Monday, June 30, 2014

Holy taper, Batman

Where am I? What is this? What day is it? Oh hey there. It's Pre-Marathon Monday and I'm packing for this long-awaited vacation...

Last week was a bit of a blur. I did my usual week of night shift, but was also chasing a couple of pretty intense stories so most of those days turned out to involve roughly 12-14 hours of work - a couple of hours before my shift, and then the regular shift from 2 to 11pm.

Consequently, I. Was. Wiped.

Monday got off to a decent start: 6.5km + yoga.

Tuesday morning's track session also involved a tropical monsoon storm. I think the rain was coming down sideways. I hope Coach Shem brought a firehose to the evening track session to properly simulate a monsoon for them. Got to give everyone the same set, right?
Fortunately or unfortunately it was the exact same set as last week (if he does it a third time this week I'm going to scream. Unless it's hard 400s, then just kill me now.) - 6.5km?

Followed by some strength exercises.

Why yes, we all phone each other Monday night and coordinate our outfits, and then line up according to the rainbow...doesn't your team?

Wednesday and Thursday, I continued to be wiped out. On the Hansons plan, Wednesdays are usually a strategically-planned rest day in which you get to spend all day dreading Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I was dreading Thursday's planned 16km tempo so much that I physically couldn't get out of bed on Thursday morning and so the tempo run did not happen.

Friday morning I was still exhausted: 5km.

Saturday and Sunday we were in Penang for my high school friend's lovely wedding, so I ran a quick tempo 5km on Saturday morning before we headed to the airport.

Souvenir. Married people love other people's weddings, they remind us how fun ours were. 
Sunday was spent sleeping in and eating. And eating. And then eating some more. Total for the week: 23km and yoga.

Above: my better half with the best assam laksa known to man (pictures of the laksa itself would have been pointless. It looks like something that came out of a drain, but it tastes like heaven. Southeast Asian food tends to under-promise in looks but over-deliver.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A few selections from the runner's dictionary

With apologies to Ambrose Bierce.

Fart - deeply suspicious. Never trust one.

Fartlek - Swedish for 'running full tilt until the next lamp-post, then walking three miles home'.

Foam roller - simultaneously a torture device and instrument of mercy

Lube - slathered liberally on intimate parts to...get your mind out of the gutter... prevent chafing...get your mind out of the gutter.

Long slow distance - Vital opportunity to get dropped on a group run 

Masochist - see 'runner'

Monsoon - a minor obstacle

Puddle - see 'monsoon' - the best part of a run, naturally  

Runner - see 'masochist'

Shower - failproof instrument for locating all the spots you've chafed, just in case you miss one

Give me some more suggestions! 

Gold Coast training log, week 16 (June 16 to 22)
Monday - 5.5km + yoga 
Tuesday - AM Track: 3[7(40s hard/ 20s easy) + 3min recovery] ; PM 3km eeeeeaaaaaasy and Body Pump. (Heart rate - don't know, don't care; pace - don't know, don't care; distance - don't know, don't care; effort - on target.) 
Wednesday - rest 
Thursday - 15.2km tempo at 1:36 (6:22 minutes per km with BEAUTIFUL PERFECT AMAZING weather - now I just need to hold that for 42.2km...) 
Friday - 5.64km easy + core and ITB routine 
Saturday - slept in 
Sunday - 23km in bits and bobs at the Run for Cover event (more on which later!) 
Total: 59km (estimated) 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Peak week

Hello from the loopiness that is peak week!

I hit 70km last week. For me, that's a lot. Possibly the most I've ever hit in a marathon training cycle. If you are paying attention to the Hansons plans, it is not remotely near the actual peak mileage one is supposed to get. But in terms of absolute time on my feet, that's certainly equivalent to other people's manymoremiles.

Every marathon cycle gets more interesting. Longer peak weeks? More ways to hurt? Adding a strength class? Bring it on. At this point I think I've been fairly good about those resolutions to stretch and do strength training. That was another little goal that I set down at the start of this cycle.

Oddly enough, I'm not totally wiped out and hungry and sleepy all the time. My body seems to have adapted just enough that I'm hungry and tired and sleepy, but not horrifically so. I would say I'm almost feeling good, but I'd rather not jinx it.

