Sunday, March 9, 2014

A very productive weekend

Race report: Venus Run 

There aren't a lot of races in Singapore that are just a 5K. Normally, a 5K is the neglected smaller sibling of some big event like a 10K or a half marathon. Or if you're a sprint triathlete, 5K is your cooldown. So I always leap at the chance to take part in an event that's SOLELY a 5K, because when it's well-organised, a 5K race really has a chance to shine.

The all-women's Venus Run is held to mark International Women's Day. It was held on Saturday for the third time (see last year's race report when I did it for the first time), and at Marina Barrage again. The route was changed up slightly - last year's race ended with a very painful climb to the Barrage rooftop, while this year's painful climb was in the middle!

route goes up that wide arm of the spiral, and down the other side
It's organised by the Singapore Athletic Association, and sponsored by compression-gear company X-Bionic, which gave us a really spiffy-looking and probably highly-engineered...but potentially somewhat hot...shirt.  I'm glad the shirt now says 'Diamonds aren't my best friends...Running is'.  I quite like the shirt, even with all the logos, and it will probably stand me in good stead the next time I go cross-country skiing...

So, only 5k? Let me tell you, there is nothing 'only' about racing a 5K. I'm not a speedster at all, and I've painfully clawed my way to every PR minute by minute. I'll take 800s over sprints at track any time. And I'm still a chicken; I don't push myself till I totally blow up. So...why did I sign up for this? I had a good time last year. And I wanted to find out if those track workouts have had any effect.

I walked to the event site from Bayfront MRT. It's about 1.5-2km, and I know all the shortcuts because I've run this dozens of times, but a small investment in shuttle buses from Marina Bay MRT would be really nice. One photographer stationed near the Flower Dome gave me a thumbs-up and I gave him a grin.

I didn't take advantage of this, but I noticed folks with cold drinks and ice cream? fro-yo? before the start. Extra bonus points! I once had a delayed tri wave start at 9am and almost died of dehydration because there was no access to fluids beforehand.

After bag drop (2 minutes), I excuse-me'd my way to a few rows behind the start line, shoulder to sweaty shoulder with loads of other runners. Apparently some 4,400 runners took part. And here I thought it was a smallish race. Normally I'm a prerace Oscar the Grouch, but I was in a good mood, and all the enthusiasm was infectious, even if I was too tightly packed in to do the Zumba warmup. Clearly the organisers were sprinkling pixie dust on the whole thing.

The gun went off and we flooded out; I immediately got stuck behind a couple of people, passed them, traded places with a few others, and then suddenly I'd run the first km in 4:26 (there's that starting-too-fast problem again). The next km flew by, as did a turnaround. Past the first (only) drink station of the race, and then we were heading up to the rooftop of Marina Barrage.

Afterwards, I did hear a couple of complaints that the only water point was at 3++ km on a very hot day. I don't even think to drink during a 5K, but for new runners this could be a bit of an issue. (Something for race organisers in general: Keep in mind that a race experience can be very, very different for the podium finishers and the 1 per cent, vs the 99 per cent; organisers should try their best to ensure that everyone, right down to the last person, has a good experience. Also keep in mind that the 99 per cent pay 99 per cent or more of your race entry fees.)

Going up the Marina Barrage Spiral of Doom.  
I saw Holly and her cheer squad here -
Holly & Zun. Best sign ever, so many people took photos with it! 
 - and before I could yell anything at them (heard someone yelling 'Go Grace', Tekko or Holly was that you?) we were heading down the other 'arm' of the spiral and across the dam itself. I'm pretty sure I began to slow down here, and was passed by a couple of women. Then another turnaround, back across the dam, and back towards the end point.

Thanks to a wonky distance marker that I now realise was *definitely* not at 4km, I thought I wasn't going to make it under 25 minutes. But as I rounded the corner I realised the time on the clock read 24:42, and charged into the finish for a total time of 24:50somethingorother...

A couple of friends with GPS watches confirmed that the race wasn't short, and so I am now the owner of a shiny new 5K PR - a PR that is almost two minutes faster than my last one (26:40 some time in the distant past). And between the heat (30 degrees C at 5pm), the headwind and the spiral of doom this was a tough, tough run. So that PR is legit, hooray! Update: chip time was 24:50 with no puking involved, I'll take that as a success. 

At the bag drop I ran into national rower Saiyidah Aisyah, and chatted with her while we waited to get our bags.
'You run as well as row?' I asked. It turns out she runs for cross-training, typically about an hour at a go. The 5K was painful, she said - 'It's like sprinting all the way!'. Now, she's in training for the Asian Games in August. (And then the Commonwealth Games, and then the Olympics, I hope. Super cool.)

