Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gurgaon Duathlon, Oct 27th, 2013 - Running and Living club

Being an avid half marathoner, thought of running a Duathlon first crossed my mind when it became obvious that despite my best efforts I wasn't able to get my breathing right in swimming. That put triathlon out of reach, at least for some time. I tried my legs with full marathon but earlier this year decided to keep it at bay for some more time because I was unable to manage the last quarter of the run well and it's never a great feeling for a runner to limp to the finish line. So a run + bike combination looked something different and a logical next milestone.

So I signed up for Gurgaon Duathlon. I created a 8 week practice plan. Since this was a run+bike+run combination and I did not want to invest in a bike right away so I decided to use gym bike with resistance. My training regime included bike+run or run+bike both to help me get used to the format. I planned a weekly routine that included a 20km gym biking followed by 3-5 km run on the treadmill, with a 1% incline to try to simulate cross country terrain. I also practiced 10K at 11 km/ hr or slightly better to build up some speed and did this at least once a week or sometimes twice a week.

Though I did not spend too much time on learning the nuances of biking, I did learn one thing that transition from bike to run is a bit tricky as the feet feel heavy and the body and the muscles take time to adjust to the new format. I think treadmill practice with resistance post biking definitely helped me simulate near run day conditions.

Anyway the race day approached. This was a 2 km run followed by 20 kms bike followed by a cross country run of 9.5 kms. My strategy was to try to use the initial 2 km run as a warm-up and use first 5 kms of biking as a test. Completed 2 kms of run in about 11 min. Cycling was fun, first 10 kms included good climb and the last 10 kms was on a flat road. Took a total of 44 minutes to complete 20 kms, not a great timing but I guess ok for my first experience on an ok rented bike.

Transition from biking to running was a challenge as the legs felt really heavy, my stride was almost half of my usual stride. To make maters more interesting there was a gradual climb from 1st km till 4th kms during the initial part of the cross country run. The track itself was beautiful - real country side in the Aravalis just outside Gurgaon. The track at times had little larger than the largest pebbles but smaller than the smallest boulders, the kinds where you cannot take your eyes off because you could end up with a twisted ankle. It was a 9.5 km run and I took about 54 minutes to finish in total time of 1:48 min against the first finishers time of 1:20. 

Interestingly I felt at my best during the last 5 kms of the event, something which is typically rare and was rather sad that the run finished so early, one of those days where you wish you had the opportunity to run longer!

As I earlier mentioned that it took me first few kms to get out of the transition phase but during the last 5 kms it felt as if the 20 kms biking consumed a different set of muscles and energy store.

Weather was great, temperature of around 24 degrees Celsius with low humidity.

In any case I loved the entire format and now I am seriously thinking of investing in a bike and taking up biking to complement my running.

Thanks to running and living club again for organizing a great event, their passion for the sport shows in everything they do.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sustainable development for Tier 2 towns

Leave about 10-12 cities, the condition of the rest of towns and cities in India hasn't changed much. Crumbling roads, unsafe & unstructured local transportation, non-existent drains and ever increasing insecurity is a story you see everywhere. My issue with socialism starts here and no wonder states with more socialist attitudes are worse off. While we are on this topic I am also against the Detroit like capitalism, at the end any system with no control will create havoc!

Couple of years back I was invited by Fairfax county of Virginia to speak on an event they had organized at Bangalore to attract investments in their county. I was astonished at the corporatization of administration of cities and counties in the US. It is like running a company. Counties manage their profit & loss, raise money and debt as required and invest in building infrastructure to further attract investments. I know our socialist structures won't allow such a change and perhaps we are not ready yet. But we can begin to adopt some best practices.

A. Raising Investments - District machinery that comprises of the office of commissioner must be given a mandate and target to raise investments from businesses by creating fast-track approval windows and incentives for real estate. Come to think of it, their job is to provide efficient administration and one indicator of this must be their ability to attract investments. What do the businesses need the most in India? Fast track approvals and supportive government machinery.

B. Focus on Mass Employment Sectors - Units that create mass employment and drive secondary growth must be our focus areas. One of the easiest ways to create sustained growth is to create opportunities for Tourism. IT industry continues to look for low cost destinations and one of the models that can be employed by Tier-3 towns is to create an eco-system for IT and ITES companies to setup centers. Education and Organized retail also have the capability to provide mass employment and create an ecosystem for an overall growth of the city. Organized real estate both for investment and for self-use is another area that can help our tier 3-4 towns to get a face lift.

C. Organize unorganized retail - Every town and small city have farmers market on the road side, often leading to chaos not to mention the filth it creates. There is abundant government land lying vacant and it can be easily converted to makeshift commercial markets allowing small businesses and shopkeepers to find willing consumers for their products and services creating a WIN-WIN for all.

D. Low cost housing - Clusters of low cost housing must be developed and be made available to people at monthly EMIs. Banks can employ semi urban CSP (customer support point as used in Financial Inclusion) model to provide services and do recovery.

E. Tap Educational Institutions for growth - Higher education and professional education is widely available in most towns & cities and we must tap that infrastructure to make it work to improve quality of living in our towns. Again this requires initiative and will-power and not funding or even policy. 

Government has an important role to play here and instead of treating such initiatives as cash drain, it must rather play an active role in creating sustainability of such programs by formulating a strong policy framework. Government must therefore create an opportunity without providing a facility.

Each local administration must have a priority plan to address the following core issues:

  1. Drainage and Garbage disposal
  2. Security
  3. Roads & Infrastructure
  4. Stray animals
  5. Crisis management

Perhaps right time for us to experiment by bringing in strong industry leaders to run our district administration? Why is this the purview of only the IAS officers ? Do we lack district administrators who have the drive and initiative ? Perhaps we do or do we just hide behind bureaucracy? Or find the system too tainted to be fixed ?

We still have very basic issues to resolve while we continue to march forward. Let's shake-up the system a little bit to build a country that we can all be more proud of.