5 min read

Hitting the books

It was Day 2 of my trip (Dec 23 Sun). My plan was to go in the DHL
balloon so that I can get a good view of Singapore. When I reached the
MRT station, I suddenly got interested in randomly walking around.
I really wanted to see the place.

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After more than an hour of walking around in the hot sun, I came
across a really huge building. I got curious and tried to figure out
the name – it was the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library.
It’s a library?! I just had to get in there, for the AC as well as to
explore the books collection. I thought it was a good idea since it
would be relaxing. After all, the point of a vacation is to do things
you wouldn’t do in daily life, as well as to have a relaxing or
invigorating fun time. At least, that’s my definition of a vacation.

I went in, saw many rows of shelves. I clearly avoided the row which
had some books with some strange titles like “Java & XML”,
I wonder what that’s all about. I picked up a few books from the other
rows and went and sat down at the benches. Lots of people were
studying, with music on, writing down notes in their laptops and
utilizing the free wifi.

I started reading a book titled something like “The Practice of
Philosophy – A Handbook for Beginners”. Unfortunately, within ten
minutes, I was sleepy. Either it was the exhaustion and lack of sleep
the previous night, or it was the subject. I went and sat on the
couches and started to doze off. I was encouraged by the fact that
there was some other Indian dude also sleeping.

After a while, I realized I was snoring, and there were other new
people around trying to read, so I went and washed my face. Then,
I went down to Level 1 to give a phone call to Abishek Nair (my
gracious host for the trip). He was laughing that I came all the way
to Singapore to sit in a library and read some books! He told me to
come over to his company VHQ Post (an advertising post-production i.e.
visual effects company) in an hour so that he can show me around.

After that, I stood near the wide glass and I look left and see the
DHL balloon right there! It was funny since I wasn’t actively looking
for it.

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I went back inside the library, the books were still there. This time
I started reading a book more closer to my tastes – “The Runner’s
Handbook” by Bob Glover, and I went prepared with my iPod. Music
always gets me going. I started playing “Sutrum Vizhi” and started
reading. I started with the nutrition/fuel section because that’s
where most of my problems are. Then started taking down some notes:

  • Hitting “the wall” refers to that point when you run short of
    glycogen. This is an experience that every runner should try

    • once. After you’re survived it, you will respect the need to
      prepare better for your next marathon.
  • Learn the values of long training runs, tapering, eating plenty of
    carbos, and not starting too fast. Ignoring these factors all
    contribute to hitting “the wall.”
  • Most often associated with marathons. After an hour and a half or
    so of running, you begin to run low on glycogen. For most runners
    that will be 10-13 miles into a run. The average well-trained
    runner may store enough glycogen to last 15-20 miles, depending
    upon such as factors as pace, body weight, fitness level, and how
    well they loaded up on carbs going into the race.
  • When you run low on glycogen, your body attempts to conserve what
    remains by burning more fat for energy. But since fat is 15% less
    efficient than carbs as an energy source, you are unable to hold
    your pace and have to slow dramatically (even though fat releases
    9 cal/gm compared to 4 cal/gm for carbs and protein)
  • Long training runs develop mechanisms for your body to utilize fat
    more efficiently throughout your race, thus “sparing” some glycogen
    for use later. Workouts at marathon pace and faster will also train
    your muscles to utilize carbs more efficiently at these paces.
    In addition, starting your race at a conservative pace will
    help conserve glycogen for later in the run. Tapering for
    a marathon combined with carb-loading is the key to surviving
    “the wall.”
  • Back-of-the-pack runners benefit most from carb-loading.
    • Dr. Costill notes: The difference between elite and average
      marathoners is that even if both started out with the same
      amount of glycogen, the elite marathoner would spare it by
      burning a higher ratio of fat. Although more oxygen is required
      to burn fat, the highly developed oxygen transport system of the
      elite runner allows this. Furthermore, he moves more
      economically, which means that he uses less oxygen to accomplish
      the same task. The average runner, on the other hand, depletes
      his glycogen supply sooner and doesn’t have as efficient an
      oxygen transport system to burn fat. That’s why hitting the wall
      is so devastating and why carbohydrate loading is more important
      for the average runner than for the elite runner.
  • For shorter runs (< 90 min), glycogen stores don’t get depleted
    much and hence carb intake isn’t as critical.

The best part is that I realized that this problem is not unique to
me! It’s a documented scientific problem experienced by enough runners
to have a section dedicated to it in a runners’ book. Now I know what
the problem is! Next, I need to actually figure out how to train to
tackle this which the book didn’t explain satisfactorily.

I had lost track of time because of the awesome reader-friendly
environment and suddenly realized I was late. I then headed out to
meet Abishek. I got to see all the whizbang gizmos they use to create
all the special effects that you may or may not notice in the
advertisements you see. These guys have amazing talent and patience to
do the things they do. But that’s a story for another day.