In honour of this I've been reading a couple of things:
- Nonrunners often ask me: Why are you running so much? So - How many miles is enough? The answer really depends on the distance of race you pick, the rate at which you ramp up, and the amount your body can handle. Me, I'd like to train just hard enough to hit whatever goals I've set over the distance I've picked and still finish smiling. For too many reasons to list I will never be competing at the Olympics, so I don't believe in suffering all that much.
On un-becoming a runner is a musing on running, identity, and the extent to which being a runner is or isn't an identity. (The wag in me would like to pipe up: the sight of me running is pretty unbecoming anyway.)

Gold Coast training log week 15
Monday: 7.5km easy, followed by yoga class. I often run this easy run a little harder than I should be doing, because I am perpetually running late for yoga class.
Tuesday: AM: a very confused mixed-up speed session at the track with a substitute coach who accidentally got the location wrong. 5x800 with plyometrics, 4x100 sprints, 400m cooldown. PM: Bodypump class preceded by a meandering 3km because I (miracle...) got to the gym early.
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 12km tempo
Friday: 11km easy
Saturday: 25km long run. I'm solidifying my fuelling plan: endurolyte capsule before I start; one shot blok every 5km; an endurolyte cap and a minute walk break every hour.
Sunday: 5.9km less easy than I ought to (had to rush off to work after that)
Total: 70km 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Dear Singapore race directors

Dear Singapore race directors / organising firms, 

I'm trying to pin down my race calendar for the rest of the year, and here's how to get my hard-earned $$ and how to make sure I really train for your race: 

- My basic requirements are, as always: a) Is the distance correct? b) Does the race start on time? 

- Would it kill you, really, to tell us what the route least a month in advance? 

- Please make sure there is ample water. In case you haven't noticed, this country is rather hot and extremely humid. There is absolutely zero excuse for running out of water. Especially at a small race.

- I love it when races give away photos (aka photo price is included in the race fee) or make the photos low-cost for runners. No use making three lonely shots available for a package price of $39 - who buys those? There are plenty of hobby interest groups who will shoot for free or a nominal fee. But if you're keen on getting professional photographers to do the job, make sure you pay them what they deserve - they will be shooting for 7 to 9 hours before, during and after a marathon. 

- Please brief your volunteers well! A useful answer to "This road's closed for the race - how do I walk from point A to point B?" instead of 'uh, I dunno' will go a long way in helping runners as well as members of the public, and make the public more charitably inclined towards big fat races that set up shop in their neighbourhood. (On a related note, I wish more runners would volunteer. Most race volunteers here are high school or university kids volunteering to get community-service points; while they are usually sweet and enthusiastic, they don't always know what runners want or need.) 

- Same day or same-weekend race pack pickup would be really nice. Singapore is small so it's not absolutely necessary, but races that attract international participants (Sundown, Standard Chartered) already have this. It would be a tiny bit more convenient... 

- Giving out proper age-group prizes would put a little more competitive fire in our heels! I remember doing a very small race (Pioneer Road Run) where the top 10 finishers would get prizes - I tried to chase down the lead women and didn't wind up top 10, but ended up 12th with a shiny new 10K PR. (I was not lying when I said I haven't a competitive bone in my body...only my muscles are competitive...) Right now, most running races here have just two giant categories - 18 to 35 and 'masters'. My usual reaction to that is 'meh, I'm never going to win anything so I'll just chug along - maybe I'll PR if the stars are aligned'. 

- You know what's worse? I've seen some triathlons that do proper age groups for the men, but lump several women's age groups into one. Not exactly fair is it? It's not as though the women aren't training as hard. Sure there are fewer women in triathlons here in general, but that is absolutely not an excuse for differential treatment. (My gold standard is Metasprint - go and see how they do it.)  

- Another thing on my wish list: Live results posted at the finish, or at least same-day race results. Okay, this is much harder when there are thousands and thousands of runners - even a 'small' race like the Venus Run has a couple of thousand participants. But the Metasprint triathlon series I've been doing has laptops with your live results and it's always fun to check your results and your friends'. Really, there is no reason to keep participants waiting for results for a whole week.  

- And something really, really basic: don't mix up net time and gun time, dummy. 

In related gumby news, I will be doing something that scares the eff out of me: I signed up for my first-ever olympic-distance tri in September. Time to get a new pair of goggles and clear the cobwebs from the bike... 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

More gelato than speedwork

Well, that was a rollercoaster three weeks. 

