Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Race Calendar

October 29, 2016 - Randall's Island Run the River 5k (27:02) Strava, Pics, Athlinks

November 6, 2016 - TCS New York City Marathon (4:39:00) Strava, Official Results (bib 55102), MarathonFotoRace Recap, Fundraiser

January 22, 2017 - NYRR Fred Lebow Manhattan Half-Marathon (2:38:04) Strava, Official Results (bib 2096), Photos, Instagram

February 25, 2017 - NYRR Al Gordon Brooklyn 4 Miler (58:08) Strava, Official Results

March 19, 2017 - United Airlines New York City Half-Marathon (2:16:03) Strava, Official Results (bib 20879), MarathonFoto, Fundraiser

April 1, 2017 - Boomer's Cystic Fibrosis Run to Breathe 4 Miler (36:21) Strava, Official Results

April 23, 2017 - 9/11 Memorial 5k (37:09) Strava

May 6, 2017 - UPMC Health Plan/ UPMC Sports Medicine Pittsburgh 5k  (28:33) Strava, Official Results, MarathonFoto

May 7, 2017 - Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon (4:33:50) Strava, Official Results (bib 3791), MarathonFoto, Season Recap, Race Recap, Fundraiser

June 1, 2017 - J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge (41:42) Strava, Official Results

June 17, 2017 - NYRR Queens 10k

June 24, 2017 - Front Runners New York LGBT Pride Run 5 Miler

June 25, 2017 - Achilles Hope & Possibility 4 Miler

July 23, 2017 - San Francisco Marathon

August 20, 2017 - France Run 8k

September 24, 2017 - New Balance Bronx 10 Mile

October 8, 2017 - Bank of America Chicago Marathon Fundraiser

January 4, 2017 - Walt Disney World 5k

January 5, 2017 - Walt Disney World 10k



Thursday, May 18, 2017

Pittsburgh in Pink

To read my season recap, please click here. This post is intended to be a trip down the memory lane for the weekend of May 7th. I do not guarantee the absence of life-lessons though.

I had arrived in Pittsburgh knowing that I hadn't quite had the kind of training season required to run a marathon, leave alone a hilly one. Basically a good patch of runs from March 3rd to April 10th, and then a fortnight of agony and anxiety, with limited amount of exercising. The best thing I could do was to rest my body the week of, and run without any pressure whatsoever. I did.

Running for a cause, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, in honor of Elizabeth, my American sister, added extra meaning to the race, and staying with our Mom Gail throughout the weekend ensured that I was never short on inspiration (or as we like to call it, runspiration) and that my nutrition stayed absolutely perfect. The weather played its part too, and what unfolded was a dream, a run I doubt I could have executed even with 16-18 proper weeks of training. Less is more at times.

Sunday morning, Gail dropped me off in Downtown where a little walk brought me to the bag check area. Temperatures were still in the low 40s. With the race supposed to start off in 15 minutes, I started dressing down. An elderly gentleman co-marathoner walked by, suggesting I keep things on for another 10. So right he was. I could sense the contrast between NYC and a smaller marathon such as Pittsburgh. Not so formal and strict, no big waits anywhere. I reached the start corrals by 7:10 and got to begin running at 7:38:41 am. I didn't know anyone and could only see one familiar cap around - a purple Team in Training, so I wished her luck. It was a bit chilly, leading me to keep my arm-warmers on, and I just never took them off because they were from the NYC Marathon, and served as an instant reminder that I had done it once before, I could do it again. I just had to BELIEVE. Ok, I did not want to trash them either.

Beam them up, Scotty

At the start line

As soon as the race began, I could see that this was going to be a marathon to be done by myself. At NYC, there were teammates running the race too, and for example, I had asked Deb to slow me down if I reached her in the first half. I had had the comfort of knowing there would be coaches on course in the tougher stages of the marathon. Everyone alongside was going the same distance and hence, I could in some sense establish fellow runners as checkpoints of my own pace and progress. In Pittsburgh, there were half-marathoners and relay teams mixed in, and I wouldn't know who was doing what unless I over-took and looked back at their bib. Too much effort. Let's just go out and do my own damn thing. No one to compete with. No time goal. Just me and 26.2 miles to a finish line. Come on!

I had at the back of my mind memories of how I had felt in the later stages of NYC, how I had slowed down from an average pace of 9:55 in the first half to 11:23 in the second. In the interim, I had run two half-marathons, both negative splits, and I knew that it felt nice to achieve one. Doing it at a marathon though - uh, well, we'll see once I get to the mid-race hills.

The first 4.4 miles took me through Strip District, a flat bridge (the David McCullough) and around PNC Park, registering an average pace of 11:05/mile. I know this exact number only because I have the results in front of me as I write. Out there on the course, I wasn't looking at the clocks. Strava was registering my run, but it doesn't get the distances exactly, and hence I wasn't relying on my tracker to know my speed. Plus, I didn't want to know. Just me and 26.2-4.4=21.8 miles to a finish line. Another 2 miles and I was close to the West End Bridge, chewing my first Gu, in good shape, feeling fit.
On to the West End Bridge
The next mile turned out to be quite an eventful one. A heavy gust of wind uprooted a road-side entertainment tent and swung a pole right into the lady running in front of me. Had I been 2 seconds faster, it would have been me taking the hit. It just wasn't her day, it was mine. Sorry gal. Soon enough, we went down a steep hill, turned left, and again left, making a U-turn only to climb that same steep hill on a parallel road. I could not fathom why the organisers would make us do this. Couldn't you have added an extra 0.2 miles of flat land somewhere else in the city?!? But it was what it was. Did it, went on with it. No qualms. Just me and 18 miles to a finish line.

For 3 miles there on, we ran along the Monongahela river. I remember seeing an array of Army personnel cheering us on, and high-fived every single one of them. Because when you don't care about your finish time, you can afford to do fun stuff!! I was slowly and steadily inching closer to the big hills at mile 13, and a subsequent meeting with Gail.


This I feel is where I made my smartest decision of the day. I pre-poned my Gu by a bit, made sure I wasn't dehydrated or low on electrolytes before hitting that big hill, and crested through it. It rose 200 feet within a mile, and yet, had zero impact. Somehow, I just wasn't losing energy. Maybe my reduced training had been a blessing in disguise and left my body much fresher and stronger. Or maybe it was just psycho-somatic that after going through so much pain the entire season, I wasn't ready to feel it any more. Whatever it was, it worked wonders. 

