturday, March 01, 2014

Jannavi's Chili Paneer

Three days of making rasam had warmed me up. I was ready for some serious cardio. So my next question was what would Maalini like and her mother suggested Chili Paneer Curry and M loved the idea.

General rules; wash all vegetables before use. Note different cutting instructions from earlier. Always add less salt, it is always easier to add more at the end. Lastly I like to have all my ingredients in place before cooking to avoid looking for things in a hurry.

Ingredients
  • 6 tblsps of olive oil or canola oil (Jannavi prefers the former, I used the latter)
  • 20-25 cm cubes of Nanak Paneer
  • 4-5 strands of Coriander leaves, cut.
  • 4-5 curry leaves.
  • 1.5 tsps of Jira.
  • 0.25 tsp of Hing (asafoetida).
  • Two handful of Kasuri Methi.
  • One large onion, cut long and slender *
  • Two Capsicums, cut inch long and slender *
  • 0.25 tsp of turmeric powder.
  • 0.50 tsp of salt. **
  • Two tblsps of soy sauce
Recipe
  1. Heat oil preferably in a non-stick pan and add paneer. Separate the cubes if they stick to each other.
  2. Using a fork, turn over each cube. Roast each side till they nicely brown. Do not over do as the paneer tends to feel tough to chew.
  3. Once complete, set the paneer aside
  4. Heat some more oil, add Jira, and roast it (if there is left over oil from cooking paneer, it is OK. Add a couple more spoonfuls of oil).
  5. Add hing, curry leaves, kasuri methi, and coriander. Heat till you see incipient signs of charring.
  6. Add Onions, salt, turmeric and cook on medium flame for 3-4 minutes 
  7.  Add Capsicum and toss them
  8. Add Paneer and Tandoori Masala
  9. Cook (do not cover the dish) for 4-5 minutes, longer if you like your vegetables cooked more. If you cover the dish, then the Capsicum tends to lose its bright green color (presentation matters)
  10. Add Soy sauce at the end and toss the entire dish.
  11. Pour it in a serving dish.
* Do not cut onions and capsicum into small pieces.
** Taste to see if you need more salt.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jannavi's Tomato Lemon Rasam

This recipe, like the previous one, started with a question posed to the expert, Jannavi - How do I spread my wings a little bit and try for some variety? What follows is a recipe for tomato lemon rasam that can serve 3-4 persons.

General rules; wash all vegetables before use. Cut fine; unless otherwise specified (when in doubt cut it even smaller). Always add less salt, it is always easier to add more at the end. Lastly I like to have all my ingredients in place before cooking to avoid looking for things in a hurry.

Ingredients
  • Two handful of pressure cooked dal of your choice; I used Masoor dal. *
  • 2 tblsps of ghee **. If you do not have ghee, cut 1/2 an inch from a stick of unsalted butter.
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, cut.
  • Half an inch of ginger, finely cut. **
  • 4-5 strands of Coriander leaves, cut.
  • 4-5 curry leaves.
  • 1.5 tsps of Jira.
  • 0.25 tsp of Hing (asafoetida).
  • 0.25 tsp of turmeric powder. **
  • Two handful of Kasuri Methi.
  • 0.50 tsp of salt. ***
  • 3 tblsps of lemon juice.
  • 2 tsps of Rasam Powder. **
  • 3 cups of water. 
Recipe
  1. Pour ghee in a flat bottom pan and set it on a medium fire.
  2. Once the ghee melts, add Jira and roast it.
  3. Add hing, curry leaves, kasuri methi, ginger, and coriander. Heat till you see incipient signs of charring.
  4. Add tomatoes, turmeric, salt, and small amount of water. Close the vessel with a lid and let it simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add cooked dal.
  6. Add 2 cups of water and let it come to a boil.
  7. Add rasam powder. Pour the powder so that it does not clump.
  8. Add the 3rd cup of water and let it come to a boil.
  9. Add lemon juice.
Take it off the fire and pour it into a serving dish.

