Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Some things I'm enjoying

I'm about to take off for a weeklong work trip to Taiwan, so here is a smattering of things I'm enjoying this week. Last week there was precious little running and six days of frenzied working.

1. This New York Times article reminds us that there are equally dedicated runners of all races and income levels. (It's just run blogging that's particularly middle-class, I guess.)

2. Terzah's post on BQing at 40 during the Chicago Marathon is one of the best I've ever read. More inspiration to us dreamers.

3. I'm currently reading Daniyal Mueenuddin's 'In Other Rooms, Other Wonders' (short story collection) and this month's Scientific American.

4. Last week I almost ran into the owner of my favourite local running shop out walking his dog. I very nearly ran away from him because I was wearing a pair of running shoes I hadn't bought at the shop, but fortunately I don't think he recognised me.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bad blogger day

I read Holly's post about bad bloggers some time back and was inspired to write this post.

This plate held my post-run toast with a smear of avocado.
Never mind that there's no proof that I really ate toast with a smear of avocado.
Or that I really ran.

The banana peel has disappeared somewhere into this waste bin.
I really did eat a banana.
But the peel is underneath the chip bag, the milk carton, and the Tim Tam packet. Sorry. 
I'd even have a Luna Bar wrapper for you (from earlier this week at work) but I threw it away, so here is a picture of homemade doughnuts instead (again, just in case anyone mistook this for one of those healthy living blogs).
The friend I fed these to for brunch called them 'zaftig'.
Are you calling my doughnuts fat, I said. 
Worse, I'm going to now proceed to write about things that I have no photos of

On Sunday (that's today) I woke up and decided on a whim to run to East Coast Park. 

That's 17km and took me two hours. (Half-marathon training: I know how far I'm supposed to run, but I often don't plan where to run until I'm actually out the door.) It went a whole lot better than that other 18km I did the other week.  

There would be lots and lots of lovely pictures of the river (and the canal, a little farther upstream, that is being dredged at the same time construction is going on - in other words, it was a huge mess and a road-crossing, fence-jumping nightmare but I can't wait till it actually looks nice again); except for one fatal flaw: if I stop running, I have a hard time getting started again. 

There would also be lots of lovely pictures of East Coast Park per se but the sun was in my eyes. Yes, I did bring my phone. No, I'm just too lazy to take it out of the pocket on my handheld. 

Sadly I was once again seduced by the pockets on my Mizuno short tights, which of course got soggy and chafed my thighs (there was much yelping when I discovered this in the shower) (thigh gap, what is that?). No, I'm not going to show you a photo of that.   

On Saturday I ran 10km up and down the usual canal path. There's a little bit of excavation work going on at one end, and seeing this fellow here always makes me smile: 
Zebra excavator!
I know I said there weren't going to be any pictures. Bazinga. 

This week's runs have been a little...end-loaded.
Tuesday: AM 7km, PM still restless so 5km (it was a public holiday)
Thursday: AM 8km, PM office bonding exercise (literally) - ran 5km with colleagues; did I mention we're training for the Stanchart ekiden relay?
Saturday: 10km
Sunday: 17km
I had the best of intentions to run on Monday morning and swim on Friday. I really did. No go. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Reason #19685 I won't be doing the Shape run again

Recently I got a new running shirt from my dear friend D.
It's a very lovely mango-coloured shirt; the only drawback is that it isn't mango-scented or mango-flavoured. One day they will start making mango-scented clothing and I will be a goner.

Photo from 
Normally I'd be pleased, but the shirt is coming to me in somewhat unpleasant circumstances.
It's the race shirt for the Shape Run. (The Shape 5k/ 10K was, like the Trifactor run, also postponed from July due to dread haze, but race pack collection was back in June.)

When D signed up to do the 5k, she picked a size L shirt; at race pack collection, it emerged that the size L was minuscule. Which, fine, everyone should read the size charts carefully.

What's more disappointing and rage-inducing was that when she asked about swapping it for a larger size, the packet pick-up people told her: "We usually don't have larger women running". (I understand if you have a strict rule about swapping of shirt sizes, which could create chaos. But if you don't have larger women running, why are all the XL shirts taken then? Could it be because your sizing chart is absurdly small?)

For those of you who cannot think in metric, the XL chest width of 46cm (92 cm around) is 18.1 inches (36.2 inches around). I see all my readers are now laughing or crying in disbelief.

So, gripe number 1: a size chart clearly intended for a population of supermodels. (Extremely stunted supermodels. The shirts aren't that long either.)

Gripe number 2: What do you mean by "we usually don't have larger women running"? That sounds suspiciously like a 'what are YOU doing here' line.