The half-marathon mark came up in 2:20:32, although during the run, I only knew that it must have been somewhere between 2:18 and 2:20 from the few times I had seen the course clocks and the numbers I vaguely remembered. For comparison's sake, my NYC time was 4:39:00 which meant that if I could do a negative split, I would have a PR. This was the first time I got thinking about matters of speed. Before hitting the mile 14 marker, I met Gail, my biggest cheer-leader, along with Todd, a good friend from my Pittsburgh days. Being a runner himself, he told her I didn't look like I had gone 13 miles already. And I like to concur. The pacing, the no-goal plan had worked well so far. I was feeling good, and more importantly, happy to be just out there, able to run, and run for a cause. It also helped that I was running close by Carnegie Mellon, and I remembered joking with a few friends who had been there, that the marathon would look easy compared to what a Master's in Computer Science from CMU puts you through. 

My American Mom

Todd
I had heard of the generosity of the cheering squads in Pittsburgh and that was to be on full display in the next few miles. There were people offering orange slices, bananas, beef jerky, candy, beer, and what not. Unfortunately, I'm a stickler to Nothing New on Race Day and could not accept any of these. But it was heart-warming to see such gestures of kindness, which reminded me so much of my own days in the city, how I had met two of the best friends ever - Gail and Hugo, and so many other fabulous kind souls.

And then around mile 16-17 came my favorite memory of the day. I needed some fluid and at the upcoming Gatorade station, I could see a little girl, maybe 3 feet tall, holding out a cup. The runners though, weren't taking hers, maybe because they were tiring off and did not wish to bend. Me, eh, I was doing fine, feeling great, feeling grateful, so I approached her. And off she went jumping up and down, shouting Yay, telling her parent (most likely) that I took her cup, all while I slowly walked ahead, gulping down my dose. Over dinner with some good friends and folks who had helped our campaign, I would recite the story, and someone remarked - Maybe it was her joy that seeped into you, and got you to finish so strong. Who knows? Maybe it did. Thank you little girl for making my day, nonetheless.

By the time I reached mile 19, I could feel a little twinge behind my right knee, and a heavy bladder. It was also a bit uphill, and I slowed down deliberately, knowing that the toughest miles were still to come. And as fate would have it, just as I was running by a line of 4 occupied porta-johns with no waiting lines, one of them opened up, and I had my chance - 30 seconds in and out, and it even had hand-sanitizer and tissue paper available. Those things are a luxury in NYC. Alright, on to the last 10k, gaining speed, the average at 20 miles was 10:35/mile, which meant I was beating my NYC time. Again, I didn't know it exactly back then, but going by how good I was feeling, I knew it wasn't a distant possibility. Just me and 6.2 miles to a finish line.

By now, the course had become almost deserted. The half-marathoners had left us way back, the relay folks were few and far between, and with only 3439 marathoners around, our density wasn't high either. All of this meant that I could run at whatever pace I wanted, where I wanted. I could pick the shady side of the roads, under the trees, away from the sun, didn't have to worry about collisions while over-taking. I was definitely not feeling as great as I had at mile 14, but still, much better than I had at mile 20 in NYC. It was here that I brought out my mantra - reading out the poem If to myself. And when I do it, I replay the first and last paragraphs in Federer's voice from this video. I heard him say - If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run, yours is the earth and everything that's in it. My eyes welled up and I know I'm being a bit crazy/narcissistic here but I did really think to myself - mine is the earth, mine is this course, mine is this day. That surge would be enough to soar me through to a 7:14 negative split, and a 5:10 PR.

At mile 24, we undid the 200 feet we had gone up earlier, allowing me some faster times, and a further push towards the negative split. In the next mile, I ran past the pacer for the 4:30 group, and it saddened me that he was walking, possibly with an injury. I couldn't imagine how he must have been feeling, having taken up a duty earlier, and knew that there wasn't much I could do for him. Getting closer to the finish line, I could sense that I could go full-blast and Strava would later tell me that I ran the last 2 miles in 16:49, that's 2 minutes per mile faster than my average pace. At NYC, I'd started getting emotional too early (mile 25.5 I think) and this time, I was trying to not repeat that. The marathon helped by placing the finish line around a corner, so it wasn't visible until the 200 yards mark. 

But boy did I realise something as soon as I did that corner. No matter how strong I wish to be, I can't resist crying at the sight of a finish line. And out came the tears, pew pew pew.
Sunglasses are a good tool for hiding tears
And then came the finish. Oh, that glorious finish. Just me and a finish line. So emotional, so beautiful, so rewarding. I wasn't physically exhausted that bad, but the season had taken its toll on the mind, and I collapsed on my knees, wishing I could sit there, and shed out my tears all day long. Damn you spotters for whisking me away against my wishes. 

I knew it had been a PR, I knew it had been a negative split. From a pure statistics point of view, I loved how my cumulative average pace across checkpoints never slowed except for that 1 second during the tough hills of mile 13.


I know I have written a lot about this in my season-recap but I'll briefly re-iterate just how much this marathon meant - the highest point in a season of incessant lows, an affirmation of the spirit, a stern reminder that no matter what comes my way, the love and strength of my support system will always be enough to break down all barriers. On the course, I was running by myself, but alongside in spirit and in my heart, ran everyone who had inspired me to not quit. It turned out to be a dream run, but even if it hadn't, I would have been just as happy, just as over-whelmed, and just as grateful to the people I have the honor of calling my friends.


What's next - On July 23, this trio takes to the streets of San Francisco, rolling through 1600 ft of elevation gain over 26.2 miles including the Golden Gate Bridge. It's been hugely inspiring to me in person to see these two wonderful people make leaps and strides, progressing steadily towards their first marathon, and I hope if you're in the Bay Area, you'll come out to cheer us on.

Until then, stay tuned, and have a great summer. Adios.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

We live on

The Tuesday after my second marathon, a co-worker who runs sub-3 marathons asked me what was next. He was surprised that I would choose to make New York City, Pittsburgh and San Francisco - all hilly marathons, the first three of my life. According to him, I could just go out and run 4 loops of Central Park if I wanted my tracker to record 26.2 miles. And that a marathon should be registered for, with the sole intention of achieving a Personal Record (PR). He looked at me and remarked if he was missing something. I joked - "you're missing a heart, buddy".

