Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Great Eastern Women's Run - a race report

No matter what you think about women's-only races, the Great Eastern Women's Run is the best-organised road run in Singapore.

This year they really hit out of the ballpark. First of all, because the organiser Great Eastern Life is an insurance company...all the runners are covered during the race. There are massages and loads of food at the finish, and even a little clean-up station with wet wipes and deodorant and a mirror to check your hair (AFTER the race, when it totally makes sense, not before.)

And I love the way Great Eastern focuses on family/ friends/ fun rather than the kind of shape one is in. No tone-deaf fitspo here.

No, they aren't paying me to say this. I don't even have any insurance plans with them.

Thanks to some work trips, some crazy workweeks, and some decline of motivation (ahem) after hitting my marathon PR goal for the year, I was definitely undertrained going into this half marathon. Tempo runs? What tempo runs?

I had a half-hearted notion of PRing, as last year's time was about 2:11 while trying to ward off cramps. My plan was to go 6 minutes per km for the first 16km and, if I felt so inclined, to push harder for the last 5.

Long story short - I did not feel so inclined.

The loop-the-loop route involved running up and over Nicoll Highway...twice. And here is my biggest complaint about this race: when I tried doing lap splits on my watch at every kilometre marker, the first 8 'kilometres' took me 6 minutes, 6 minutes, 8 minutes (?), 3:40 (??), 7 minutes (???), 4 minutes(?!?!?), 6 minutes (phew, finally, a real kilometre), and 8 minutes (sorry, WTF? I know this works out to 6 min/km, but those markers are ridiculous.) And then I pulled the plug on the splits; they were getting too confusing. Dear Santa, can I have a GPS watch this year?

At about 13km the wheels fell off my 6min/km effort and I slowed down quite a bit (but sped up for the Holly-cheering point), staggering into the finish with a 2:14:34 gun time. Seriously, my legs didn't feel like moving that day. And I was h u n g r y. STARVING. I felt like I could have eaten an entire pizza on the run. I spent 5 km thinking about food. Hey, it was a nice distraction. Truly. One of my running mottoes is "There's chwee kuay at the end."

Oddly, despite all the food at the end, I didn't feel like actually putting any in my mouth, so I squirrelled an apple away for later.

I'm not terribly disappointed because the weather was terrific and I was having so much fun. My friend C completed her first half marathon (!!!!! this girl is going on to great things and I'm pretty sure she's addicted to running now) and S and A ran all the way without stopping to walk, and I'm incredibly proud of them.

And I even found my race pix. Not too unglam or shapeless for these photographers! Here you go.


Too long, didn't read? 

The good:
Pretty good organisation
Race started on time
Great amenities
Focus on family/ friends/ health
Clearly marked route

The bad:
WTF, distance markers?
Nicoll Highway slopes...TWICE. (not as bad as the City to Surf hills, but I was not expecting inclines!)
Too many loops in the route (again, not as bad as the City to Surf hairpin turns)

In other news...
Last Friday was my birthday. On Friday morning I had a terrific run. On Friday night I somehow got out of work at 8pm and made it to a nice (not break-the-bank nice; just cosy) restaurant by 9pm...where they miraculously had a table free up right as we got there, without a reservation, at peak hour on a Friday night. Birthdays really are magic.

Oh, and thanks to my fantastic husband there's now ice cream cake in the freezer. (Every year he asks me what I want for my birthday; every year I say ice cream cake; every year I get an ice cream cake. Isn't life grand?)

On Saturday morning I had a nice run, too. Despite eating ice cream cake for breakfast.

A mystery
I've been running for AEONS, so when will my easy run pace get faster? Such a mystery. Ok, I admit, this week at track I dropped out two *hard* 400 reps short of a full set. (Yes Coach Shem, I'm more disappointed in me than you are. It's a good thing you already know how I feel about 400s, because I was too out of breath to complain.)

I've still got to figure out what my goals are for next year. Do I want to try for another marathon PR and the family marathon record? Or be a running buddy for a physically challenged runner? Or run half-marathons until I get to the elusive 1:58? Or volunteer at a race? Or do my first ultra? Or help Ken Jin grow the Singapore Glove Project? Or pace a friend? Who knows? Focus, crazy woman, focus.

But honestly? 
If I wasn't training for anything I would probably run between 5 and 10k maybe 5 times a week, and however far and fast I want to on weekends (10? 15?), just because it's quiet and peaceful and I love watching the sun rise while I run. And keep going to Tuesday track; I like those people. I reckon that sounds like a good plan for a while, what do you think?

Does anyone else have a drop in motivation after hitting a nice fat goal - like a marathon PR? I feel like I'd  focused so long on sub-5 that I don't feel like focusing all that hard for a while. Mentally, anyway. My legs are fine. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

How to go running in Taipei

Here is the short answer: Don't! The traffic is terrible in town and there isn't much pavement to speak of.