Generally, the race site was well laid-out, with no inconvenient crisscrossings or snarls. The route might have involved a giant Barrage spiral climb of doom, but I'm glad it was at 3.5k this year instead of the finish line like last year (which is nice mentally, because you know that you're done as soon as you finish the climb, but not so great for race atmosphere because more people can fit on the ground than on the roof). So yeah, I'd do this again next year. Just put the distance markers in the right place.

Extra bonus points for:
- Plenty of COLD water and sports drink BEFORE and after the run
- Taking feedback about last year's shirt!
Minus points for:
- Bag drop folks being totally unable to find my bag for something like ten minutes while a queue built up behind me and I began to freak out; finally I went round behind the counter and told them 'please just help the people behind me, I'll look for it myself'. Time taken to find bag: 30 seconds.
- Not sure why, but it took the organisers a full week to put up official results and timings, and not even the full downloadable list at that.
Mega thanks to: 
- Holly for cheering
- The Running Shots team for the pix  

Let's get some shoes: the Mizuno Wave Hitogami 

On Saturday afternoon, before the Venus Run, I also popped in to TRG to get the shoes that are going to see me most of the way through this year's marathon cycle. The New Balance 1400v2 was out of stock in my size, so Wille suggested the Mizuno Wave Hitogami, because they're very similar. Both have a 9mm heel drop, a soft non-plasticky upper, and a wide toe box. The Hitogami looks like it won't have the problem I had with the NB1400 (peeling overlays) though, which is nice.  

Aren't they blindingly gorgeous? This morning I ran an easy 12k in them. Very comfortable - my feet felt at home straight away. Must save them for last few long runs and marathon. 
These guys were also in the shop while I was trying on shoes. They're doing a very, very long run through a very hot, dusty desert to raise money for animal rescue charities. That's dedication. Folks are amazing! 


My life isn't all about running though; this afternoon I made... 

Chilled cucumber-celery soup
1 large cucumber
3 stalks celery 
1 tablespoon lemon juice
A good pinch each of coriander seed powder and cumin powder, to taste 
1/2 tsp salt 
1 clove garlic
1.5 cups Greek yoghurt 
1 tbsp mayonnaise 
1 tbsp olive oil 

Put everything in a bowl and blend with hand blender or food processor. Allow soup to chill out in fridge before serving. Makes 2 large servings or 4 small ones.

I just made sugar cookies (am still wavering on whether or not to top them with caramel sauce - maybe they're sweet enough), and I'm going to make fried tofu and tuna onigiri for dinner tonight. Lucky husband. (He does the dishes. Lucky me.)  

Next up: Marathon training for Gold Coast begins this week. Also, if you're doing the Twilight Ultra challenge, I'll be volunteering, come and say hi! 


  1. Well done on the PR. A 5k is such a tough event. I think people just see a small number and assume that it'll be way easier than a half marathon but honestly those 5k can be some of the toughest you'll ever run. And people eating ice cream beforehand? I'd say they're walkers - there's no way I can stomach something like that in a race that takes me to my puke zone.

    1. Thanks! I wasn't sure about the people eating ice cream beforehand - probably walkers! (If I was walking 5K on a super hot day, I would certainly indulge in some ice cream to cool off.) I did not get to the puke zone, ahem, because I am a giant chicken, but will probably have to go there for my next 5K PR...whenever that may be.

  2. Congrats on the shiny new PR!! Two minutes is HUGE in a 5K.

    Heh, interesting you should mention the Hitogamis -- I just ran in them yesterday for the first time. I'm surprised they'd describe them as similar to the NB 1400s -- I've run in both now & they strike me as VERY different. The Hitogamis, in particular, feel very narrow to me (almost deal-breaker narrow, actually), especially in the toe box, where as the 1400s always felt nice & wide. I'll be curious to hear what you think of them!

    1. Thanks! Interesting. I think shoes really do treat everyone's feet differently. For instance, Saucony Kinvaras press on my smallest toes in a way that makes them feel too narrow (when everyone else says the toe box is fairly wide). I don't have that problem in the NB 1400s or Hitogamis (so far). I'll be running a bit more in the Hitogamis in the next few weeks; let's compare notes.

  3. Great job!

    I love the pink shoes, too!

    It can be hard to find nice looking shoes that fit well too. I need quite light shoes (not minimalist, but close) that are also snug, because my feet are narrow. Always a challenge.