Monday, February 24, 2014

More things for you to read!

Brunch date, his and hers edition 
The husband had to ID some trees for work, and he is not a tree expert at all (more of a working-out-what-things-are-from-satellite-images-expert), so we had a nice walk in the park a couple of weeks ago with a tree guidebook.

That's not a ridiculously tiny backpack, it's a ridiculously tiny pack full of extremely high-tech GPS equipment.

Note to self: when on tree-identifying date, it is advisable to have TWO copies of the tree book instead of one person sitting around checking their phone while the other flips frantically through the book to find said tree.

Earlier this year I talked about all the things I'd love to get done for the year. Reading lots more is one of them. My library card has been getting a lot of exercise lately; here are some of the things (both online and off-) that I've been getting stuck into.

Pure comedy gold - 'Awful stock photos of women running' (stock photos tend to be awful in the first place, stock photos of women even worse, stock photos of women running...well let's just say at least they're not stock photos of women running while eating salad and laughing.)

Google Translate for runnerspeak - slightly more relevant only to the 1 per cent, aka people who are actually, competitively looking to get on a podium, rather than the 99 per cent of us, but amusing nonetheless.

Floating City by Sudhir Venkatesh (that's the book you see in the brunch photo up there)
Sudhir Venkatesh is the erstwhile University of Chicago sociologist who became famous when he contributed to 'Why do Drug Dealers Still Live With Their Moms?' in Freakonomics. Floating City is a study of what makes New York City tick, which of course is an enormous question. The result wasn't too surprising or revealing, given what we know of New York as a place for people to invent and reinvent themselves continually. Anyway, if you liked this, I'd recommend Katherine Boo's 'Behind The Beautiful Forevers' or Robert Neuwirth's 'Stealth of Nations'.

Arcadia by Jim Crace
I hadn't really discovered Jim Crace before reading Harvest, which was on last year's Booker shortlist. These things can best be described as fables both timeless and contemporary. (A few people on Goodreads said Harvest was historically inaccurate, but they were missing the point. I will say the characters in Harvest were not as compelling as those in Arcadia, though.) There's something about Crace's prose - it's blank verse, poetry simmering beneath the surface, waiting to burst into flame. Enjoyed this one v. much.

That's a lot of reading. But what about running? 

Well, on Saturday I did an interesting sort of long run: 6km trying not to go too fast (so 6:30-7:00min/km with great effort), 4km of painful tempo run interspersed with 2km of grouchy walk breaks around Pandan Reservoir in full-on sunshine and heat, and 6km very slow (had to get back to where I started ouch ouch ouch).

I think this progression run stuff needs more work.

Oh, and I'm thinking of another winter marathon this year. Winter Down Under, that is. The Gold Coast Airport Marathon is in July, and it's a fan favourite among Singaporeans because it's cold and flat. I mean, cold and flat...what more can you ask for? 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Race report: Marina Run

I'd done this fairly no-frills evening half marathon in 2011, and DNFed due to stomach trouble. But I trust my friends' race recommendations, and Adrienne had had a good time at this one. So I signed up...and then she wasn't able to make it on race day thanks to a janky foot. Here's to sensible life decisions: rest today to run again another day!

I am not good at sensible life decisions.

Hang in there guys, it's going to be a longish one.

Race pack collection: Packet pickup was a breeze - in, out, done in 2 minutes on a Sunday afternoon. Bonus points for offering same-day packet pickup for runners visiting from overseas!
This race also had 10K and 5K fun run options.

The race pack: I don't really notice what's in the race pack so long as I get a bib and a shirt and a finisher medal at the end, but I know some of my readers do. This race pack was pretty dismal (at least for Singapore and for a run that I paid $50!! for): a bunch of flyers, including one for car servicing and one for air-conditioner servicing, and duplicate flyers for children's soccer birthday parties and gym lessons and watches.
There was one coupon for a massage, WHICH YOU BET YOUR ASS I am going to use, and one for an either-or spa deal: a facial or a 'slimming wrap', neither of which I really want, especially because the latter sounds like a poorly filled burrito.

Race site: The race site at Gardens by the Bay East is convenient only if you live at one of the Tanjong Rhu condos. Otherwise, it's about 1km from the nearest MRT station (Stadium). Walking about 1+km to and from the nearest MRT station is not a huge deal for me, but if this was my first half marathon, it might have been somewhat upsetting, I guess.

I went down with my neighbours Aicha and Peter, who were also running and supposed to meet their friend at the medical tent to give her a race pack. Turns out the medical tent was definitely not where it was supposed to be on the map. Thumbs down.