Also, I didn't have much time so I couldn't afford to get lost. I ended up doing most of my running in the hotel gym.
Source: this is a pretty good interview about motorbikes in Taipei.
I was there on a press trip with an international group of environment/ business journalists from the US, Australia, Thailand, Korea, Singapore, Poland, Turkey, Greece, Guam, Paraguay, Honduras, Spain, Portugal, Germany...have I forgotten anyone?

On the Saturday of the weekend I was there, I met up with my publication's correspondent in Taiwan, who asked me what I thought of the country. I think Singapore and Taiwan can learn a lot from each other, I said. Taiwan's pretty good at getting people to manage waste and recycle, and is very strong on environmental education... but their traffic is... '比较乱一点' ('a little messy'), I trailed off diplomatically. She roared.

So don't run. Maybe get on a bike instead.
And eat a lot.

Shilin Night Market, probably the most touristy night market of them all; I had stinky tofu, oyster omelette, dumplings, a papaya milkshake, and shaved ice with red beans and peanuts. Not all at the same time, that'd be weird.

aforementioned stinky tofu - none of us died of it

Walk a lot. (Also: The subway system is great.)
we also got to go out to this reforested area called Dongyuanshan

Wear a hard hat. (Any day in which I get to wear a hard hat or be on a boat is an excellent workday. There was one time I was on a boat - okay, a very big ship - wearing a hard hat. Double win! Except for the time I was horribly seasick.)
Well, wear a hard hat and a quizzical expression, anyway.
Experience a real earthquake. (There was one in southeast Taiwan, which we felt a wee bit up north in Taipei.)

And take a lot of photos.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Why I'm proud of my unglam running photos

An open letter to 'Tekko', running photographer extraordinaire

Dear Mr Koh,

Thank you for your completely unsolicited advice on how to avoid unglam race photos.

(A warning to readers: if you click on the link, be prepared to throw up a little bit - between the grammar and the attitude. To save you the trouble, I'll summarise Mr Koh's sage advice for you here, after I run to the bathroom and hurl: 

"...For those ladies who are honest enough and admit that they do look unglam in their running pose, here are some tips on how to look glam:
1. Put on some make up. 
2. Tie up your hair. 
3.[Wear sunglasses to avoid the shut-eyed or slit-eyed look.]  
4. And last but not least, smile.")  

First of all, some of that is terrible advice.
- Wearing makeup while running is actually bad for your skin. Sunscreen, however, is recommended.
- I don't know how anyone with long hair can run with it untied anyway; won't it get everywhere?
- I'll wear sunglasses when the sun is in my eyes, thanks.
- No, I will not smile on demand just for you, honey. Go stick that lens where the sun don't shine.

Next, your post is totally insulting to any serious runner - male or female. I don't know about you, but I don't run to look glamorous while running. I run because I love to run. I love the way I feel while moving fast with the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair. I run to become a better runner.

I'm proud of every single one of my race photos. Even if it looks like I'm barely moving in some of them. Even if my hips are sagging and my hair is plastered to my face (you should see the triathlon photos of swim-cap hair/ helmet head, that's worse) and my form sucks at the end of a long run. If I look unglam and sweaty, that's because I'm actually working hard. I've worked very hard for some PRs lately and you're not allowed to belittle that.

It's a race, not a fashion show. Okay, so maybe some of us are in fact running to get into shape - none of your beeswax. I know you shot Shape, which is an all-women's race, but you don't get a free pass on the sexist attitude because of that. So your glamour shot examples consist of conventionally beautiful, slim women? I'm a runner, I have leg muscles. Sorry I'm not sorry. I wonder, if you were shooting at the Army Half Marathon, would you be complaining about unglam army boys too?

But either way, glam or unglam, that's none of your business as a race photographer. YOUR job as a race photographer is to snap action shots, not fashion shots. You're supposed to capture the full agony and ecstasy of running. (It wouldn't be called a race if it didn't involve *some* pain.) And if you're not capable of doing that, what kind of photographer are you?

Finally, what gets to me the most is that your 'advice' is completely unsolicited. You didn't offer it because someone complained to you about hideous race photos and asked what they could do about them. (Photoshop. Or don't run, perhaps.) You're offering it because YOU think we don't look 'glam' enough for YOUR taste.

Do I give a flying fish what you think I look like while running? Not one bit. So please keep your nose out of it - or next race, you can get a pretty little photo of pretty little me flipping you the pretty little bird.


The Genetically Challenged Athlete

PS: Later edit: it was Holly who first alerted me to the original post. Her post is awfully polite.
Fit and Feminist puts it better than I ever will.

I genuinely appreciate the time and effort put in by race photographers - who instead of running into a breeze have to stand out there in the hot sun for hours and hours. I especially appreciate the ones who volunteer - you're all heroes! But I don't care if my unglam photos ruin someone's album.

PPS: Husband, on reading the offending post: "Wow, I dunno why some guys think it's okay to say really stupid things if they add 'hurhur' or 'don't take it so seriously' afterward." So that's pretty much my final word on it - that was some really stupid advice. It's a blog, feel free to disagree. Ok, I'm done now!