Customize to suit your palate
  1. * 2 handful, 3 cups of water serves 3 persons easily
  2. ** Add a spoon more of ghee if you like the smell.
  3. ** use 1 Green chili and 0.25 inches of ginger for a milder taste.
  4. ** 1 spoon of rasam powder if you like milder taste.
  5. ** 5 tblsps of lemon juice if you prefer it tangy.
  6. *** After adding water, taste to see if you need more salt.
  7. **** 4 cups of water makes for a runny rasam.
  8. ***** Add 1-2 strands of cut coriander at the end to bring out its fragrance.

Jannavi's Milagu Rasam

During the past 4 days and five nights, Jannavi has had fever, chills, body pain, head ache, congestion, and a cough. She fell to a combination of over exercise, under nourishment, over work, and an unknown virus. She demurs at this description of her ailment.

Jannavi's illness made it necessary for me to flex my cooking muscles. These muscles had severely atrophied as I have not cooked in decades. Even if I am the only one to say so, I was not a bad cook. I remember clearly that my room mates used to look forward for the days when it was my turn to cook.

Now I wanted to make Milagu Rasam; growing up, it was part of one's diet during any illness, minor or major, Besides Jannavi wanted it badly.

I started by asking the expert, Jannavi; how to make milagu rasam. As I was out of practice I made notes on the process and then I decided it write it out formally for future reference. I hope she does not fall sick, but during our travels this allows me to be more self-sufficient. Besides I am not good at improvising. What follows is a recipe for Milagu rasam that can server 3-4 persons.

General rules; wash all vegetables before use. Cut fine; unless otherwise specified (when in doubt cut it even smaller). Always add less salt, it is always easier to add more at the end. Lastly I like to have all my ingredients in place before cooking to avoid looking for things in a hurry.

Note If I cook often and blog about the dishes, one fact would you would notice one thing; the ubiquity of Kasuri Methi in all of Jannavi dishes.


Ingredients
  • Two handful of pressure cooked dal of your choice; I used Masoor dal. *
  • 2 tblsp of ghee **. If you do not have ghee, cut 1/2 an inch from a stick of unsalted butter.
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, cut.
  • Half an inch of ginger, finely cut. **
  • 4-5 strands of Coriander leaves, cut.
  • 4-5 curry leaves.
  • 2 green chili, cut (Thai hot pepper) **
  • 1.5 tsps of Jira.
  • 0.25 tsp of Hing (asafoetida).
  • 0.25 tsp of turmeric powder.
  • 0.5 tsp of coarse ground Black Pepper (I prefer ground over whole). **
  • Two handful of Kasuri Methi.
  • 0.5 tsp of salt ***
  • 3 cups of water ****




Recipe
  1. Pour ghee in a flat bottom pan and set it on a medium fire.
  2. Once the ghee melts, add Jira and roast it.
  3. Add Black pepper, hing, curry leaves, kasuri methi, ginger, and coriander. Heat till you see incipient signs of charring.
  4. Add tomatoes, turmeric, salt, and small amount of water (you could rinse the dish containing the diced tomatoes with a little water. I did). Close the vessel with a lid and let it simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add cooked dal and turmeric.
  6. Add three cups of water and let the mixture boil.
Take it off the fire and pour it into a serving dish *****

Customize to suit your palate
  1. * 2 handful, 3 cups of water serves 3 persons easily.
  2. ** cut the amount of Green chili, Black Pepper, Ginger to suit your taste. The amount specified above would clear sinuses.
  3. *** After adding water, taste the concoction to see if you need more salt.
  4. **** 4 cups of water makes for a runny rasam.
  5. ***** Add 1-2 strands of cut coriander at the end to bring out its fragrance.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Resolutions for 2014

Achievable goals
  1. Get below 180lb
  2. Run a 1/2 Marathon
  3. Stay Tobacco free
Stretch Goal
  1. Get to 170lb
  2. Run a full marathon