Baggage deposit and pick-up: When we got there, the bulk of the 10K runners were just finishing, and there was a  horrifyingly long queue for baggage pickup. There were definitely not enough people manning the baggage pick-up booth, probably because some of them were handling half-marathon bag drop. Apparently some of the 10K runners waited in line for half an hour, ABSOLUTELY the last thing one wants to do after running 10K, thank you very much.

Fortunately when I finished, the queue for medal, apple, and water was fast, and I made a beeline for bag check. The queue for baggage...well, I probably stood in line for maybe 5 to 10 minutes.

By the way, race organisers: you know what would be really nice? Just hand us a little prepacked box of food so that we don't have to juggle apple and medal and banana and water etc etc, because ain't nobody got enough hands for that nonsense. One more thing - it would also be nice to have more water at the finish area instead of only at the finish chute.

The route: Two loops of out-and-backs, not particularly exciting, but quite pretty because you go around Marina Bay and a little way up the Kallang River and you get to see everything lit up at night. Not bad!

And now...*drumroll*...The run: 
So after a terrible week at work, I promised myself I would do this as a long run, a kind of reward for making it through the week. Of course I was very bad and didn't keep that promise - more on which later.

There were about a thousand half marathoners, which is really, really small for Singapore! It was crowded for the first couple of km or so, but not too bad after I'd sorted myself out. (I tend to try to get out of the crowds right at the start, but this often spells trouble - here's why.) Later edit: I forgot to count the veteran half marathoners! That means there were about 1,500-1,800. Sorry. Still really really small for Singapore, though.  

I could feel myself going too fast right at the beginning, and was desperately trying to slow down, but my legs seemed to be beyond my control. The angel on one shoulder said: "What are you doing? Stop passing people and rein it in now or else you'll die later." The demon on the other shoulder said: "But you feel fine *now*." In the end my shoulders were inexplicably sore so they must have been slugging it out pretty hard.

So what did I do? Of course I went out too hard for the first 11 or 12km. (What? Nothing hurt. Yet.) There was another woman on my shoulder and we kept trading places; I could hear her breathing quite hard next to me, which was quite distracting; I know she couldn't hear whether I was breathing hard because she had headphones in!

Somewhere around 14km I began to regret my initial burst of speed because I suddenly felt like my legs were made of lead. I kept thinking 'just keep running, just keep running'... My pace definitely dropped a bit here, and at this point I just slowed down to relax and enjoy the night air. The woman with the headphones overtook me and all I could do was glare at her back.

On my second loop, one of the drink stations ran out of water and was apologising: "Sorry, we only have isotonic drink left" - a nasty purple, grapey-smelling stuff. From the way it smelt I half expected it to glow. You had better not run out of water, especially when I'm in the middle of the pack and I know there are plenty of people coming along after me. (A note: When I first started doing half marathons I was so slow that some of the drink stations really did run out of water. So now I always, always, always carry my own for any race over 10K.)

At the 18k mark I somehow summoned enough energy to hammer (ok, only in my dreams; in reality I'm quite sure I looked like a spastic rhinoceros) the last couple of k's home.

I finished in about 2:15, which is where most of my half marathons seem to be these days, and with no ill effects but a pair of sore feet. My half times remind me of my 10K times, which were stuck firmly at 1 hour++ for a very long time until an abrupt and totally surprising breakthrough a couple of years ago. So maybe there's a half breakthrough in the offing somewhere within this lifetime!

My team-mate Claire who ran it as well said the course was a bit long; I still don't own a GPS watch so I'm just going to believe her.

After cooling off I found myself totally encrusted in salt - gross. Good thing I packed and ate my good old shot blocks throughout or there would have been blood. I mean cramps.

At the finish line, Jimmy found me and we set off for food and home. By now it was 10pm and NOW I was famished, so we popped into Burger King. Sometimes you just need a large iced Milo after a race. And sometimes you need a large iced Milo and a nap; I nearly passed out.

The verdict: You all know I really have only two key criteria for a race: Does it start on time? (yes) and Is it the right distance? (no) -- I'd give this one a grade B. Maybe some extra marks for scenery and a relatively thin crowd.

Anyway, I think I've learnt my lesson. The real test is the Run350 half in April, a race for which I actually have goals. You know, like goal number one: don' One day I'll be sensible.

I also think I need to do a couple of things in training:
- One, a long run or two with 7 or 8 tempo km in the latter half. Or some sort of progression long run in which I start slooow (an important lesson in reining it in) and work up to finish off at 10K pace.
- Two, aside from one angel and one demon sitting on my shoulders (those guys need to lose some weight), in all seriousness why are my shoulders sore? I have to figure out what to do to fix that.

An update: Results are out. Discovered my team-mate Claire was FIRST - well done her!