D enjoys running. Not, perhaps, as fanatically as me, but as a pleasant means of moving about and enjoying some fresh air. Here's the thing: her enjoyment of running is entirely separate from her size. I don't care if you usually have larger women running or not. You do now - and you can jolly well cater to them. There's no need to suggest that she doesn't belong there. YES SHE DOES.

Previous years' gripes have included chaotic organisation involving a hilariously long bag pick-up line, and male pacers. I've gotten so fed up with the whole thing in general - not that I liked the magazine very much anyway, for similar reasons - that this is merely reason number 19685 not to do the run.

Elsewhere on the internet, a beautiful, very brave woman put up a photo of herself in a swimsuit for a very good reason. (There are good and bad reasons to invite other people's gaze - I'd say this is a very good one. Arguably, also, as it's her website, the blogger is also gazing back at her audience.)

While Emmie of Authentically Emmie is indeed a weight-loss blogger, she's clearly divorced her weight and her dress size from her sense of self-worth, and is losing weight as a side effect of a suite of measures (good nutrition and exercise) to improve her health. Incidentally, that bathing suit is amazing, and now I want one.

AN IMPORTANT ASIDE about the correlation between weight and health:
While it's correct to say that statistically speaking, the population of obese people is at higher risk of dying of cardiovascular disease and cancer than the population of not-obese people, you cannot draw this exact conclusion about any one obese person versus any one not-obese person.

Incidentally, I just read about this curious Finnish study of 16 twin pairs where one twin was obese and the other was not, which found:
- In about half the pairs, the obese twin was metabolically healthy, and had the same blood work and liver fat as their non-obese twin; they also had more fat cells than their non-obese twin.
- But in the other half, the obese twin was metabolically unhealthy with a fatty liver and the same or fewer but larger fat cells than their twin.
What does it all mean? Maybe some people are fortunate. Maybe the healthy obesity is a transient state. Either way, it does reinforce the idea that you can't tell much about people just by looking at them.

Anyway, about the Shape run. D is still running. It had better be better-organised than previous years (one hopes). No one was severely hurt; the primary end result of this is that D won't be able to advertise for the Shape run by wearing the @$(#! shirt, and I will have to do so on her behalf. Except I'm sufficiently enraged with the Shape run organisers that I will be wearing this shirt only in the dark. Take that, luminous mango.

On Sunday I went for a run with two friends, A. and Holly. A new segment of park connector has just opened - basically, it's an overhead bridge across the expressway, which was the only thing barring pedestrians from getting to the quiet and breezy Pandan Reservoir before. This is at Pandan, at roughly the midpoint of our 15.5km run. It's in a pretty industrial area and you can see the warehouses across the reservoir on the other side - A., who is from Minneapolis, said it reminded her of a lake trail there!

Sunday was very, very sunny: I think we all have magnificent tan lines now.

Training for the Great Eastern half marathon is going fairly decently, I think. It's kind of hard to focus on training when your marathon is followed in quick succession by a sprint triathlon you're doing for fun but still need to train for, which is then followed by a goal half marathon in which you want to take your previous PR and essentially break it over your knee. But I managed to run about 40 km last week, so it's not too bad.

Today is a public holiday and I'm having a wonderful hermit day - me and my book and this week's Economist and a couple of Coursera courses and some coffee and ice cream. Tuesday is usually track day, but as it's a holiday, track is off this evening. I've already run once this morning - about 7km - but am still feeling restless so might talk the husband into jogging with me later! 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

That time I dropped out of a half marathon

When Super Generic Girl posted a list of things you definitely, absolutely shouldn't do while dealing with a running injury (do as she says, not as she does, folks), I commented very briefly about dropping out of races.

You know. Such as last weekend.

I'd originally signed up for the Tri-Factor Half as a training run for the Perth City to Surf marathon. But the Dread Haze forced the organisers to postpone it to this past weekend (October 6). My training plan for November's half marathon said 'run very slowly for two hours', and I'd already paid up for Tri-Factor, so off I went to do it.

When I woke up at 5.30am there was a fine ol' storm outside and I nearly rolled over and went back to sleep, but a quick check of the weather radar showed the rain would soon pass and that the weather would be cool and lovely. So I hauled myself out of bed, had some toast and went off to East Coast Park. The race started just a smidgen late - 7am instead of 6.45 - but it was the smallest half-marathon I've ever done here. (If you're the sort of person interested in signing up for things for the possibility of winning prizes, take note! I am not. I haven't a chance.)