This was a marathon from the heart. It took heart to go through the season, and it took heart to finish.

The seeds were sowed in October 2016 when I had started looking up to Roger Federer's first Wimbledon triumph in the build-up to my own first marathon. And then, during a conversation with my first coach (Noa), I had brought up the thought of emulating his yearly Grand-Slam tally with my marathons, if NYC didn't devastate me. And it didn't! And so, the search began. Proper spacing, marathons that I would like to do, places I'd like to visit. It culminated with a list of 3 cities - Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Chicago, over dinner with my 3 coaches - Christine, Deb and Noa.

Coaches-par-excellence

December and January saw me running in Barcelona, Mumbai, Bhilai and New York, the final one - the Fred Lebow half marathon leaving me with a bad right knee. A week later came the 18th, the Slam we'd all (alright, except for Djodal fans) been waiting for, for 4.5 years. And I just had to celebrate, to let my emotions out. So, off I went - on an 18-miler on a bad knee, a run that would open the floodgates of Deb's fury and have her unleash on me an 18-day penalty. Little did I know that at the end of the penalty lay an even bigger fury - that of fate.

What transpired over the next 3 months is an experience I'll never ever forget, one that will likely shape the rest of my life, for good or for worse. On the 18th of February, 2017, while mentoring a robotics team at HSCT Bronx for the upcoming FIRST Robotics competition, I felt pain - abdominal as well as testicular, accompanied by vomiting. Thinking of it as a gastro-intestinal issue, I took a subway home and went to sleep. And if the President wasn't already a bad omen to begin with, I woke up with a swollen testicle on Monday, the President's Day holiday. The next day, I saw a urologist, who diagnosed epididymitis, a bacterial infection. Another 15-day penalty on running and exercising. A course of painkillers and antibiotics took the pain away soon, and brought the infection down, leaving me in good shape to re-start running.

I'll skim through the rest of March - some good runs, the longest being the NYC half-marathon, where I did a negative split enroute to a 22-minute PR on the 13.1-mile distance. Things were going well at work, I'd started seeing a woman named Nikki, and we bonded well over our first date. Life would soon turn upside-down, put me on a roller-coaster that twisted and turned so many times I lost track which way I was going, whether I was in free-fall. 

On April 10th, during a follow-up with the urologist, he became suspicious of something else going on - the *something* being testicular cancer. A sonogram revealed no blood supply - hinting towards the events of Feb 18th being a testicular torsion, or to put it simply, a murder of the ball. While the chances of having cancer had me shit-scared already, the alternative didn't help much either. Living with a torsioned testicle meant that my body could start producing anti-sperm anti-bodies that could render me infertile, and also placed me at a higher risk of undergoing another one - an event that would make me Lord Varys. And while I do envy the wisdom of his mind, I would rather not want to emulate the rest of his body.

3 days later, the same urologist suggested I have an orchiectomy, i.e., a removal of the testicle, along with an orchiopexy, i.e., surgical attachment to avoid torsion, in order to solve both of the above-mentioned issues. To put things into perspective, barring a total blood transfusion at birth, I have never had anesthesia, surgery or even a fracture. This was going to be a huge decision to make.

In the week of April 24, I sought a second opinion. This urologist was much more certain of cancer, and that sent all the jitters through me. Testicular cancer is one of the aggressive kinds, and if not treated on time, can spread to the colon, lungs, and in rare circumstances, the brain. It is highly curable, which is the good part. I've heard and read so many people's stories of breast and blood cancers via my two marathons, and desperately did not want to be unaware of cancer in case I had it. An MRI revealed no signs of neoplasm, which came as a huge huge relief. But I left with the dilemma of going with a surgical removal, or waiting-and-watching, the latter being recommended by the second urologist. Another round of consultations with my closest friends, both urologists, and my primary-care physician, and I decided to stick to the plan.

The health issues were taking their toll on me in a lot of different ways. There were nights when I would stay awake for hours, checking to see if my healthy testicle was in the same position it had been 10 minutes ago. Any slight discomfort in the groin, and I would wake, sit upright, see if any vomit was coming up. (Vomiting is one of the symptoms of torsion.) Although we were quite certain of a torsion being the reason, I couldn't get over the fact that 25 is not the age when it happens to folks. According to these researchers, it is a surgical emergency affecting 3.8 per 100,000 males younger than 18 annually. Wiki puts it at being most common at birth and during puberty, and happening to around 1 in 4000 to 1 in 25000 males per year before 25 years of age. Believe me, I'm not hitting puberty these days. The other possibility was of course, cancer. It's something that can't be ruled out just because a test doesn't reveal anything. I remember thinking to myself if I should quit running, and start going for Tour de France, in case I did have testicular cancer. If you didn't get this connection, consider reading It's Not About the Bike, My Journey Back to Life. It's an amazing book. You're welcome for the free publicity, Lance

Even if I had had torsion, why me? 1 in 25000, and it had to be me!! Add to it the fact that I suffered from it while mentoring high school kids, while trying to do something good for society. It was disturbing, to say the least. In the 400 days I had been at Bloomberg, I had devoted 465 hours of my time to volunteer projects with the Philanthropy Team. I know, #humblebrag, but it's ok, Roger does it too. In the next fortnight, I started backing out of projects I had registered for. I would go to a session where I was supposed to teach Python coding to some kids for 1.5 hours, but would sneak out within 30 minutes because I had started associating my misfortune with volunteering. Now that I look back at those weeks, I feel as if I was living in an annulus of positive energy, but immediately surrounding me was a ball of negativity and pessimism, an invisible sphere that I didn't have the will, time or energy to claw through.

With it came a loss of focus at work. I would stare blankly at the screen, looking to google for articles on torsion, cancer, infertility, etc. every opportunity I got. I no longer wanted to think about complex problems in math and logic. I love my job, and I love the people I work with, but I couldn't help but perform at a much lower efficiency level than what my potential dictated (more like dick-tated throughout April). I could feel it, and on the 20th, when I opened up to my manager about everything that was going on, he confessed he'd been feeling the same about me. Dating didn't help elevate my mood either. We would go out to dinner, and only one of us would have a credit/debit card. I would drop her off at a subway station, only one us had a MetroCard. I would visit her place, one of us would start having back-ache. When we'd started off, she'd talked about how much she loved philanthropy. At this point of time, neither of us was doing any good for society, but one of us couldn't because they didn't have time left after work, shopping, manicures and pedicures. I'd hoped she would be the person I could talk to about anything but I never even felt close enough to tell her what I was going through. If you're reading this, I apologize for not sharing my deepest troubles with you, and if you feel that it was my fault we split.

