Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Customer feedback

Dear Runner's Gait,

I am writing in somewhat belatedly to thank one of your staff members - I think his name is James.

A couple of months ago I wandered randomly into your store for a new pair of trainers, and James very patiently helped me try on eight pairs. Eight. EIGHT!!! (It's lucky, right?) I felt like Goldilocks (too hard, too soft, too...erm... too tippy, too high, too hard, too soft, just right) or Cinderella ('if the shoe fits...').

Finally I settled on this pair of Saucony Fastwitch 5. (They're red - that should do for Chinese New Year shopping. I did wear them for the first run of the Chinese New Year. Which did not appease my mother at all.)

As we already know, I like being able to feel the ground (check), and I am the Switzerland of neutral runners (check).

It turns out Saucony apparently thinks these are a racing flat. I don't. They're not flat. But then I'm not fast either...

(Funny story. I just bought a new running shirt. It's black and says 'FAST' on the front in an alarming shade of pink. I don't think I deserve to wear it yet, so it's sitting in my closet gathering dust.)

I had a few niggling doubts about this pair of shoes at first. Not as low to the ground as my Minimuses/minimi/ minimodes. Not as plush and cushiony as my Nikes. A little hard and bouncy. But after Sunday's triathlon I think James made the right call - I think they're finally broken in. On the run leg, my shoes and I managed to pass - I think - every woman in my category who was a passable distance in front of me. (That's about five women over 5 km. Also some men who were walking - what were you doing?!?!?!?)

I'm still a slowpoke but I'll be doing nearly all of my marathon training (except for the longest weekend runs - need a bit more cushion for that) in these.

See you on the trails,


PS please give James a promotion.
PPS or at least a medal for persistence. But watch out: I'll be back for new shoes. He might want to hide.

Workouts this week. Marathon training week 1: upping the mileage a little.
Sunday: TRI day. 750m swim (terrible), 20km bike ride (terrible), and 5km run (29:23), dawdling through transition, going the wrong way to run out and turning around to run out another way. Pro-tip: Do not train for a tri by spending 3 months chickening out of swim training, cycling only twice, and doing no bricks ever.
Monday: 7.5km recovery run
Tuesday: Speedwork: 2km at 2:15, 1.6km at 2:10-2:12, 1.2km at 2:05, 400m (1:57). Total incl warm-up 6km.
Wednesday: easy day. 9.5km/ 59:15

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Yep, I'm doing a sprint tri tomorrow.
Nerves? What nerves?
The past month has been a rollercoaster of abnormal mystery fatigue and health issues and running-related mental struggle and HK getaway, and the last week has just been...emotionally draining.

Of course I'm still angry about Boston. Who attacks a marathon? Why? Seriously? These are some of the toughest people on earth. Who run 42.2 km for fun. And their families, loved ones, and random spectators - it's pretty much the definition of an international community coming together in joyous celebration. Every single runner I know has said the same thing - it's like your family being attacked.
I also lived in Boston for a year. My best friend from college lives there. And I ran down those streets and along the river. So when the bombs went off I thought with horror, I know where that is.
I was there for a science writing grad programme at MIT. When an MIT campus police officer was shot it was like seeing part of my family get hurt.
Boston is a small city, but a big community with a lot of backbone and pride. I have absolutely no doubt it will rally.

(And to the people going, 'X atrocity is so much worse than what happened in Boston and nobody cares' - quit being pious.
Yes, I agree that awful things happen all over the world, all the time. That's worth remembering.
But you can't quantify suffering. Nor should you assume nobody cares about all the other awful things going on - especially if you also live in a Western Anglophone bubble. Who is 'nobody'? The whole world is not focused solely on Boston (I am, here, in this specific instance, because I know and love the city and I. Am. A. Runner.) If your Internet speaks Arabic, bombings across Iraq and an earthquake in Iran and Pakistan were top of the news. If your Internet speaks Chinese, bird flu and an earthquake in Sichuan will be.)