I know lots of people think running back and forth along East Coast Park is dead boring. And I know the reclaimed land is slowly crumbling back into the sea. And it's mostly flat. (MOSTLY. There are some hills which don't look like much, but which suddenly start looking like Mount Everest once you're tired.) But we went east before the sun rose, and west after it did, and the temperature was perfect, and I mean, you cannot possibly complain about a sea view the whole way.

For the first 10km (completed, on pace, in 1:03) I had absolutely nothing to complain about. Nothing. Zilch, zip, zero. The sun came up and the sunrise was exactly as pretty as sunrises tend to be.

At 11km I began to feel a little nauseous. And then a lot nauseous.  Let me tell you, as delicious as watermelon Nuun tastes going down, it tastes a lot worse coming up.

At 13km I began taking little walk breaks.
At 14km the walk breaks became longer.
Shortly thereafter I started taking little run breaks in the midst of all the walking.
And then shortly after than I just started walking altogether.
People a little way behind me began to pass me.
People a long way behind me began to pass me.
People whom I'd seen way back after the turnaround began to pass me.
And worst of all, I caught myself wishing I was on Squeaky, my road bike. When does that ever happen? When do I ever choose a bike ride over a nice training run?
The sun came up. It got really ugly. At the 18km point, right near where I'd parked, I snuck off to the car.

It's a good thing this was only a training run. After all that I came home and had a good long nap and went to work the evening shift from 2 to 11pm.

I still don't know what happened, and won't know (no I'm not pregnant - sorry Gran). Could be the toast. Remember the toast? It was sliced bread that came in a plastic bag. Regular, perfectly ordinary sliced bread. It's just that we've had a breadmaker for so long, I haven't had regular storebought sliced bread in a year. Maybe that stuff.

I've not had to drop out of an A race. So far. But then again, I haven't really been that strategic about my race schedule so far. Let's not jinx it. (Which is why I'm diligently doing my squats and pushups and hip drops and lunges and planks. I am unbelievably lazy when it comes to strength and stretching, but it's preventive medicine.)


This weekend has been extremely laid-back so far. This morning I went on a Singapore Glove Project run with Ken-Jin. (Singapore Glove Project: we like to run, but we hate trash on our running routes.) As usual the remnants of Friday night's parties were all over the place. Also possibly Thursday night's parties. Opening-ceremony paper confetti is basically the worst idea ever.

A possible culprit!  (Photo credit: KJ Tan)
Ken Jin disapproves of all the confetti.

We also saw an entire 7-11 chicken bryani on a bench, unopened.

Drunk people do strange things. (Photo credit: KJ Tan) 
I'll call that a 6km fartlek with plenty of stopping and walking.

Tonight the husband and I are going to some friends' housewarming party, and tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn I'm running 14km (that's 8+ miles for you people who think in imperial - I only speak metric when it comes to distances) with two friends who really, really need to meet each other (and can then speak to each other in miles as I run out of breath trying to keep up with them).

If you think this will result in some sleep deprivation you may be right. But it appears to be Karaoke/ Singalong Day at the void deck of the block across from mine (I've heard songs in three languages and two dialects and they've been going since THIS MORNING), so I doubt I will be getting much sleep anyway...

Friday, October 4, 2013

Triathlon spectating

And here's what I did with the rest of my weekend. I train with a tri group. Their enthusiasm is infectious.

They couldn't get on their bikes because they were...two tired. (C and A, after the tri) 

L on her second of 2 5km run laps, OD tri 

G killin' it. Would you believe she has done - this year alone - her first marathon, her first OD tri, and will be doing her first 70.3 in November?? Crazy lady.

I., on what I think is her third OD tri of the year. Just thinking about that is exhausting.

E on the run. Shirlene and I screamed our little hearts out. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fun-size triathloning, or Her Gumbyness at your service

I'm laid up today with an ordinary, garden-variety, nasty, virulent cold. While feeling sorry for my congested self and working my way through a box of tissues, and in between library books, I decided it was high time to write my Cold Storage Sprint Tri recap.

I am a terrible blogger and my husband/ superstar cheer team is a terrible photographer*, so there are almost no photos of this tri.

*He's a great photographer when he remembers to take photos.

This is tri number three. I always start with the best of intentions. I did WANT to train for the swim and bike, but life has a funny way of getting out of hand. And my first love is running - obviously. It's just so much easier to train for a run than a tri. But I train with a tri group, and it's hard not to be ever so slightly infected by their enthusiasm. And these things are great fun.

I'd been doing a wee bit of swimming, so the plan was to go somewhat hard on the swim, really easy on the bike, and push pretty hard on the run.

