The chronicles of Sanjeev Dwivedi

Sun, 07 Mar 2010

Long time and no update.
Today I have run a half marathon. No, I did not participate in a half-marathon. I just ran 13.2 miles on the Sammamish River Trail. Two coworkers and I run every alternate day during lunch time and we have now been running slightly short of two years.

I feel like I have accomplishmed something. A milestone perhaps. When we started running together, we used to run about 2 miles and be out of breath and tired. But slowly we increased our distance and our stamina. Now we run at the very least 5 miles, 3 times a week or as I have been doing recently in preparation for this half-marathon, 5 miles twice a week and on the weekends, I would go for a longer run (increased the distance from 5 miles to 10 miles slowly, over time. I ran 10 miles for about 3 weekends and decided I was ready to run the whole distance. At the suggestion of one of my co-runners, I bought some GU sports gel. The reason behind this was that during my 10 mile runs, performance would seriously get impacted at about the 7 mile barrier. Speed would go down and tiredness would set in. I have always been sceptical of chemical and performance enhancers and I resisted going down this path by making my own concotion of sports drink (sugar, Morton Lite Salt (50-50 split of Potassium Chloride and Sodium Chloride) to replenish the lost salt and half a lemon. But, even with this drink, the 10 miles would be stressful at the very best. So, this time, armed with two packs of GU gel (a lot of long distance runners swear by it), I started. The GU gel instructions say to take it 15 minutes before, for next 45 minutes. As I approached the 45 minute mark, I was feeling just the littlest bit tired and I opened the gel and sucked down about half of a poch. Then, I hastily put some water in the mouth and mixed the two in my mouth (the gel directions say, you must have water with it or you will get stomach cramps). After about 10 minutes, I started feeling a little better. Coming back, I had the other half of this first gel pouch. I thought I would not need the second pouch at all. But 4 miles from the finish, it became extremely difficult to run. The steps would get a little short and consciously I would have to increase the stride as well as keep up the pace. At about 3 miles before stopping, I gave in and opened the second pouch. I sucked down about half of the gel and about 10 minutes later, I felt a little better. At this point of time, it was mostly mind over matter. I kept tricking myself with lines like "Oh, it is just 2.5 more miles, that is nothing" and "you are almost there."

Suffice to say, I was thoroughly glad when it was finally over. I cooled down slowly by walking for about 3-4 minutes and then did some stretches for my legs. By now, I was feeling a bit cold. In general after heavy sweating, I cool down prety fast and start feeling cold. So, I usually carry a spare t-shirt with me. When I took out my under shirt, I saw dollar sized bloody spots where the nipples touch the T-Shirt. In my earlier longs runs, I had observed nipple chafing, but nothing like this. I had researched this topic and found that this is a common problem with male runners. The constant motion of the wet t-shirt against nipples cuts the thin skin and they bleed. Some solutions to these are apply a vaseline like gel or put some band-aid on top of them. Before this run, I had done both of them in preparation and thankfully, it was not painful during this run (it was quite painful in my earlier long runs, when I had not tried any remedy) but I was still surprised to see the bloody spots.

I had asked Nivi to keep some food ready because the trail is about 10 minutes drive from home and I need food immediately after a run (you should in general have something to eat within 30 minutes of any moderate exercise, to make the recovery faster.) I would seriously have liked to have taken a shower before having food, but that was impractical today. So I sat down on the carpet, put frozen vegetable bags on each of my knees (icing reduces the recovery time by decreasing the inflammation) and ate slowly. After I was done, I filled up the bath tub with cold water and sat in to submerge the lower half of my body. That turned out to be a bit tricky. The bottom of my feet got so cold so fast that I hastily jumped out of the tub. But then with a stronger resolve, I got back in and spent another 20 minutes in the cold water. Initially the cold water seemed brutal but after 5 minutes or so, it turned soothing as it relaxed the muscles and improved blood circulation in the lower half of the body.

Well, that is about it for my running adventure. I will still keep running, but I plan to reduce the weekend miles a little bit to give the body time to recover completely after all I have put it through. Nivi seems motiviated now, seeing how I have dropped about 20+ pounds in the last 6 months through running. I will see how far we will go together.

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Sun, 22 Mar 2009

An ode to my Salton Yogurt maker:
O dear buddy,
You make the yogurt
Perfect Thickness
Perfect Consistency
And without any additives


Now that the ode is done, let me explain that. Ever since I got the Salton Yogurt maker from for about 15 dollars, my yogurt consumption has gone up. Apart from the little amount of saving that it brings in (2.50-3.00 dollars) every time and apart from the fact that the yogurt I make myself does not have any additives, It is a pleasure to use. There were people complaining about it not having a thermostat and some other fancty features, but for what I need, it is just absolutely perfect and simple. I take a tupperware, microwave the milk to lukewarm, pour it in the container provided, mix a few spoonfuls of existing yogurt and put it in the yogurt maker. I do this in the night before going to sleep and when I wake up, I have perfect yogurt. There are no switches, no thermostats and no settings whatsoever. Just plug it in when you want the yogurt making process to start and take the plug out when it is all done in the morning.

