Monday, April 28, 2014

One day I'll laugh about this

Ever have one of those deeply ridiculous, frustrating, disappointing, exasperating days that you just know you'll have a good laugh about - eventually?
That was my weekend: in which the half marathon I was supposed to run didn't happen, and in which I had probably the worst run of this marathon training cycle (let's just say it can only go up from here).

A little bit of background:  So, I worked on Saturday, and when I say I worked I mean I was on the duty roster and I do any and all odd stories that come in - police news, fire breaks out, etc etc. This past Saturday wasn't so bad - only two assignments and three minor freakouts. But it was still a 14-hour day from 8am to 10pm. I managed to eat lunch at 3, and then after the second assignment of the day I had an inauspiciously dodgy greasy wrap thing at 6pm and finally had some water after not drinking anything all day. Then I went to the airport at 10.30pm to pick up the husband and had what must unequivocally be the saddest prerace dinner ever:

a bun wrapped in plastic and about three inches of coffee.

His flight got in at 10.40pm and by the time we got home it was midnight. Obviously this set me up real well for the Run350 half marathon the next morning that started at 5.30am, right? (And I wasn't even racing it really, I had 21km on the schedule that day anyway. I thought I might as well have some company, so I signed up when registration opened months ago. Then we got the monthly roster for April...)

The race organisers were kind enough to arrange shuttle buses to the race from several MRT stations so I'd originally booked a bus ticket from Buona Vista. For 3.50am, the only time the shuttles left.

At 3.50am, I was still asleep.

At 4.15am, I woke up a bit more, had some breakfast, and then my fabulous husband/ support crew was supposed to drive me to the race. ("Why on earth would you want to drive me there? Doesn't that just make for TWO sleep-deprived people??" "Oh no, I can always go back to sleep.")

At 4.45, I made the executive decision that I wasn't going to run a half marathon on 3.5 hours of sleep and hardly any dinner.

It was possibly the ONLY smart life decision that I made all weekend, because at 6am I was woken up by a text from the race organisers to say the half was cancelled due to a massive thunderstorm. (Hooray!) A really smart person would have just declared victory and quit then and there, rolled over, gone back to sleep, and lived to run another day. No, I had to go and try to run my scheduled 21km after the rain stopped at 8am. Mind you, I hadn't had any more to eat since my 4.15 wakeup call. (People make terrible decisions when sleep-deprived.)

I set off, already feeling exhausted and hungry, and a few km in, I ran into a spot of stomach trouble. Remember the inauspiciously dodgy greasy wrap thing? It refused to come back up; it went the other way instead. I grew up on street food and usually have a cast-iron stomach, so I blame the lack of sleep.

So imagine this: 5km into a run; no sleep, no dinner, girl trouble, stomach trouble, and home is 5km away while the nearest lavatory is 4km away in the other direction. What do you do? You run-walk-jog to the nearest loo, of course.

Once inside, you find the nearest loo -- the only loo for miles -- At which point you burst into tears, then collect yourself and take a cab home.

You might entertain thoughts of trying again and doing another 10km in the afternoon, but the universe has other plans for you and hits you with a migraine, and then you just give up on life altogether and declare it a nap day.

Sunday wasn't a complete wash though - after I recovered from the morning run-disaster we went to our friends' place for some delicious brunch and Ultimate Fighting Championship live on some sports channel (aka: naptime/ playing with friends' dogs/ playing with other friends' cute toddler to distract her from the violence on TV). But yes, sometimes the universe just decides to punch you several times in the face and then guillotine-choke you into submission.

Gold Coast training log week 8 (April 21-27) 
Monday: 10.5km + TRX
Tuesday: speed set
Wednesday: TRX with Shirlene
Thursday: AM: 8km tempo. PM: 5.6km at the JP Morgan Challenge with colleagues (5:10 pace, yes I do go out too fast during races)
Friday: 11km easy
Saturday - skipped planned 10km, working
Sunday: 9km misery
Total: 49km + TRX

Friday, April 25, 2014

Flying solo + week 7 training log

I've been flying solo this week because the husband is away at a conference for work. It turns out that an apartment occupied by one person (even if that person is out for a great deal of the day) becomes just as grimy as an apartment occupied by two people, but the difference is that one person gets to do all the chores herself.

On the plus side, that one person gets to burp, fart, eat cereal and prunes for dinner, finish off the very good cheddar cheese, and stay up much too late reading a giant Haruki Murakami novel that is fat enough to hurt when I fall asleep with it on my face. It's midnight and I have 10km on deck tomorrow morning and I'm about to read another chapter. Smart life decisions.

Also, one is never really done with dishes. Now I know how Sisyphus felt.

