In Pursuit of Running Nirvana – by Shalu Attri

….Continued from 2016.

Quoting Dr. Seuss:

“Oh, the Places You’ll go!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away! “

I joined Team Asha in Season 2 in 2016. I ran San Jose Rock n Roll 1/2 in October, and the season pretty much ended. I had no benchmark on whether I did good, or bad in that race, and more importantly, whether I was capable of doing better.

Last race report here for additional context: Click here

I ran Berkeley 1/2 in November, 2016.

Vartika, Kiran, and Gauri came all the way to Berkeley to cheer me in the rain, along with my husband and our little girl. Kiran even loaned* me his car, so I could drive to Berkeley early morning, which I thought was a big deal. Although, he texted me several times to inquire whether – “his car had reached safe and sound”.

*Our other car is a Nissan Leaf, which can give people a range-anxiety. Our 4-year old also likes to show up, and cross the finish lines with me, no matter what time my races are. Therefore, my husband, our daughter, and the 3-musketeers caught a ride in our other car.

I wanted to keep running throughout the winter, because I had started to enjoy running. Abhishek – one of our Baylands AM mentors, Vineeta, and myself signed-up for Kaiser Permanenete 1/2 in February, 2017 since Coach Char had mentioned several times that it is a very well organized race, and a great course.

Abhishek and I ran throughout the winter at Baylands. I have to commend Abhishek on his very high reliability index (term coined by Abhishek himself) – he showed up rain, shine, or 55 degrees cold even after the season ended. This is a person, who has been with Asha since 2012, or even before, and really does not need to run in Winters, or run at all. I bet at some point, he regretted the fact that a lunatic like myself had joined Baylands AM in season 2, and had influenced him to sign-up for Kaiser 1/2!

Chethan also joined Abhishek and myself for a few runs prior to his half in February, or early March.

If you have ever run with these two, you know they run like the “Wind”, and “Cheetah”. Thanks to these two crazies, I got very used to running the last 1/2 to 1 miler at a super unrealistic pace, which actually, helps you a lot on the actual race day.

Break down of my first 3 races:

San Jose Rock and Roll 1/2 (very well organized race; can get hot): PR = 2:34
Berkeley 1/2 (A bit of a strange course; last 4 miles were super rainy): PR = 2:24
Kaiser 1/2 (Excellent course; well organized): PR = 2:15:22

This is where I would like to emphasize the importance of discipline, training, and consistency in whatever you sign-up for in life. My mother used to tell me when I was young – “When you show up for something, show up with full enthusiasm; do not do anything with a half-hearted attempt.”

My commitment to running is aptly described by Dr, Seuss:

“You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
Any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go”


Ever since, I started running last year on July 25th, 2016, I have diligently followed foam-rolling, stretching, and running instructors from the Baylands AM mentors. I showed up for all runs consistently. I do believe all these things helped me improve my time with every race. I also worked hard to fix my gait this year.

Fast forwarding to Team Asha’s 2017 season.

A few things stayed the same from last season:
I still dislike bananas! I really do, but I ate more this year. I think I ate 10 this season vs. 5-6 last year. I know which Coach is rolling their eyes at me right about now. Ha ha.
I still miss wearing high-heels. I am looking forward to October 23rd, when I get done with MCM, and can wear heels fearlessly. I haven’t worn high-heels, or heels at all in the last one-year!
While I was not on Paleo this year, I still did not eat Carbs as liberally as I should have.
I am still an extremely distracted runner. My eyes go everywhere during the race.
This season is a crazy season for me (it is self-inflicted though). I have a major personality defect. My average interest in anything lasts for ~2 years. To sustain my interest in Team Asha in 2018, I decided to give Triathlon program a shot this year.

In April 2017, I expressed to my husband that I wanted to do a half-marathon, a triathlon, and a full-marathon this year. This is how our conversation went:
Shalu: “Are you sure you can pick-up my SERIOUS parenting slack this year? It will be a super-tough season.”
Hitesh: “Yep, of course”

(He is a man of few words!).

I asked him 10 times after that, mostly, because I was indecisive. Checking in with Coach Char about whether this Tri + Run schedule was doable at all helped me out immensely.

“You’ll get mixed up, of course,
As you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
With many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
And remember that Life’s
A Great Balancing Act.”

This season, indeed, is a balancing act for me – I swim, I run, and I bike.
I have zero time for friends. I make time for family. I am constantly apologizing to people for my lack of availability. I am trying to find time for simple pleasures such as reading a book for 10-minutes before going to bed. Still, I am happy with my training, and a diversified race portfolio for this year.

My time-management, as well as communication skills with my husband are nothing less than stellar this season! I think I have an excellent answer for that interview question – “Tell me about a time you managed your time well.”