This week can't be over soon enough.

I don't have any more energy left over to be nervous.
I'm not racing that tri, just finishing it and then cheering the rest of my triathlon family on. If my competitive instinct bites and I catch and pass you on the run, so be it. If I straggle in last - so be it. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

where the wild things are

A lot of Singaporeans go to Hong Kong to shop and eat. 

We went to Hong Kong for five days to HIKE and eat. It's called luxury hiking: you go out for a nice walk every day, somewhere you can get to by some combination of subway and taxi, and then come back every night to eat a lot and have a hot shower and sleep in a real bed. Why didn't I think of this before? 
The temperature was 15 to 20 degrees C. Perfect weather! Pity about the fog.

<--  a lot of my vacation looked like this.

Day 1: Wednesday 

Quarry Bay to ? Park View

Take the MTR (subway) to Tai Koo MTR station.
Turn left; walk all the way up Greig Road to the start of the Mt Parker trail.
Don't ask me for any more directions. We promptly got spun around A LOT, crisscrossed Mount Parker Road, got as far as Mt Butler, went up and down Sir Cecil's Ride, and finally were spat out onto Mount Parker Road again.
This took about an hour. By then it was 5pm and starting to rain and get dark...

before it got dark.
we also met up with friends for dinner and ice cream.
that's leanne in the foreground, levi in the middle.  
Day 2: Thursday. It rained the entire time.

We left the hostel three times: 
- for a breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, milk tea, and that curious Hong Kong delicacy, macaroni soup with ham, at Capital Cafe 
- for lunch with Jeanette, my former colleague who now works at South China Morning Post
- for dinner at Mak's Noodles with Lee, a kid from the UK we met at our hostel. 

Clearly a very productive day. 


    Day 3 was even more productive. 

    How to hike Lantau Island: 

    1. Take the MTR out to Tung Chung, at the end of the orange (Tung Chung) line. 
2. Take a rollercoaster bus ride to Mui Wo, at Lantau's eastern tip. This is where the Lantau Trail begins. 
3. Walk a lot. 
4. Climb every mountain.
And I mean all of them. 

You're in luck; there are stairs. 

There are more stairs about twice as steep as this, much higher up, atop Sunset Peak and Lantau Peak which are fairly exposed. 

And then stairs all the way down. 

After this you will not want to look at a staircase again for some time. 

5. I don't know how you feel about the Buddha. I was quite happy to see him, or at least the giant statue of him at Ngong Ping. It meant I was definitely still alive. 
6. Sorry about the mist/ fog/ smog. As you can see, the views were few and far between. Sometimes this was a good thing - especially when I'm afraid of heights. 
7. When you get to Ngong Ping, which is a big tourist destination, TAKE THE FANCY CABLE CAR BACK TO TUNG CHUNG. By no means take the rollercoaster bus, if, like me, you have a very motion-sensitive stomach and have not eaten a full meal all day, only snacks. The cable car would've been worth the extra, oh, ten bucks. 

At the end of all that we had an enormous dinner of crab, razor clams, clams, whitebait, oyster porridge, salted-egg prawns, etc. at Qiao Tei with friends. (I think we earned it.) 

"You Singaporeans," laughed the lady at the hostel reception desk when we announced where we were going for dinner. "You come prepared with a whole list of places to eat!"

Day 4 was more sedate. 

Still sore from the 13km/ 5-hour walk of the day before, we took the Peak Tram up Victoria Peak and did the 3.5km Peak Circle Walk. Fortunately the sky was clearer - we even had some sun...

As my husband put it: "Yesterday was lots of effort for no views. Today - no effort, lots of views."

wok-seared rice rolls (chee cheong fun) with sesame and sweet sauces
And then it was off to Happy Valley for some dim sum at Yu Man Fang on Sing Woo Road. 

(I am a very bad Asian and keep forgetting to take pictures of my food. My husband has all the food photos on his phone.) 