During this time, I did get a few things right. I started talking to people. It was actually my favorite British-woman who first advised me to seek a second opinion for the surgery. She also calmed down my anxieties about whether having just one testicle would drive a good woman away from me. Dear pretty Brit, if you're reading this over a breakfast muffin or night tea, I still wish you were 25. I had of course, kept my parents and best friends abreast of the latest developments throughout. I spoke to the people I'm closest to at work, both on the Machine Learning and Philanthropy teams. I can't thank my teammates enough for bearing with me when I would show up to work at 2pm, post-MRI, and with my mind somewhere else. My wellness coach at work was always there to advise me, and clear my doubts about surgeries, nutrition, and the American healthcare system in general. Two of the most amazing people I've ever met -  both fellow TNT marathoners and big-time fund-raisers, conversed with me and helped keep me stress-free. Everyone was just so, so supportive. My 70-year-old American Mom even offered to come down from Pittsburgh to be by my side on D-day. I realized something very important - the people who care about you don't cringe if you have to keep repeating the words testicle, scrotum, balls, penis to their face.

And if you thought I wouldn't mention tennis among the things I did right, then you must not know me yet. During those toughest weeks, I started reading Andre Agassi's autobiography Open. It begins with the following:

One cannot always tell what it is that keeps us shut in, confines us, seems to bury us, but still one feels certain barriers, certain gates, certain walls. Is all this imagination, fantasy? I do not think so. And then one asks: My God! Is it for long, is it for ever, is it for eternity? Do you know what frees one from this captivity? It is very deep serious affection. Being friends, being brothers, love, that is what opens the prison by supreme power, by some magic force. —Vincent van Gogh, letter to his brother, July 1880

I wouldn't say that reading this was the sole reason I opened up to people, but this and many other such excerpts from the book affected how I dealt with my scenario. And so did this gem:

Arthur Ashe, 3-time Grand Slam champion, was dying of AIDS which he got due to infected blood received during a heart surgery in 1983. One fan of his asked - "Why does God have to select you for such a bad disease?". Ashe replied - "The world over--50,000,000 children start playing tennis, 5,000,000 learn to play tennis, 500,000 learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the grand slam, 50 reach the Wimbledon, 4 to semi finals, 2 to finals. When I was the one holding the cup, I never asked god "Why me?". And today in pain, I should not be asking GOD "why me?".

Now, I know I'm no Arthur Ashe, however much I might dream of winning Wimbledon someday (Roger, can you do it again instead of me, please? Thanks.). But I do recognize the privileges I have had growing up, the opportunities afforded to me, and that my pains are a minor setback compared to what millions of other people go through.

And if you thought I wouldn't mention Federer among the tennis-related things I did right, then I don't even know what to say. One fine day, Deb came in to Bloomberg to drop off some medals (love the bling, btw) and I thought I would show her the NYC Marathon photo-book I had created.


She went flipping through the pages, and stopped to read something. I took a peek, and it was this:


Best snippet I ever wrote
   
It felt as if I had written that snippet last September, knowing I would need it most right now. I had surely been using Roger's brilliant comeback this year as inspiration to myself - that if I really wanted to come out on top, I would. 

One last thing was the decision to not give up on running. I had to make a choice - either go right into the pre-surgery procedures, have the surgery and miss the Pittsburgh marathon; or postpone the surgery to after. My primary urologist and surgeon assured me that running wouldn't worsen the situation, and that the chances of a second torsion, even though higher than normal, were still vanishingly small. I remember executing a fantastic tempo run the morning after learning about the torsion and then the fastest mile of my life the next Tuesday. I did not always have much time or energy left after all the visits to doctors, MRI, sonogram, blood tests, but I tried to not go completely blank in taper mode. The Wednesday before Pittsburgh, I would visit a counselor for the first time in my life. He informed me that running releases serotonin, a feel-good hormone into my blood stream. After nearly half an hour going back-and-forth, he said to me - "It's going to be very hard to put you into depression", a statement that stands testimony to the strength of my support system - parents, best friends, American family, running family, wellness coach, the Machine Learning Team, Bloomberg's Philanthropy team, Federer, the superb doctors I met, and each and every one of you who's inspired me one way or another to never give up.

And then came the Pittsburgh Marathon, whose recap you can read by clicking here. To give a brief overview, we raised 1513$ for the Susan G Komen Foundation, and I ran the two halves in 2:20:32 and 2:13:18 respectively, combining together for a 5:14 PR from a less-hillier NYC course. For now, I'll leave you with this picture of me at the finish line, simply because I love it so much!




Why am I writing all of this today? Partly because I had the surgery earlier in the day (May 17). It went well, and I'm supposed to take rest for a day or so, hence have lots of time on hand. But I'm writing this largely to make an appeal. If you're going through an unhappy stretch in life, if you're feeling stress or are undergoing depression, please talk. Talk to the people around you. They won't mind. If they do, then you've surrounded yourself with the wrong people. 

Remember that ball of negativity that's tough to claw through? You don't have to do it by yourself. Ask for help. It's much easier when your friends in the positive annulus lend a hand and pull you up. If no one else listens, TALK to me. And if you can run, RUN! And most importantly, do not lose HOPE. Find something to BELIEVE in. (I'm not making this up - my anesthesiologist today was named Roger, pure coincidence?) Life is so much more than one bad phase. LIVE!

I'll conclude with an excerpt from my favorite last paragraph ever amongst novels. Gail, if you're reading this, I'm sorry I'm spoiling Shantaram for you:

For this is what we do. Put one foot forward and then the other. Lift our eyes to the snarl and smile of the world once more. Think. Act. Feel. Add our little consequence to the tides of good and evil that flood and drain the world. Drag our shadowed crosses into the hope of another night. Push our brave hearts into the promise of a new day. With love: the passionate search for a truth other than our own. With longing: the pure, ineffable yearning to be saved. For so long as fate keeps waiting, we live on. God help us. We live on.