The marathon's really driven home the importance of carbo-loading and, uh, pre-hydration. I don't remember what I ate for dinner on Friday night but I do recall it involved a lot of rice, while Saturday morning involved Cheerios.

On race morning I hauled myself and one very drowsy husband to the start point. In fact I think I left him sleeping in the car while I cycled to the race, which wouldn't start for another hour and a half.

The swim:
Turns out it was more than an hour and a half - the race started a full twenty minutes late. In broiling heat. With transition a good ways away, and no hydration stand at the start point. So I was dehydrated by the time we started.

I have a tiny problem with getting motivated on the swim: in general, when I hit the water all I want to do is roll over and float for a while.

Anyway, from start to end I felt like I couldn't breathe. So much for going out hard. I hauled myself out of the water in 19:04. A bit dismal. Turns out this was my fastest swim split in a tri by about 15 seconds. My primary goal was not to get swum over by the men behind me - mission accomplished! And then it was up a ramp and over a specially constructed, carpeted, mildly slippery, absurd overhead bridge over the bike course, back into transition.

The bike:
We had to do three laps of a 6.6ishkm loop. Don't ask me why 3x6.6 instead of 2x10. I think it's to slow us down with all of those u-turns. I kept getting overtaken by men with frighteningly pointy helmets tipping perilously over in ever-more aero contortions position. As usual, I was happy to not fall off my bike.

There's really not a whole lot to say about the bike course, except that it was narrow in the wrongest places. And that perhaps if I insist on cycling in my trainers I should get some cages for those pedals?

Midway through this I discovered that my front derailleur wouldn't shift and the cable was loose! Fortunately or unfortunately the course was flat enough that I trundled around the whole thing using my big gear the whole way.

When I got back I saw enough of the bike rack still empty that I honestly thought I'd missed a lap, and had a moment of panic. I hope my bike split of 54:17 includes the transitions, because otherwise I was embarrassingly lazy out there.

The run:
I managed to actually stop and dismount instead of simply falling off my bike. Hooray. Popped into transition for a quick water/ Nuun stop before dashing out again. I even had the presence of mind to grab my Clif blocks, a mishmash of singleton leftovers from previous races. (This will be important later.)

Then it was time to scamper back up the ridiculous Green Carpeted Ramp of Doom - seriously, that thing must've possessed a 10-degree incline - and down to the road for the 5km run leg. I might've passed a few gentlemen on the ramp. Maybe. And also at the start of the run. And the rest of the way. I can do 5km in my sleep, I kept telling myself. I can do 5km in my sleep. (I can. I promise you. I have done 5km at the canal on many a morning before I've even woken up properly.)

And that's when I started to cramp.

I drank some of the prooffered 100Plus and fished around in my pocket for the baggie of Clif blocks. Hallelujah - two margarita shot blocks. These got me through the turnaround, as did the privilege of watching Holly crash into a large bush. After I stopped cramping I started doing that thing I always do - pick someone as a rabbit and try to pick them off - and then Holly's cheering and running a bit with me got me through to the finish in 29 minutes flat. Alas, I have no finishing kick; a girl I'd overtaken several minutes earlier blew right by me on the way to the finish.

IMPORTANT NOTE TO RACE ORGANISERS. Please to have drink stations AFTER the turnaround too. And distance markers - of which there were none. How do you have a run leg without distance markers? Some of us are a bit impaired when it comes to gauging distances...

Overall this was actually my fastest tri. I seem to be getting better at something. But what is it? I think the answer is transitions. One's transitions become very fast when there is a nest of large bitey ants underneath one's bike. Just so you know. So next time perhaps there should be piranhas in the water? Just small non-lethal nippy ones, maybe?

Next year I move up an age group, into the very fast and frightening 30-39. I still haven't really decided if I want to buckle down and train properly for these things instead of just winging it like I always do (going into this I swam three times,  rode on the trainer twice, and noodled around fiddling with my tyres and watching CSI once). I do want to do an Olympic-distance (1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run) tri but I want to race it. Tell me, dear do I do this?
Workouts last week: 
Tuesday: track: 3[2(600 moderate/ 200 easy), 400 hard]
Wednesday: AM - Ran 5 miles (about 8km) with my friend A; every time I felt like giving up I thought to myself, 'I am running with a woman who gave birth six weeks ago and SHE isn't giving up, you wuss.' PM - tempo set at swim.
Friday: AM - Ran about 10K with Holly.
Saturday: Sprint tri!

Workouts this week have been temporarily sidelined due to a head cold. How is my chlorpheniramine not working???