After all that food we went back to the hostel, vegged out a bit - and headed out for more food: 
- fish congee and pig innard congee at Congee King at Heard Street,
- and traditional 'tong shui' desserts at Tsui Yuen across the road.  

What about Day 5? 

I woke up bright and early and took myself for a solo run up the Wan Chai Green Trail (ok, trudge - this part of the trail goes pretty much straight up and feels like a 30-degree gradient, but there were a lot of very fit little old ladies power-walking it, to whom I said a lot of 'zou sun'/ good mornings), and to the end of Bowen Road and back - about 7km. 

It was probably one of the best runs I've had in a long time. 

managed to take a photo of myself on the run.
still not sure how I did it. 

After that it was showertime and time to head for the airport - 
but not before stopping for MORE dim sum at the Tim Ho Wan branch that is very conveniently located inside Hong Kong Station - right where the Airport Express train is. 

At the end of this great adventure when we touched down back home I managed to be hungry again. I really must have done something to anger my metabolism.

I'm a little sad we didn't manage to make it out to Sai Kung or Lion Rock or any part of the Maclehose Trail... we can save that for next time though. 

Workouts this week: 
- None
- My entire holiday (is it really a workout if my brain is so relaxed?)
- Monday night: easy shake-out-the-legs 10km at the canal, half of which was run with my friend Lin. Took my new Oiselle shorts for a run on a very soggy evening, and at the end they were bone-dry. Either my behind does not sweat or...holy wicking magical powers. Perth Marathon training starts TODAY. 

As I write this it's Boston Marathon Monday and I'm virtually following it online

I do wish they would start an hour earlier though. It's 11.45pm and the lead women still have a good 7km to go - not to mention the friends I'm tracking online who started in Wave 3. I'm propping my eyelids open. Husband has long since gone to bed. Time zones...uff da.

It seems pretty clear this morning that Marathon Monday was not a good Monday
I'm particularly mad about this because what have runners (or their families, or spectators, or race volunteers) ever done to hurt anyone?
But that's the way terror works. right? 
Fortunately there is still goodness in people: people finishing the race and giving blood, helping each other up, offering a place to stay for the night. That's what a community is for.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

double feature: 'fast shoes' & 'undertrained'

ladies and gentlemen - I present to you a special weekend double feature!

'the fast shoes'

When I was a kid we would run all over the place, light and fast like little kids are, in canvas sneakers with a thin rubber sole, or even barefoot. (There was the one time with my two boy cousins - this was after the 1992 Barcelona Olympics when we all watched the UK's Linford Christie and US' Gail Devers win the men's and women's 100m - when we had sprint races around the estate and I ran till I nearly puked. I beat one of them, though.)

At home we walk around barefoot ('what, shoes in the house? that's just barbaric'). And to this day I can't stand having anything on my feet - not even the coldest of New England winters could induce me to ever sleep with socks on.

Which is why I also like to feel the ground when I run. So I really like my pink New Balance Minimus trail shoes - I got them in July or August 2012 and I think they're the original Minimus Zero Trail. They don't have much of a difference between heel and toe, they're super lightweight and have very sticky soles. (The difference between the heel height and the toe height is called the heel drop - just like a platform heel can be 4 inches at the heel and 1 at the toe.)

I definitely remember getting these last year and immediately going out gleefully to run quite a lot of the local trails in them. Like 16km worth of trail. (Don't try this at home, kids.) I've not been injured doing this, but if you're anyone else I strongly recommend starting slow!

If you look closely I am wearing the Minimus during the Green Corridor Run. That is probably how the rips happened...

These days I think of the pink shoes as my 'fast' shoes, even though the tread has completely worn off and I am not fast. There is a 1.5-inch rip in the little-toe side of each shoe, just from wear and tear. I might be replacing these sometime this year.