Ok, sorry, I lied. That wasn't the ending to my post. If you're feeling generous right now, and/or thankful for the people you have in your life, and/or just tired from reading and wishing I would stop, please consider making a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and helping others live on, via http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/wdw18/VSingh
Note that every dollar you donate will be raised 2.36x, owing to a year-long 18% self-match in honor of Roger's 18th, and a subsequent full match from my generous employer.

Thank you for reading, and thank you to every single person who has knowingly or unknowingly contributed to the state of well-being I am in today. I couldn't have done it by myself.

Yours truly,
Vipul.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Miles To Go Before I Sleep

I ran my first marathon - the 5-borough 26.2-mile tour of New York City on November 6th. Today, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, I finally have a day off, and enough mental and emotional stability to pen my thoughts on the pre-, in-, and post-race experience.

As the saying goes - A journey of 400 miles begins with a single step. That first step came when Coach Sandy from Team In Training came to talk to folks at Bloomberg. I knew Sandy was a hurricane but little did I expect to be stirred enough to start dreaming of the impossible. Yet, that's exactly what transpired, and within a fortnight, I was running with a group of people who felt strongly about fighting blood cancers, a cause that I fortunately have no connection to.

All the excitement and the dreams did get the better of me when I began over-training and fell prey to an injury that would keep me out for 6 long weeks. Those anxious days had me at the edge of letting go, especially at a time when my idol had announced he wouldn't compete for the rest of the year. It took an anonymous e-mail, some effort, a lot of physiotherapy, and loads of inspiration and pep-talk from an absolutely brilliant coach, to get me to believe that all wasn't lost. awaiting.miracle24@gmail.com, I don't know who you are but if you are reading this, thank you for unknowingly being my miracle the day after a leading coach in the city had told me I should quit.

From then on, there was no going back. Never before have I stuck to a schedule as peRFectly as I did for 78 straight days leading up to the marathon. Never before have I monitored my diet so closely, and made sure I stayed away from anything that could dehydrate me, slow me down, or alter my body composition. Never before have I felt so optimistic, motivated and excited, yet not lost my discipline. It didn't come quick and easy but as my coaches like to say - If marathons were easy, everyone would do them.

I'll quickly fast forward to the day before the marathon, since all my training runs are well-documented online anyway (if you didn't document it on social media, did you really do it?). A few weeks ago, while watching the Spirit of the Marathon at a friend's place, I'd heard a dialogue - Marathon is the common man's Everest, and it got me thinking - I'd always dreamt of winning Wimbledon, maybe this marathon was how I would finally have my own Grand Slam trophy!

And so, the day before the big dance, I sat down to revisit the final of Wimbledon 2003 - the first in a series of 17, and hopefully more to come (#BEL18VE).
First of 17 such glorious moments - Wimbledon'03

For all the inspiration that I have always drawn from him, I then stitched his logo to be my talisman. As soon as I'd finished my crafting, I realized two things - (a) the alignment was a disaster, and it wouldn't show in most head-on pics (sorry Roger), and (b) I would be incredibly biased if I put his name on, but not that of another reservoir of positive energy that I had tapped into when I was in need. And so, my jersey looked as follows:

Best pre-race decision ever!

RACE-DAY

Contrary to most experiences I had heard, I had had a very calm week with no anxiety, and had slept well even the night before. I was soon going to realize what calm before the storm really meant. Things started off as per schedule, with the team-bus getting me to Staten Island by 7:15am, around 4 hours before I would start running. I had planned accordingly, and carried enough water, food (3 different kinds of 200-cal protein bars to choose from) and warm clothes for the pre-race part. The awe of the task at hand and the inexperience at what lay beyond 21 miles did get to my head and I consumed all 3 bars thinking my body would have enough reserves to withstand whatever came. Rookie mistake.

Before I get to the race recap, it's imperative to mention my strategy and race goals. All my post-injury runs had been a 3+1 run/walk, which had actually allowed me to maintain the same pace as running, because the intermittent recovery intervals would let me go a bit faster on the run ones. My goals were a strictly prioritized list that read - (a) finish injury-free (b) negative split (c) 4 hours. If all went well, and it looked like I would be able to get all 3 goals, the plan was to run at a 9:30 pace for the first 8 miles, then 9:20 for 5, 9:10 for the next 5, and 9 for the final 8.2

Miles 1-2:
The first mile took me 11+ minutes, which I was very happy with, since I had been told to hold back and not zig-zag among the crowds while climbing the Verrazano Narrows bridge. The descent went well too, with the advice of not hammering my quads ringing in my head.

Miles 3-4:
Brooklyn, you beauty! The first of two post-bridge energy bursts. I could feel the zeal in the air around, and it felt great to have random people cheering my name. By the end of it, I had brought my average pace up to 10:03, which was off the 9:30 goal, but I knew that with the first mile taking longer, I hadn't done too bad, and could always make it up later if I conserved energy.

Miles 5-9:
Shut up, Brooklyn! To put things into perspective, the only timed race I had done before was a little 5k the previous Sunday. My three longest training runs had involved me running ahead of and behind run-groups, but mostly not with someone, and so I was used to being in a calm and quiet zone. When the rock-bands came along, it did upset my rhythm a bit, especially with my inability to hear my interval-timer. There were multiple instances where I would feel that I'd been running for a really long stretch, then pluck my gymboss off the hydration-belt only to see that I had skipped a walk-break. The result being that these 5 miles came at an average pace of 9:21/mile, definitely faster than I should have gone.

Miles 10-13:
Remember those 3 bars I had consumed earlier in the morning. Here they come into play. A heavy stomach never makes for a good run, and that's precisely what happened. I tried maintaining a 9:40 pace, but it was turning out to be tough. One minor reason that added to the trouble was also that the course was measured along the shortest path. It threw off my mile splits by 10-15 seconds, something that kept putting me in a dilemma as to whether or not I should try recovering that lost time. I had read about it here, but didn't know the frustration until it started impacting me in person. That link, by the way, is an excellent read on what mental preparation looks like. An average pace of 10:27 over these 4 miles, and I knew that my 4-hour dream had evaporated.

Mile 14:
The course clock at the 13.1-mile mark told me I had taken roughly 2:09:45 for the first half, which I wasn't too upset about. At that point, I thought I had only made it easier for myself to negative split by going slower overall than initially targeted. Oh, the things the mind tells itself, so you can feel good. So, I re-calibrated my goal to a 4h20m marathon, and accordingly shifted to a 9:50 pace. This mile took me 9:47. BAZINGA! Amazing! Forget the first 13 miles. Run the mile you're in. You're doing great!

