Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In which my immune system fights off some invaders, and a few surprises

Remember how I said I was training kind of half-heartedly for a sprint tri, and that I'm not really a speedy sprinter? Well, my body was in the mood to deliver some surprises.

This past week and a half have been kind of a headless-chicken period at work, in which I finished four stories and a commentary, covered a conference, and have been hovering just on the verge of coming down with a full-blown cold. As in, not sick enough not to do any work - and in fact thanks to the adrenaline rush I felt fine - but tipping over the edge of properly sick.

On Friday night I got off work at 9 and chickened out of a dear friend's birthday shindig, because I didn't really want to be a plague vector. Then I had a quiet, early night in with hot tea, Archer and some vitamins.

On Saturday I felt ok enough to drag my arse out of bed for a slow run. (How slow? After 7km I started walking and looking at the birds in the canal - ooh, herons...) That night I went to another friend's farewell party and went home early to sleep.

On Sunday I did the Metasprint aquathlon. It's the first in a series of sprint events: swim and run, run-bike-run, and swim-bike-run; I signed up for all three (talk about getting your money's worth) because I did the tri last year and they were so incredibly well-organised.

Improbably, my body delivered. I think it has a mind of its own.

I always start the swim all the way at the back and to the left, because I'm not a strong swimmer and I manage to get to swim training about once a month. This time, I was so startled when I realised I was overtaking people that I nearly stopped swimming.

The swim course was an M-shaped out-and-back-and-out-and-back - super calm and warm! A couple of minutes in transition (seriously, I need a race belt). Then we took off on the run, in which I managed to pick off several other women before one or two picked me off.
least awful of the race pix. that timing chip strap also gave me an abrasion which was a total nightmare in the shower later while i was also washing off the salt water...

I completely failed to see the 4km sign (not the organisers' fault - just me being dopey) and didn't have time to get up a good sprint before I was confronted with the finish line. Oops. At the end I was VERY surprised to also see a new 5K PR (26:40). Apparently my secret to a short-distance run PR is to take a long, slow swim first?  (This also happened in the Singapore Biathlon last year, when I broke an hour for 10K for the first time...after swimming 1.5km first. No, I have no idea how this works, but thanks!)

proof. i'm a slow swimmer...  

Some thoughts: I make a lot of mistakes during short sharp races:
1. I don't go out fast enough. If anything I'm too conservative.
2. I never race hard enough to blow up. (Gotta take chances!)
3. I always let my thoughts drift and never focus. Trying to look cool for the cameras? Guilty as charged.
So one of my goals is to be more aggressive during short races(5 or 10K), and really race. There's a 5K coming up next weekend...

Sunday afternoon we went to the National Museum with a friend, Marta; I wanted to see this exhibition  -'Being Together', a photography exhibition by Singaporean lensman John Clang, involving modern technology and Skype witchery. But we walked right into this indie craft/ food fair and I had a milkshake that tasted like an orange creamsicle. (Singapore peeps: this is from Once Upon A Milkshake, hands down THE best milkshakes in this city.)

The best part? Because of the indie festival/ open house, all the exhibitions were FREE! 'Being Together' turned out to be excellent. GO AND SEE IT. I PROMISE.

Tuesday track (got there late, did most of the set on my own): 2km (2:10-2:17 per lap), 1.6km (2:05-2:15), 800m (2:01, 2:07), 400m (1:48)
Saturday: 'Long' run - 10km double canal, really easy because I was still trying to get over that cold.
Sunday: Aquathlon race day! 750m swim, 5km run.
Monday: Recovery run - 5km eeeeeasy - plus core work
Tuesday morning: 1km repeats at the track: 5:20, 5:15, 5:15, 5:14, 5:09. (Was that supposed to be 10k pace? Felt good all the way to the end, for once. I'm a morning person. Don't judge.)

Monday, February 18, 2013

The off-season slump

Days like today, I suppose I really am an endurance runner at heart.
Sometime last year, I had an athletic epiphany - also known as, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Racing. Somewhere along the way I decided to train for and really RACE a half marathon, then a marathon.

Right now, I'm training sort of half-heartedly for a sprint triathlon. I'm not really a speedster so am not expecting to win anything; swim class leaves me with crippling, puke-inducing sinus headaches (does anyone have any remedies for that?) and on the bike I'm quite happy to just not fall off. There's a sprint aquathlon next weekend, a 5K, duathlon and 10K in March and the tri and another 10K in April.

But I'm feeling strangely adrift without anything BIG to train for. Base fitness means I can get up off the couch and run a 10K without much trouble - well, not unless I'm gunning for any PRs, anyway. But last year I really got used to rolling out of bed on a Saturday morning and ambling along for a couple of hours. Speedwork every Tuesday night. Tempo runs. Recovery runs. Doubles on Thursdays - 10km along the canal, where I'd say hi to my colleague (an older gentleman who walks 4-5km Every! Single! Morning), then hills at night. Marathon training got to be kind of a comforting routine.