Gold Coast training log week 7 - April 14 to 21 

Monday - 5.1km + yoga

Tuesday - track. 9 by 400 hard with plenty of rest (was supposed to be 10 but I had good old bronchiospasms midway and couldn't breathe so the last, oh, five of them were about half a minute slower than they should have been. delightful)

Wednesday - 1-hour TRX class - probably my new favourite strength class; it's a full-body workout but doesn't completely kill me

Thursday - tempo: 11.2km with five of those at 6:00/km, and yoga

Friday - 10km easy

Saturday - 11km trail, easy

Sunday - 16km continuous, 18km with a bit more jogging: Went around Gardens by the Bay via the river.  After last week's slightly epic long run I felt I ought to back off a tiny bit. I'm only just starting to do about 60km a week consistently. I looked back in my training log and last week's 64.5km is the farthest I've ever run in a week. Ever. (New achievement unlocked! I did do 80km once but that included rather a lot of hiking.)
I realise this is pretty miserable for someone who's somehow managed to jogwalkbumblethrough four marathons but let's face it, I've trained through these things since 2010 with a full-time job and a half, and life happens. I could add more easy mileage and I probably will, but I am so slow that it will involve multiple doubles.  Anyway - I feel I'll do better on 60-70km/ week consistently than 80 one week, 40 the next. Ehh. Baby steps.

Total: 61km, TRX, yoga 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ultra volunteering, tri spectating

A couple of weeks ago I volunteered at the Twilight Ultra Challenge organised by the Running Guild.

If you remember this was on my list of 2014 Things To Do. I'd never volunteered at a race before, but I picked Running Guild because I LOVE their small community-focused events - those events are really well-organised, by runners for runners, and they really do know what runners need. At Twilight, most of the volunteers were high school kids who needed to get community service hours, but quite a number were runners themselves.

So, I signed up back in January, and we got our briefing packets through email. I was assigned to the 'special needs table' - if you're not familiar with ultras, those that come in the form of multiple laps typically have a spot where you can drop off stuff you might need over the course of the race, but that you don't want to carry with you. People stash food, extra gels, a spare shirt, phone chargers, and in the case of one runner, an entire set of shower stuff so she could take a shower and change mid-run! (It worked - she ran 100km...) Another runner had a pack of cigarettes and would go for a smoke every lap or two (!...) . Another one chatted on the phone with a series of friends overseas nearly the whole time.

For the first hour or two we were super busy just taking in people's drop bags and labelling them with masking tape and marker pens (should just get sticky labels next year - save on masking tape).

At 7pm the runners were off! The race course consisted of a 10km loop, with a main aid station in the middle and one at each end. Race format was as many 10km loops as you could run in 16 hours (!!!).

We spent another half hour arranging the special needs bags by runner bib number. For the first couple of hours, as people came in, we directed them to their bags; by about 11pm most people had a pretty good idea of where their stuff was. I feel like I could have been redirected to labour-intensive stations that really did need more volunteers, like the food station (they were kept busy boiling hot water for coffee, cooking hotdogs, slicing watermelon, and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all night).

At 1am I took a tiny nap because we weren't needed that much, then alternated between directing people to their bags and handing out gummi bears and biscuits. At 4am I took a slightly longer nap (it was supposed to be half an hour but it inadvertently turned into an hour and a half, oops).

Runners sprawled all over the place - about 3am
And then, sunrise!

As the morning wore on, the special needs table team took turns manning the spray bottle to spritz runners with ice cold water - by about 8am, they really, really needed it.

Photo credit - Dave of PictureArt
Finally, at 11am, the ultra was over. The eventual winner ran 145km. In 16 hours. Let's just say that's faster than my long-run pace.

The medals are the size of your face, just in case you need bragging rights.

A few of the volunteers. Photo credit - Ben Swee (race director!)
I don't feel any urge to do an ultra in the near future, but if I did, it would be with these guys. And would I volunteer for another Running Guild race again? You betcha.

Gold Coast training log, week 6 - April 7 to 13 

Monday - 6km to gym, yoga

Tuesday - 16x400 leaving every 2:30 - this was a tolerance set, so 400s at moderate pace, about 2:00.

Wednesday - a true rest day

Thursday - AM: tempo - 1.2km warmup, 7km at 6:00/km, 2km cooldown. PM - 5km easy with coworkers after work near the office, chatting all the way.

Friday - 'GRIT strength' class at the gym -- half an hour of high intensity interval strength workout that is way tougher than it sounds + 1.2km cooldown. All I can say about this one is, burpees are the exercise from hell and no one should ever do them. It's Sunday night and I'm still sore.

Saturday - 10.3km to and around the Botanic Gardens

Sunday - 25km from downtown to Changi Beach for more tri spectating. Once you get on that Changi park connector, you really have to commit because it's the middle of nowhere and there is no turning back. I ran a little bit longer than expected because I suck at estimating distances - I'd thought it was 21k from downtown to my destination. Also, one of my water stops was simply not open at 8.30am when I got there, so I arrived at the end point ABSOLUTELY STARVING and Shirlene had to feed me a Snickers bar to stop me from tipping over.