...and before people in India start chuckling that in India we just put the culture in a utensil, mixed with milk and leave it at room temperature, well, here, in Seattle, most of the year, the temperature is under 60degrees farenheit and it is very hard to make yogurt like that.

So, in conclusion, all hail the Salton.

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Sun, 01 Feb 2009

Got tired of trying to find hiking places online.
It is hard to find hiking trails online because the information is very disconnected, incomplete and more often than not, inaccesible. So, I got the book Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard and Megan McMorris from the Bellevue Library and looked up some places to hike. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge looked promising, so we went there. It is on I-5 Exit 114. It is mostly a marshland where migratory birds stop on their travels. As the name suggests, it is located at the estuary of Nisqually river. Nisqually river originates at the Nisqually glacier in Mt. Rainier National park and we have been there as well. So, for Nivi, it was a nice moment to reflect back. From its origin, to its very end, we have seen the river through. The place right now was like most other places in Western Washington, very brown. The vegetation is mostly dead because of the winter, but buds have started appearing on some trees. There is one major hike (5.5 mile loop) with smaller offshoots in a few places. There is almost no slope anywhere. Overall, very pleasant stroll.

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Sat, 25 Oct 2008

You should have a backup camera.
This becomes more and more important as you start going on photography assignments or if you are going on a vacatio nor photographing an important event. I had been warned I must say, but I decided to heed the warning lightly. One time I was photographing at a birthday party and for some weird reason, my Nikon D70 misbehaved and almost ruined the photoshoot. I was saved by a hair's breadth as I could resolve the problem just 10 minutes before the event.

Then again, this time the camera broke on the trip to Yellowstone and it broke significantly enough so I could not fix it myself. Something mechanical was broken. Neither auto focusing, nor metering were working properly. The saving grace was that it did not fail completely, I could take pictures by setting things manually.

So, the moral of the story was that I needed a backup camera. While I sent the Nikon D70 for repair at the El Seguando, CA facility of Nikon, I researched which backup body to have. I was almost sold on D40 when I came across D90 which was just in the process of getting released. The body+kit lens was for sale at many places but the body only was at sale at very few places. I got mine from 17th Street Photo. Since my 18-70 DX lens was broken too (physically), I got a 18-200mm VR lens with it which I had been eyeing for a long long time.

This is the first time I have VR in a lens and it is magical. I can take pictures in dark, at 200mm at 1/40s and still have sharp pictures. The D90 is a fantastic body with Automatic Dynamic Range, awesome ergonomics, multiiple AF sensors and so on. Nikon went all out designing D90.

I took some pictures with the D90 and 50mm lens of the Fall Colors in Redmond -- Redmond-Seattle area is burning with color right now.

This winter has been slow in coming and I am not complaining for sure. When the winter arrives slowly, the trees take longer to shed their leaves and the leaves express beautiful colors. This year, whichever way you go, it is just absolutely stunning. The colors are so many and so vivid that I keep saying "Wow" everywhere.

Also, yesterday I made Kadhai Paneer. After S. asked me about how to make paneer a few times, I once showed him how to. Since then, I make paneer dishes once in a while. I have gotten quite proficient by now in making these. So, whenever I make a paneer dish, I invite someone over. This time I invited over my Kayaking friend who introduced me to the sport.

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Tue, 21 Oct 2008

We finished a long roadtrip three weeks back.
The trip report for the Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and Craters of the Moon roadtrip is here

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Sat, 18 Oct 2008

How (not) to prepare Mooli (radish) ka paratha

This is our third attempt at making Mooli ka paratha. The first two were mixed success and lessons from them got incorporated into this one. This time was, well, to put it mildly, interesting. I think now I have more reasonable understanding of how to make the mooli ka paratha somewhat properly.

The first time we made the paratha, we grated the mooli too fine and when we added the salt to it, it started oozing water fast and it was very very hard to roll the paratha as the rolling board would get wet and the dough would just stick to the board. The taste of the paratha was good though.

The second time, we just kneaded the dough and the grated mooli together. It was somewhat hard to find the taste of the mooli in the resultant parathas.

This time however, this is what we did.