Two weeks of this:

Atop Pietra di Bismantova in Reggio Emilia (photo credit: Mr GCA)
I had gelato from this particular gelateria three times while we were in Florence.

The view from atop Il Duomo
Hikes and museums and cathedrals and gelato, oh my. 

Followed by nearly a week of this: 

working our tails off 8am-10pm each day to cover a confluence of three conferences - World Cities Summit, Singapore International Water Week, and CleanEnviro Summit

And a couple of tiny life triumphs: 
- I just found the swimsuit wringer machine in my gym. How have I lived without this before? Now after my long run I go and do my cooldown (five minutes on a stationary bike), my strength and core, my stretching...and I soak my shirt in water and wring it out manually a couple of times - and then stick it in the wringer so it's practically dry for the unfortunate folks around me on the train ride home! 
- A couple of my poems are running in the Manoa Journal's special Singapore issue, Starry Island

Gold Coast training log week 11 (May 12-18)
Monday: 11km of trails, then TRX in the evening
Tuesday: 10.53km -- mile reps with warmup and cooldown
Wednesday: 5km and stretch class 
Thursday was a travel day. 
Friday: 5km around Rome (we did a loop of the Colosseum!), 
Saturday and Sunday were spent walking around Rome. While wandering around we walked straight into 
a Race for the Cure 5K - Komen Foundation, pink ribbons and all - happening just around the Colosseum! 
Note: I'm not even going to count mileage for this and the next couple of weeks. Who knows how much time we spent on our feet? Nor do I really care - the point of this trip was a physical and mental break. 

Gold Coast training log week 12 (May 19-25)
Monday was another travel day - this time from Rome to Florence, and then getting settled in at my husband's uncle's place with my in-laws (they were with us from Monday till the end of the trip) 
Tuesday: 8km loop around Florence, in the hills south of the old city
Wednesday: Early morning hill sprints while nervously watching for SUVs to come barrelling down the narrow, steep road 
Thursday was spent wandering around Venice. 
Friday was in Florence again followed by a long drive up to the small town of Borgomanero to visit relatives. 
Saturday and Sunday involved a lot of heavy-duty eating...

Gold Coast training log week 13 (May 26-June 1)
Monday: 8km hill loop around Florence in the morning, followed by a 6km chunk of the Renaissance Ring to a small, ancient monastery. If you are in Florence for more than a few days I recommend taking a day out to do this; it makes a great break from fighting with the crowds of tourists. 
Tuesday: We drove to up a small Italian mountain town in the Appenines, got on a trail in the mist and fog, and then promptly veered off-course to an expert trail that involved a considerable amount of scrambling. Epic.
Wednesday: A far better hike.
enough said
Thursday involved SO MUCH CHEESE - a tour of a Parmigiano Reggiano factory, to be precise - and SO MUCH CURED MEAT (we hauled 2 kilos of prosciutto di parma and a kilo of sausage back home). This trip had all the elements of a perfect holiday: a little museum-ing and cathedral-ing, a little family time, a little outdoors time, and a lot of food. 
Friday to Saturday were also epic: woke up -> drove to Parma -> waited for train -> got on train to Bologna -> waited for train -> got on train to Rome -> waited for train -> got on train to Rome airport -> checked in -> waited -> sat on plane to Dubai -> napped, waited -> got on plane to Singapore -> landed in Singapore at 8pm. Total travel time: 30 hours. 
Sunday morning: 17km. 
Gold Coast training log week 14 (June 2-8) 
Monday and Tuesday were spent at the Epic Conference.
Wednesday was also spent covering the conference, but I hauled myself out of bed at way-too-early o'clock to run 8km. Instant mood lifter.
Thursday: 12.2km tempo (AM), 6km easy and core (PM). 
Friday I slept in.
Saturday: 10km tempo with colleagues for the Run for Cover 2nd qualifying round
photo credit: PictureArt
followed by 7km of mind-numbingly slow plodding because my legs refused to go any faster
Sunday: 14.5km of a planned 20, cut short in the interest of my poor right knee which was feeling off-kilter and somewhat sore (not severely, just like...*wrong*, as though the ligaments have got tangled which I swear is physically impossible). I think my ITB and calf are tight and pulling. Core and stretching. 
Total: 57.7km, working my way back to fighting fitness