Swimming and biking help me recover super quickly. Fortunately, I am not having any shin splints issues this year, because of quick recovery. I would encourage everyone to consider Team Asha’s excellent Triathlon program for next year.

San Francisco First-Half Marathon, July 23rd, 2017

I really-really like my sleep. We decided to stay in San Francisco the night before, so I could be well-rested, and our daughter could wake up at a reasonable time to come cheer me at the finish line. Good plan in theory. In practice, I woke up at 1:00am, 2:00am, 3:00am (damn it! sleep woman), and 4:00am.

I ate 2 bananas (surprise! surprise! – not out of choice though), left the hotel at 5:00am, and stood in my wave at exactly 5:30am. No time to use porta potty either (those things are gross anyways!). My wave started at 5:42am.

Race Preparation: San Francisco First-Half is a tough race – the hills, the fog, the terrain, the Golden Gate; nothing is easy. Over Memorial Day, I ran a very windy 7-miler in SF, and knew what to expect from this race. In addition, I pinged Coach Reshu and Coach Dennis earlier in the week to provide me with some perspective on how to run this race to achieve my realistic goal of 2:05-2:10, and stretch goal of 1:59.

Both the Coaches gave me exceptionally analytical analysis on how, and at what pace I need to run at for the first 9 miles. Coach Reshu also mentioned last 2 miles are tough. The coaches also advised that I run with a pacer group, which unfortunately, I did not see at all during the race.

Essentially, I decided to do positive splits in this race, and assumed that no matter how I run the first 11 miles, I should not rely on picking up my pace in the last 2 miles (which on a flat course, I am pretty good at).

Race Day:
I ran my first 3 miles fast.
I actually ran first 1/2 mile at a crazy pace – 8’16”. Well, actually, way too fast. I told myself – “Slow down, woman, you have 12+ miles to go!”
I ran up all the hills. I thought FitBit’s BillBoard – “Show the hills, whose the boss!” was very appropriately placed – just before the Golden Gate climb. It gave me inspiration.
I slowed down on Golden Gate Bridge a bit, because it was slippery. This cost me a couple of minutes.
I actually stopped at 3-4 water stops, and timed my Gu intake during those stops (something I learned from Abhishek). This definitely cost me some time.
I ran tangents whenever it was flat (something I learned from running Kaiser 1/2 with Vineeta).
Last 2 miles were tough, not because of the rolling hills, but because as expected, and cautioned by Coach Reshu, I could not pick my pace. Those 2 miles definitely cost me 4-5 minutes.
San Francisco First-Half is the right mix of romance, challenge, and beauty. By far, it was my most comfortable, enjoyable, and gorgeous run! I have to say I fell in love with this course, and will run this race again in a heart-beat.

Most memorable moment from the race: Just prior to getting on Fort Funston, watching a photographer take photos of runners from the beach. In addition to admiring the photographer’s shooting location, I could not help, but think – “Thank God! our open water sessions in the Tri program are not held at this hour.” And, “I need to come back to San Francisco at this hour for a shoot.”

Seeing familiar faces during the race:
Coach Dennis at Mile 3 (in his very NZ accent :)) “How are you doing, Shalu?”
Jigesh on Golden Gate bridge at Mile 7.5 – ‘Let’s do this!” – I could recognize that curly hair and warm smile from anywhere.
Coach Reshu and Coach Balu at Mile 10 – Warm smiles, high-fives, and words of encouragement.
Adwait at Mile 13 – “Go, Shalu” – Although he looks different this season, he still has a warmth to himself (You still look good, Adwait:))
Venkat + his lens at Mile 13 – I could recognize that lens, and Venkat’s focus from anywhere.
Mile 13.1: My husband – Hitesh, our 4-year old daughter – Vian, and Amalia (a friend) cheering me on. Another friend – Navdeep couldn’t find parking, but decided to drive around until the race ended. Hitesh puts Vian in the running area. She holds my hand, and runs at my pace, and crosses the finish line with me (along with her fuzzy bear!). She is super sleepy, yet super determined, and pleased with herself for running the last 30-40 feet with her mom in her beach slippers 🙂

PR = 2:09:19

“And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)”

While I do believe my stretch goal was not impossible, San Francisco is a technical race, which requires running all miles accurately to achieve that stretch goal. Overall, I am super-pleased with my run.

Vian’s sign-off comment made my heart melt.
She said – “Mamiz, maybe, when I grow up and run half-marathons, you can wait for me, and cross the finish lines with me.”


Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!”

To be continued…

#TeamAsha – Thank you for instilling the joy of running in me. Thank you for all you do to make the program successful, and our experience positive.

In Gratitude,
A Runner, and a Triathlete in Training.

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