Mile 15:
A deliberate slow-down to gear up for the big climb coming ahead. 10:35 for a mile. Uhh, not bad. I trusted myself enough to run a 9-minute mile at the end if I could stay fit.

Mile 16:
The Queensboro! One of my favorite places to run. With the serenity around, it became so much easier for me to focus my thoughts, and plan out what I was going to do. I could still feel that my belly wasn't in an ideal condition, and remembering that my coaches had told me people generally overlooked the first port-a-johns right after the bridge, I decided I would go. In one of many e-mail correspondences, I had told my coach how I would use the quiet to think about everything we had gone through, all the runspiration, the cause that I had begun to feel so passionately for, the familiarity of what lay ahead, and how I was running towards a safe haven - home, work, friends, coaches on the course. And that's exactly what I did. And lo and behold, the big monster was out of the way. A highly experienced ultra-marathoner had advised us that this should be the slowest mile of the race. I took my 11:35 with pride. Sadly, it was to lose its title of slowest-mile in the next half hour. To my surprise, I got a strange surge of emotion during the descent when I first heard the crowds of Manhattan. Woah buddy, whatever happened to not crying outside of tennis matches. Or was this really a game of tennis?

Mile 17:
A happy mile. This was where I met my first non-TNT support crew. Thank you Mike and Ann for coming out and cheering me on. And then, I met my run/walk coach Deb, who had started in the wave preceding mine. We had agreed before-hand that if we met before the half-marathon mark, she was to grab me by the shirt and keep me from speeding away. Luckily, it hadn't come to that. 11:22 with the bathroom break, and I felt really good about my chances of getting the negative split. I had calculated that I would need an approx. 9:35 pace over the remainder, which I believed I could pace myself to, given my acquaintance with 1st avenue and the park.

Mile 18:
10:23 for the mile, lagging behind by a bit now, but still ok. I went past my home, and chuckled at how I wanted to go another 8 miles instead of traversing the one block to my comfy bed. In the week leading up to the race, a friend at work had narrated his own experience from 2015, and advised me to hold on to the sponge that I would get around this mile. Thank you Deets!! I would go on to badly need a soothing wet sponge for my burning quads soon enough.

Mile 19:
I have a heart in my quads!!! During training, the left IT band had been my area of concern. Now that it was playing good, my right quad decided to go throbbing. I'd been warned to expect the unexpected in this part of the race. It was still scary though to feel as if my quads would spill out of my thigh if I ran further. Another slow-down, a 12-minute mile, and bye-bye negative split (see you in 2018).

Miles 20-21:
A bridge shall not descend. Are you kidding me??? The Willis Avenue Bridge didn't help at all with the quads, and I had to stop and take a stretch-break once I had climbed it. I was reduced to pace-walking by then, with little runs as soon as I saw a flat stretch without turns. It was becoming a mind-game, and I was really really glad that anytime I looked down, I could see my two big sources of inspiration right there, sewed on my shirt. I remember recalling how Roger never retires mid-match, and all the quotes I had collected thanks to Noa, from Deena Kastor, Kara Goucher, Taylor Swift, etc. Yes, a t-swizzle quote from a marathon coach. Incredulous, no? But it served a purpose - it reminded me of my reaction when I first got that e-mail, and it made me laugh. At mile 21, every positive emotion helps. This was also where I exceeded my longest run ever, and stopped for a photo. Thank you Deb for the tradition! Helps to take a break, and not have to blame it on yourself LOL. 25 minutes for the 2 miles, and done with bridges.
RUNSPIRATION

Mile 22:
Christine, you saviour! My pain was reducing but I had started erring on the side of caution, going really slow so as to make sure I finished injury-free. And then, I ran into TNT's head-coach Christine, who talked me out of my ultra-conservative mode with a few simple words - "I consider mental strength to be your main weapon. Use it now." If not for that, I would surely have dilly-dallied my way to a 5-hour marathon. I ran with her for a bit and when asked if I needed something, I replied Water, to which she sped off to the aid stations. And seeing her do that, I did too. That quick trot convinced me that I still had enough energy to finish strong, and I brought up this mile a full 2:15 faster than the previous one.

Mile 23:
I was still buoyed by those words, and covered this in 10:39, which in hindsight, was a really good one, considering how long that uphill climb on 5th avenue is.
On 5th Avenue
Miles 24-25:

Walking Dead. I could feel pain in both quads now, probably because of the effort that went into the previous mile. And shockingly, walking hurt more than running. I was forced to run, albeit at a very slow pace, so as not to aggravate the injury-risk. Another 25 minutes for these 2, but I was almost there now, and wasn't really thinking too much about the time. Anything I did was going to be a PR!

Mile 26:
Although in pain, I desperately did not want to finish with 12-minute miles. A little push got me an 11, not that I was looking at the course clock. I knew that I would be emotional once I had finished, but boy did the tears come out sooner. By the time I'd reached Central Park South and 7th avenue, my eyes were flooded. I saw nothing but a 21-year old Swiss falling to his knees after winning on the hallowed lawns of the All England Tennis Club 13 years ago. And I cried, and cried, and cried.

Finish:
I'm going to be a marathoner. Run. Let go. Finish. 385 yards at an 8-minute/mile pace. It's hard to put that fleeting moment into words, but I'll try. Everything I'd gone through, everything I had chosen to give up, every single long run in unwieldy conditions, was meaningful now. I no longer call them sacrifices, thanks to this quote - One step at a time, I get to make positive choices to fulfil my dreams. For the first time in my life, I'd attained the unattainable. I'd been bruised and battered, yet emerged unbeaten, unbroken.


POST-RACE

I had cried so much, and was thinking so unclear that I exited the park, had a quick TNT interview, and re-traced my steps to the finish line, when I thought I had taken the transverse home. Duh!! Another mile to walk. A mile as a marathoner though (little saving graces). Heat sheet around, medal hanging. The struggle was real. Once I got on the subway, I didn't have enough stamina to open the protein-shake. Thank you random guy who offered help.