So that's three pairs of shoes in my current rotation: a normal 'cushiony' kind, the Nike Lunarglide 3; a lower-drop kind, the Saucony Fastwitch 5 (review's very firm but still bulky/ hefty enough that I don't feel fast, and I don't like it as much as either of my other pairs...but they were on sale at the local running store); and my go-to trail shoes, the Minimus Trail Zero.

As a talentless, genetically challenged, non-elite mere mortal who has never won anything in her life, not even an age-group plaque, never mind hundreds of dollars worth of shoes, I can't afford/ don't deserve to have more pairs than that! (I wonder what other people do when they come to the realisation that they'll never win anything in their entire lives. Do you get fed up and stop running? Do you keep running, like I do, because it's really for your sanity and mental health? If I ever did run fast enough to place I would probably die of shock.)

'undertrained' - a run350 race report 

This morning I wore the 'fast shoes' to run the Run350 10K. The weather was incredible (for running - if you had wanted to go to the beach, different story), the route was wide open and well marked, the volunteers were both helpful and plentiful...

My so-called 'race strategy' was to paint my nails purple and try to stick with my faster friend Hilary! I got as far as the purple nails. While threading my way through the crowd (late) I got stuck behind a clump of people and then the starting horn went off, so I never did find Hilary. Which is a good thing because she finished in a very healthy 49:45. This is at least six minutes faster than I can run a 10K.

I spent the first 2km of the run still weaving through people. Saw Coach Rosie and Coach Hollie coming the other way from a turnaround in quick succession. Had exactly enough breath and time to yell GO ROSIE and before I could take another breath to yell GO HOLLIE they had vanished. (They eventually made it to the top 4, finishing in something ridiculous like 40 minutes.)  Picked another rabbit, lost her too, picked another rabbit, overtook her eventually (thanks, lady in the blue tank top), and spent the rest of the thing wondering nervously if she was trying to chase me down as well. (Does anyone else do this misattribution of mental states to fellow runners thing, or am I the only loony on the block?)

Finally I saw the 1-hour pacers just ahead of me, going through the finishing chute (pacers! how cute! there were 3 pace groups: 1:00, 1:10, and 1:20! this was ADORABLE), and I sprinted through. I honestly have no clue what time I ran, because the 1-hour pacers started right with the starting gun and I...definitely did not. I never did start my watch or my phone, and it was fabulous.

Afterwards I went off to look for Holly the one-woman cheer squad, found her cheering the half-marathoners in, ran another very scenic couple of km along the river, ran out of water (I DISLIKE being out of water), and took a bus home.

Still, I'm a little disappointed in myself because I haven't really been training terribly hard. I've missed three weekends' worth of long runs (BAD! VERY BAD!) for all sorts of reasons, and it's a miracle if I manage to run thrice a week. (To any coaches reading: I may be determined but unless I quit my job and suddenly have scads of free time, I am at ZERO risk of me on this.)

Anyway - off to run more next week. The next time I post will probably be from Hong Kong...

update! my eventual time for the run350 10K was 58:04, which is all right for an undertrained, slightly disappointing race.

obligatory running photo. thanks Running Shots! 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Going long (short post)

This appears to be my favourite time of day to post: in the evening, sitting in an exhausted heap on the couch, wearing a bathrobe after a shower, and waiting for the laundry (endless laundry!) to be done.

After going through a year and a half of training logs I've noticed that all my race PRs regardless of race distance show up either while I'm training for a marathon, or shortly after. I guess increasing mileage a little (or a lot - going from 35km a week to 45 or 50 or more) makes a big difference! It's time to bring my long weekend runs back.

Super excited for next week - I'll be taking some time out to go to Hong Kong with the husband and wander around on the trails! Expect pictures. What should we eat while we're there?

Workouts this week:
Sunday - 10k training run, 1:01
Tuesday - warmups, 6x100 strides, 5k time trial (ouch) (27:45)
Thursday - 6km tempo in the morning, 6x hills in the evening. I seem to have displeased my metabolism and must offer it food sacrifices.