What are these mystery 'lap 1/ lap 2' points - what distances are those anyway? 3km? 4.2km? 5km? 10??? Annoying. Race organisers, please don't do this.

Epilogue: Cheer report, Metasprint Aquathlon

I had somewhat ambitious and extremely optimistic plans for Sunday morning: do a recovery run around Sentosa and cheer friends on in the Metasprint Aquathlon there. But we got home at 11.30pm, and by the time I showered and got into bed it was midnight.

Naturally, my body had other plans. I woke up at 8am, but Shirlene's wave was at 8.35 - not going to make it on time for the start, could I get there on time for the finish?

I got there at 9.15 - eek! - and thought I'd missed her, so I wandered around looking for her ('maybe she's cheering her husband out of the water?')...and missed her coming through the finish. When I turned around again she was standing there (sweaty hugs!) and we cheered Eugene and his friend Aylwin in. Those two are not only very competitive with each other, they're also training for a half-Ironman in May, so after Eugene and Shirlene got home...he turned around and went out to run for an hour. I have no idea how people do it. Training to run takes up enough of my time.

What are your best ideas for 70.3 cheer signs? I suggested Shirlene stand at T1 with a sign that read 'ONLY TWO MORE SPORTS TO GO'. ("Trolls," said Eugene, shooting us a dirty look.)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

a short note about a long run

I'm really looking forward to tonight's half marathon. Especially after the madness of this work week in which things happened or didn't happen or fell through or got arranged or rearranged and came at all of us from every which direction at once. A week in which, for three days, I saw my own husband awake for a sum total of ten minutes. A week in which I didn't get remotely enough sleep until last night. All that accumulated stress is waiting in my legs to be pounded out, the heavy fuzziness in my head to be dissipated, the monkey on my back shaken loose and sent floating off into the sky over Marina Bay. I'm looking forward to a nice quiet long run tonight, in the darkness of the gardens at night, just me and the wind and my watch.

Once, in JC, I was on a school trip to climb Mount Kinabalu in East Malaysia. The way most people do it is you spend one day climbing halfway up, overnight from about 4pm to 3am at a lodge midway, and summit and come down the next day so you can see the sunrise at the summit. In the wee chilly hours of the morning, as we were trudging blearily in silence up the path towards the summit, I turned around and saw a long line of headlamps and torches twinkling in the darkness all the way back to the lodge. And in the magic of that single moment I forgot how cold and out of breath and weary I was. Just me, and the wind, and my watch.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

You may be a runner if...

You know. Sometimes we have doubts about these things.

Here's a handy-dandy guide: Are you a runner?

You may be a runner if...

- You have Very Strong Opinions about shorts vs capris and when and where to wear each.
- And about running with, or without music.
- Your laundry contains more sports bras than regular ones.
- You own more sports bras than regular ones. (...ahem. guilty as charged...)
- Saturday morning long-run planning begins on Friday afternoon.
- Yours are the grimiest shoes in the gym. (What is this 'indoors' business?)
- Don't even get me started on shoes.
- You have planned at least one holiday around a race. (Hello, Tokyo Marathon! And Perth City To Surf!)
- You get annoyed when someone calls it 'jogging'.
- You don't NEED coloured cornstarch, zombies, or lightsticks to enjoy running, but will jump in for 'colour runs', 'zombie runs', or hen party runs with friends for a nice social affair
- You get more excited than your best friend about her upcoming first 5K.
- This is a real problem:

- You run. As in, you put one foot in front of another at a speed faster than your walking pace, putting some real effort into it, and you do all of this deliberately, day after day, of your own volition...and you enjoy it.

Any more suggestions?


I haven't blogged for three weeks - sorry, internets - and suddenly I have my very first race of 2014 coming up this weekend: the Marina 21K!
This was the one I ran into gastric trouble at two years ago and DNFed. Ow.
It starts at 7.30pm though so I haven't decided whether I'll fun-run it or race it. My circadian rhythm doesn't really like running at night, and my 13h/day work schedule this week isn't the most conducive to resting. But I feel fine, speedwork has been going well, I've been good about strength and stretching, and I've been quite consistent about running ~40km/ week since the Standard Chartered ekiden in December. So who knows?

I leave you with the highlight of my last weekend run:
Bad idea: running 12.5km after sleeping for 4.5 hours following a wild house-cooling party at a friend's house. (The difference between parties in your early 20s and parties in your late 20s: at the latter, not only does no one question your choice not to drink alcohol - which I don't at all for medical reasons - but they support you, no one pressures you to drink, and the host offers you tea.)
Good idea: running 12.5km to Sentosa
Bad idea: running to Sentosa via the Southern Ridges (what goes down must come up; I had to stop and walk on Mount Faber)