                               

In the weeks since, I have truly come to appreciate how this journey has been so much bigger than just me. I'm gratified to see that thanks to some very generous friends, I have raised more than 8300$ for the LLS. It's been heart-warming to see the out-pouring of support from friends, both here and back home. A co-worker told me he attempted a 4-mile walk home for the first time this week, and thought of me when it got tough. Needless to say, it melted my heart, which thankfully, isn't in my quads anymore. My biggest hope is that among the masses that follow me for my academic laurels, maybe, just maybe, someone feels kindled enough to listen to their kid who dreams of being a Wimbledon champion or Olympic marathoner someday, and not an engineer/doctor/cricketer/failure. My biggest hope is that if enough of us take up endurance sports, no future Indian Olympian will have to face neglect of the sort that Jaisha did at Rio 2016.

Anyway, lest I turn a happy recap into a rant, I'll end on a positive note with a short anecdote. The day after the marathon, I ran into someone at work. We were both walking slow. We had medals clinking against our company badges. We spoke simultaneously. We uttered the same word - Congratulations. We must have been thinking the same thing too -
                              WILL ANYTHING EVER BE IMPOSSIBLE AGAIN

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tips From My Side

Here's an article that I recently wrote for a magazine. It contains most of the things that I usually talk about in seminars and while interacting with future IITians.

                SELF-STUDY  MAKETH  A  RANK,
                   PRACTICE MAKETH PERFECT   


“Practice makes a man peRFect.” This perhaps is the one golden rule that I have followed throughout my preparations for IIT-JEE as well as all other competitive exams. So, my dear readers, here I am to share some of my experiences and to give you some advice on how to prepare for these deadly-looking exams. I hope you will definitely find something worthy in this article of mine and will be glad if this can benefit any of my dear juniors.

Writing an article on such a topic, the one dilemma I face is where to start from. So, let me begin from the beginning itself. Born on 29th November, 1991, I was declared by doctors as a child who could possibly be mentally retarded in the future (seems weird, ain’t it?? read on…). I believe it has only been the strength of mind and the determination of my parents and one of my teachers that has brought me up to this level, sort of reversing the doctors’ prophecy. I still remember when I was in primary school, I was quite shy, but then I started participating in a lot of competitions, often emerging on top. Those gave me a lot of confidence and I slowly started rising up and opening myself to this world. People believe that these high ranks are meant for ‘born-geniuses’. But that is far from the truth. In my case at least, I was born an anti-genius. So, it’s mostly about practice, starting early, using your time to the utmost. Edison rightly said “Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.”

It was only in class VI that I got my first go at a national level science competition (the National Science Olympiad) and obtained All India Rank (AIR) 13. Then, in class VII, I finished East Zone runner-up in the India’s Child Genius quiz conducted by Siddhartha Basu, missing an opportunity to meet President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam by just 0.2 seconds in the buzzer round. I have never looked back since then, always learning from my mistakes and practising endlessly in order to attain that ever-elusive state of peRFection.

Now, having built up a sort of prologue let me come to the major issue: JEE (Joint Entrance Examination). These three letters seem to weigh so heavily on the minds of so many youngsters. Here, I will be basically discussing how to plan out your preparations so that this exam looks a bit easier. Having interacted with lots of students from all over India through live seminars, e-mail, social networking sites, etc. and most importantly, having been through that crucial stage myself, I am well aware of the questions that JEE aspirants have in mind. So, I will be going through the rest of this article in a sort of your question – my reply format.

First and foremost, the one question that always turns up is “What is the mantra of success?” I would say it's utilizing even that tiny moment for self-study which you are giving to pondering over this question. According to me, it is time-management along with self-belief. Every single moment that you are wasting in some not-so-important activity, thousands of other competitors are striving hard to get ahead of you. So, you simply cannot afford to waste time. A bit of relaxation here and there after some continuous study is a must, but you should be able to contain that “I have had enough” feeling.

People also ask me when exactly did I start my JEE preparations. Now, I am not very clear about the question itself. I started studying the JEE syllabus topics in the middle of class X, but I had started concentrating on science-maths and strengthening my basics from class VI itself. I had joined a JEE-directed correspondence course for the first time in class IX while I had my first major confidence booster at the India’s Child Genius in class VII. So, its been quite a long journey with a beginning which I myself am unable to figure out. This therefore turns out to be a question which I neither understand nor have a definite answer for.

Then, why did I join FIITJEE and not any other institute. Every student has his own capabilities and requirements. I knew that given sufficient time for self-study, I could understand concepts well on my own but I needed some good teachers for doubt clearance. That’s where FIITJEE came into the picture and they filled the void extremely well, better than I had ever imagined. Enrolled into the PINNACLE program, I used to get the entire evenings free as all classes would be over by 2:30 pm at the school campus itself. So, I had lots of time with me and I would sit down, think, solve, practise, get my doubts cleared the next day, etc.

This last point I just mentioned: Doubt Clearance is one thing I have seen missing in most aspirants’ priority lists. As a student, you ought to have faith in your teachers and approach them with your doubts. I have seen colleagues who never even asked their school teachers any doubts. You need to try them out first. If they are unable to satisfy your query, only then should you go to external tutors. They are the teachers because they know things better than you do. Many students feel that a good teacher is the one who explains things well and solves questions on the board. I would say a good teacher is one who clears your doubts well. That’s because you can do the understanding and solving part yourself too but those inevitable doubts here and there require a strong tutor.

Coming to my next point: Time Management, students keep fretting about this simple concept. I have seen students in my city who spend evenings performing stunts on bikes, eating out with friends (mostly girlfriends), watching movies, etc. and then let out a cry on the JEE day, “Why do these guys set such unsolvable papers?” As you can very well see, they haven’t been true to themselves and hence can’t expect to get into IITs, NITs, etc. in place of those who have burnt the midnight oil. I myself have given everything to it during those 2 years and am definitely reaping rich rewards. It’s better to utilize pre-JEE time and then enjoy life in IITs (I must tell you it’s a beautiful place to be in) rather than wasting it and regretting later.

I will give you an example. All of us get this 1.5 to 2 month gap after the class X exams. Instead of visiting places and enjoying yourself, you can give a week or so to refreshing yourself and then get back to studies in order to get a good head-start. This will enable you to understand concepts better when they are taught in class. Then, you can also utilize those small intervals during change of classes to solve some questions. People around you will laugh at you, try to derail you from that right track but you need to ignore them. In the end, it doesn’t even matter. I tried so hard, I got so far. Those who try to derail you are inflicting losses upon themselves.