This year, I'm not signed up for any marathons or even anything longer than a 10K just yet. I have travel plans (New Zealand in May!) and family plans (sister's wedding in July!), and there aren't any long races in between; though I'm thinking of the KL half-marathon in June and the Perth City to Surf marathon in August. I get my butt to the track on Tuesdays if only because it's still a comforting routine, I get to see friends and it's also good for my mental health. But I'm just not super motivated... help!!

Workouts this week:

Tuesday - super hilly 12k easy with some friends. Well, easy pace for them, anyway. At the end I was kind of clinging on for dear life...
Wednesday - swim training - a few drills, a little speedwork - about 1.7km all told
Friday - tempo 5k, super tired
Saturday - swam 2km at the local pool, J's prof's birthday party, partied till 1am
Sunday - easy 7k, completely exhausted (what is wrong with me??), followed by a very much needed massage
Tuesday - well, let's see how I feel at the track tomorrow.

- Anyone know a good fix for swim-induced sinus headaches?  
- What do you do when training hits a slump? 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Reclaiming the run

A little more than a year ago, Montana schoolteacher Sherry Arnold went out for a run and never came home. Two men had abducted and assaulted her barely a mile from her house, and it took two months for her body to be recovered.

Last year, her cousin Beth organised a virtual Run for Sherry to honour her memory - print out a bib, run as long and as fast as you like.

No one should have to feel threatened when they are out running on their own - no matter whether you're on a trail deep in the woods, or on the sidewalk in your housing estate. The annual Run for Sherry memorial run is a way of reclaiming that mental territory.

On Saturday (yes Chinese New Year's Eve) I did the virtual Run for Sherry with a new running friend, Holly and her husband - one loop around MacRitchie, one of my favourite places to run here.

After the run (I can't think and run at the same time - seriously) I thought about what happened to Sherry Arnold; and about the horrific Delhi bus attack last year, where a gang of men driving a mini-bus kidnapped and assaulted a young student and her male friend, leaving her so badly injured she died of her wounds.

A great deal has already been said about both of these cases; about violent crime; about a culture (particularly in some parts of Asia, but the US is not exempt) of harrassment and victim-blaming and complete disrespect for women's rights (And you wonder why women in this part of the world don't run? Well, now you know.) A great deal has been said, and better than I can say it.

But everyone - women in particular, since we ARE more often targeted and more vulnerable whether you like it or not - should have the freedom to move about the city, whenever and wherever we want. The Run for Sherry is about reclaiming that freedom.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Weekly roundup

Lost another toenail. I have given up going for pedicures, because the pedicurist a) snickers b) complains but c) should really give me a no-nails discount. Okay, TMI. Here's this week's training roundup.

On Sunday, we did another trash run at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio park, and my friend Hannah joined us. The park itself was pretty clean - either people really are getting neater, or the cleaners were out early. The bit that was NOT clean was the part from the MRT station to the park. Anytime there's a bit of bush in which to throw ciggie butts/ drink cans/ tissues/ cigarette packs - you can rest assured there will be rubbish there. (Who are all these people standing around gleefully flinging their empty drink cans into the bushes?)

Tuesday night track session:  it was raining AND I got off work late. But since you all know I run more for my mental health than anything else, I told my coach, "I don't care how much I run - or how slow - as long as I run today." Great, he said. Here, do 5x400, then 4x400, then 3 then 2 then 1. I got as far as the 3-lap bit and called it a soggy, soggy night.
But with Singapore being as hot as it is, I love running in the rain - as long as I know there's a hot shower in my immediate future.
I also found another use for the fleece sweatshirt I wear in the office (because the air-conditioning is ferocious): keep self from freezing on the train home...

Last night's run: it was raining again and I didn't have the heart to do hills at the Botanic Gardens. (Kudos to you if you did!) I finally remembered that my office has a tiny, slightly rickety gym, so I did 8km on the treadmill at a steady half-marathon goal pace, about 10.5 to 11km/ h. (I'm training for a sub-2h half marathon - I can run 20km in two hours, it's the last 1km that always gets me!)

Do you love running in the rain as much as I do? Or is it a blustery, blistery affair for you?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

What, me swim?


Just had to share.

We live in a 700 sq ft, 2-bedroom flat so we don't even have a garage. Or a laundry room. Or a pantry. Crazy people from other countries and their crazy spacious houses... But yeah, what's the point of folding running clothes when they're just going to get used again really soon? Also, my swim cap and goggles are drip-drying from the window, and socks aren't really dirty until I've run in them... no?

I actually DIDN'T run today (what???). Instead I swam 2km at the local pool. I'm organising a Trash Run* tomorrow morning, though.

Here's what my week in workouts looks like:
Monday - rest day
Tuesday - track night!
Wednesday - short recovery run or swim, strength train
Thursday - hills; last year while training for a marathon I'd run 10km in the morning and hills at night
Friday - rest or strength
Saturday or Sunday - long run and some other activity - if I sit around too long, I get antsy.

*Edit - Trash Runs are some combination of fun/ community service/ core and back workout - see my previous post for a description. Tomorrow's is going to be mayyybe 5 or 6km - but you'd be surprised how much of a workout you get bending down and picking things up. It's really sad, but you'd be less surprised how much trash there is at the local park...especially around the McDonald's...