Shirlene and I are rapidly becoming Super Tri Spectators. This morning we chalked up some more tri spectating points by cheering our heads off at the Metasprint sprint-distance tri at Changi Beach Park. Her husband and his friend were racing each other - I mean, they were racing, but the actual race doesn't matter as long as Eugene beats Aylwin. Or vice versa. You know. Boys.

Total: 64.5km + yoga + GRIT + tri spectating

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What's new, folks?

Makiko and I, reunited at the Twilight Ultra Challenge I was volunteering at - her husband was running!
Reading list, on and off 
I've just finished Charles Stross's 'Glasshouse', on SF Road Warrior's recommendation. Sure, it's scifi, but all good scifi contains a kernel or six of incisive social commentary, and this one says a lot of things about gender norms, identity and 20th century society despite being set in the centuries-distant future. It's bubbling over with ideas and is a pretty fast, fun read.

Also just read Jonathan Black's 'Making the American Body'. I feel like the publishers didn't do a great job of marketing this book...or editing it, because it could have been so much more. It's a nice packaged history at a glance of the fitness industry, from Arnold to Zumba. You'll meet Abbye 'Pudgy' Stockton of 1940s Muscle Beach, who at 115 lbs could lift her 180lb husband and wrote a column called Barbelles; and the business-savvy founder of Jazzercise, Judi Sheppard Missett. (Yep, before there was Zumba, there was Jazzercise.) But I feel like the author didn't push deep enough into exactly who these characters were and what their motivations were - or draw much of a link to modern-day fitness trends, cultural neuroses, body dysmorphic disorder, gender, or obesity.

Gold Coast week 5 of 18 - training log 

Monday - 8km to/ at the gym, plus hot yoga. I have the world's best yoga instructor - zero nonsense, nothing faux-spiritual, just a good stretch in a warm room. Short, sturdy, loud, and hilarious are not things one typically associates with yoga teachers. I'm a regular. This is a good class.

Tuesday track - 5km time trial in 25:49 (not my best time, but now I'm sure Venus Run was probably not a fluke. Dear lord, do I hate time trials. Does anyone ever do better in a TT than in an actual race?)

Wednesday - a warmup jog and strength work

Thursday - 10km of very painful, miserable, appalling tempo attempt; you could have melted down my legs for solder. This week I'll try doing my strength work AFTER the tempo run and have Wednesday as a true rest day.

Friday - 8km easy

Saturday - skipped my planned 10km because I was working

Sunday - The longest long run I've done in a while, and the most successful in terms of sticking to plan. 20km: 8km easy (in the neighbourhood of 7min/km), 6km tempo at 6min/km around Pandan Reservoir, 6km easy all the way home - hooray! Fuelled by shot blocks and overnight oats (oats soaked in cold soymilk overnight because oatmeal keeps me full longer than anything else, but trying to eat a hot breakfast when it's 30C in the morning is just too much to ask). Who says I never learn?

Total: 52km 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Great Hansons Marathon Experiment, Round 2: Here we go again

After several weeks of dithering, I've picked this year's marathon: the Gold Coast Airport Marathon.

Based on what I can do for a half marathon, I'm shooting for 4:30* and those are the paces I'm training at, but given the unpredictability of my work schedule and my long history with muscle cramps, let's see how it goes!

*an almost entirely arbitrary number; I might as well pick a perfect square, or a prime number, or no number. At some point I will have a Conversation with Coach Shem about choosing a marathon goal. Hopefully sooner rather than later. It kind of dictates what paces I train at.

One of my mini goals this time around is to be able to finish strong, happy, and cramp-free. (Please, running gods? Can I have just one marathon without cramping? Internet, can you find me salt tabs I won't throw up?) In Perth, things were all right all the way until the last 5km, when the cramps hit and I had to sit down and wail for a while. I think the secret is more tempo runs. Long ones. Long, painful ones.

Gold Coast training, week 4 (March 24-30): 

Monday - 5km easy and yoga. Or rather, because I woke up late, yoga followed by half an hour on the treadmill to undo all the nice stretching that yoga did for my legs.

Tuesday - speedwork. 7x800 on the track - did a few of them at 4:00 with 30s rest, and a few of them at 3:45 with 2 minutes' rest. Very, very confused.

Wednesday - off

Thursday - 9.5km tempo run at roughly 6:08/km (a little bit faster than marathon goal pace - this is good)

Friday - 8km easy + strength work

Saturday - 18km to and around Macritchie Reservoir; met friends near the visitor centre and carried on around the reservoir with them

Saturday to Sunday - ultramarathon volunteering at the Twilight Ultra Challenge

Sunday - lots of sleep and 4.5km Running of the Errands

Total: 50.6km + yoga + strength training