It’s not that I gave up everything for my preparations. I used to solve sudoku everyday, read the newspaper, played (although rarely), did a bit of social networking in the last few months but I wasn’t obsessed with these things. I knew my goal and its importance in my life. You just need to prioritize your time-table.

Returning to academics, if you prepare well for JEE, you are almost done with your board exam PCM (Physics+Chemistry+Math) syllabus as well. And as I said earlier, if you choose your tutors wisely, you will also be able to find ample time for English and the 5th subject. Many students go to particular classes just because their friends have joined them or because they have heard lots of people praising that teacher. This isn’t the right approach. You need to understand your own requirements and choose accordingly. There might be a teacher who is very good at mechanics but doesn’t teach electromagnetism well. You don’t need to continue going to him just because you feel a sense of loyalty and gratitude towards him. It’s your life, your career, you have to decide keeping in mind your own good. Then try to give more time to practising questions of different varieties and from different books. I wouldn’t recommend reading the same concept again and again from different sources/teachers as it would simply be a waste of your precious time. Instead grasp that concept from 1 or 2 books and then move on to practice.

Now I feel I should address the question on how to study in general? It’s better to finish topics one by one. Doing 3 or 4 topics all at one time will make it quite difficult for you to handle everything. Two topics from different subjects is quite okay because if you feel bored after studying one of them for 5-6 hrs., you can switch to the other one and then return. Try to prepare compendiums for each topic as it will be helpful in the later stages of preparation. If you notice some trick in some book, note it down and revise it later so that you get an idea of where it works and how to apply it. Such tricks and option elimination prove very useful in saving time for the tougher questions.  

Coming to books, here’s a list of books that I covered during my JEE preparations:

Physics : Irodov (mechanics only), H C Verma, Arihant (all topics)
Chemistry: R C Mukerjea, O P Tandon, Paula Bruice
Mathematics: Arihant (all topics except algebra), TMH (class XIth syllabus)

In addition, I completed all NCERT books, packages of FIITJEE as well as BRILLIANT and solved FIITJEE's GrandMasterPackage and RankersTestPaperFile. The latter two are very good for practice and revision in the last few months.

In class IX and X, I used to read books by Dinesh Publications (PCMB), H C Verma (physics), R D Sharma (maths) and correspondence courses from Brilliant Tutorials and BMA. I found these books by BMA to be very good and interesting. In addition, I had covered the first few chapters of physics plus differential calculus plus bonding and hybridisation (thanks to Nitu Sinha Mam) in class Xth itself. Organic chemistry was one topic that I felt a bit tough to handle, but I feel I was fortunate enough to have another great chemistry teacher (Arun Sharma Sir) in XIth; who advised me to gain a headstart by reading Paula Bruice and it really turned out to be a fantastic interest-arousing book.

Next comes the issue of how to prepare for all other exams that occur round the clock in these 2 years. I personally feel that NSO, IMO, NSTSE, etc., although considered easy by many, are very good exams to get an estimate of where you stand and of your strengths and weaknesses. Any national level exam, tough or easy, is competitive and as easy for you as for someone sitting in any other part of India. Then come the physics, chemistry, maths and astronomy olympiads. The math olympiad requires a bit of extra preparation on topics like number theory, combinatorics, etc. The other three olympiads (IPhO, IChO, IAO) can be cracked if you have been thorough with the JEE syllabus. If you clear the first two levels, then you go to the camp at HBCSE, Mumbai where you need some experimental skills too. It’s here that your presence (both mental and physical) in school labs plays an important role. Then you have KVPY in class XI which has no pre-defined syllabus. The paper basically tests your mental ability and clarity of concept. You need to have knowledge of topics that will be covered in class XIth and a bit of the formulae and laws from the early days of class XIIth. The interview is meant to test your confidence and clarity of aim in life.

I would be writing an incomplete article if I didn’t talk about what to do during the last few months before JEE. I suggest you should complete all your syllabus atleast by mid-December and then begin with revision of your class-notes and of the chapter-wise summaries you must have created in the two years. Then, move on to practising question-papers of 6 hours duration. Solving questions from individual chapters is quite different from solving them when they are all thrown together at you. It might happen that you are able to solve mechanics alone very well but in exam time, the pressure created by being unable to solve optics may take you down in mechanics too. So, you need to have good practice of sitting own for 6 hours and handling that pressure. Utilize the board exams preparatory leave very well. I had given 15 days to JEE preparation and the rest to my Board exams. Then, I had an 11-day gap before my maths board exam. So, I didn’t study CBSE level maths in February and also devoted 5 days out of 11 to JEE. You need to find time and plan very well. The 14 day gap between last board exam and JEE should go into revision and practice only. Do not try to read/learn something new in that period, it will just add to the pressure.

Another extremely important question that arises is: How to cope with the pressure? I would say: Just keep practising, sit down for lots of national level tests, when you see that you are able to solve questions and getting some good ranks, you will gain confidence and it’s this much required self-confidence that will help you sail through the JEE day. If you are unable to get those ranks, look at the mistakes you committed, discuss them with your teacher, try to correct them in the next paper, get your fundamentals cleared, and dedicate more time to that topic where you are prone to mistakes. It might take some time for that change to show up, but it will certainly happen over a period of time. You know, thousands of people (and almost everyone in Kota) wish to achieve a top 100 JEE rank but only those few who have stuck to their basics, who have been regular, who have practised a lot and hence built up their speed and accuracy, achieve it. There’s always this competition. You can’t afford to give up or lose time.

I hope I have already said a lot now, so its time for me to take leave and allow you to ponder deeply over what you have read above and to see if you can gain something out of it. Thank you reader for having been so patient to have gone through my article. And finally, keeping in mind my own advice, I would suggest you not to read this article over and over again as that would be a waste of precious JEE-preparation time. Thanks again,

 Vipul Singh
(Marathoner - NYC 2016;
Machine Learning R&D, Bloomberg LP;
Master's in Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University 2014-15;
Department Rank 1, Computer Science, IIT Bombay 2010-14;
AIR 5, IIT-JEE 2010;
AIR 1, AIEEE 2010;
Silver medallist, World Rank 41 at International Physics Olmpiad 2010;
KVPY scholar;
CBSE topper of Chhattisgarh state, 2010)

For further queries, you can contact me on facebook or at vipulsingh1991@gmail.com or  www.vipulsingh1991.blogspot.com