1. We grated the mooli coarse. This turned out to be a mistake as the mooli would not cook properly even though the dough would get cooked.
2. We filled the mooli in the dough and rolled it. The water would squelch out and make the board wet and the dough would stick to the board.
3. First we put the salt in the dough. The dough tasted OK but the mooli tasted pretty bland. So, we added the salt in the mooli. This however causes the water to come out of the mooli, so rolling became impossible unless we drained the mooli. Even then rolling was tough.
4. We rolled just a roti. Then we put a layer of grated mooli on one half of the roti and then folded the roti onto itself. This would make a semi-circular paratha. The paratha would not stick to the board because it was rolled beforehand. We only filled it after rolling it. It was fine except that again, the mooli was too thick, so not properly cooked.
5. In the end, exasperated, I just microwaved one of the paratha. That cooked the mooli for sure, but some part of the paratha got dehydrated and hence became rubbery.

So, in the end, the next time I make this paratha, this is what I am going to do.

1. Grate mooli fine and add salt to it.
2. Drain the excess water that oozes out of the mooli.
3. Roll the dough and make a big roti.
4. Put the mooli on one side of the roti. Don't attempt overstuffing.
5. Cook the damn thing.
6. Eat it.

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Sun, 14 Sep 2008

We are going on a roadtrip.

This requires some preparation. One of the most important parts of the preparation is getting the matter of food settled. Earlier, I used to just grab food at fast food restaurants when travelling. This was not very good habit as my waistline started telling me. Also, there is no variety, it is the same old, same old all the time. So, this time I decided that we needed to be able to prepare food. The key ingredient in getting food prepared is a source of heat. If we are camping, there is no readymade source of heat. Previous experiences with campfire have left me thinking that it is hard to get a consistently hot campfire going. If the logs are even marginally damp, the campfire takes a long time getting going and when it does, even then, the heat produced is not enough. So, this time, I decided to get a camping stove.

This is what I got from our local REI. Looks much like stoves in India and works much like them too. A little bit heavier if we want to take it backpacking, but everything is integrated (as opposed to having the stove separate from the fuel bottle), so not much chance of problems as dust cannot get in and since there will be no repeated connections and disconnections to the fuel bottle, there will not be any wear and tear at the joint. At least, that is what most reviewers said.

After getting it home, I decided to give it a test run. It is important to test all gear before putting it to use at crucial times. So, in the night, after reading the instructions, I made some coffee on it. That seemed to work just fine, so I decided to cook a complete lunch on it. I made Tahari (a rice dish like Pulav), on it. Took in all about 20 minutes and was enough for two people. I think I am satisfied with the stove.

Roadtrip, here I come.

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Mon, 18 Aug 2008

Finally, an update that waited two whole years.

Two years back I made a trip to Florida Keys and Everglades National Park. I have updated the website with the story and the pictures here

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Tue, 17 Jun 2008

Here is a workout schedule that Ananth and I used to work on.
It is still my reference workout schedule:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

That used to be our regular schedule for almost two years of working out together.

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Fri, 02 May 2008

Sea Kayaker - Deep Trouble

That is the name of the book that I have been reading for the past two days. The book is primarily intended to caution the sea kayaking enthusiast, especially the newbie, of the dangers lurking in the world of sea kayaking.

Sea kayaking differs quite a bit from whitewater kayaking. The kayaks one uses on the sea are quite different both in shape and in size from the whitewater kayaks. Whereas the whitewater kayaks are small (about 6-8ft in length), sea kayaks are usually between (12-17ft.) Whitewater kayaks are all about maneuverability, you can spin them 360 degrees with 1 or two strokes almost within a few seconds whereas with sea kayaks it takes quite a bit of effort. Sea kayaks on the other hand are made for comfort and speed. Whitewater kayaks on the other hand are quite painful to paddle in flat water as they are not built for speed.

Anyways, coming back to the original topic, the book goes through a lot of real life stories about how people got in trouble while kayaking in the sea. Some of the mistakes committed by the people were simply due to a lack of understanding, preparation and practice. People have gone kayaking in the sea without putting on a lifevest or keeping the lifevest under their seats. In one unfortunate case, the body of the kayaker was found drifting. When they recovered his kayak, they found the lifevest still tucked under his kayak seat!! There were cases where people were caught unawares by the weather. Even experts got caught up in unfamiliar situations and barely survived because they had flares, wet suits and other survival gear along with them.

It amazes me to no end how people take such risks with no regard to their own lives or the repurcussions on the lives of their well wishers. I remember the story of two Indian men, who were found hanging to the side of their rental kayak in one of the bays around Seattle. Neither were strong swimmers, they went out without any additional company in a double seater kayak. They had no warm clothing on and had no self rescue training. Their kayak capsized and they could not get in. When the boat found them, both the guys were hypothermic. One of them did not survive the ordeal.

I know of friends who go kayaking in the lakes around Seattle without even knowing how to swim. The waters of these lakes is cold year around and it takes 15-20 minutes for hypothermia to start setting in, any time of the year. Assuming a capsize, it would take at least 10-15 minutes before help would arrive and what if it doesn't?

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