Saturday, July 26, 2014

Tri training: a grab bag of thoughts

- You know how marathon training plans are full of those easy runs in which you are explicitly warned not to go too fast? And how the bread and butter (mm, bread... mm, butter) of a marathoner is zoning out and running for an hour? Tri training is a whole different kettle of fish (mm, fish and chips). There is no such thing as an easy workout in tri training, you guys. NO EASY DAYS. It's either long something or intense something. Long bike ride, long run, tempo run, speed intervals at the track, hill reps on the bike, tempo swim. Every workout *does* something. No more 'zone out and run for an hour, there's chwee kueh at the end' (mm, chwee kueh). It's ALL key workouts.  I know I said one of my training mantras was 'DON'T THINK - JUST GO' but even if I don't overthink so much that I fail to get out the brain is tired. 

This post is brought to you by post-long-runger. Gosh, what gave it away?... 
- Top of my to-do list now, training-wise, is figuring out when to do my glute/ hip strength exercises. I do most of my training outdoors - pool, run, bike - so it's not like I can just lie down in the middle of the road for clamshells (mm...clam chowder, but only the New England kind) and leg lifts. This week I've done the exercises whenever I've been at the gym (I sit down and immediately soak a gym towel because I ran there) - so twice now. It'll have to do for the time being. 

-- This list is here in case I happen to forget it. 
- Clam shells
- Leg lifts 
- Bridge (stability ball optional) 
- Marching bridge
- Donkey kicks
- Plank 
- Back raises 
- Pushups
- Hip hikes 
- Standing bird dog 
- Wall sit 

Was there something else I should be doing? 

- Anyway, the theme of this year's tri is apparently 'do something that scares you'. 
Simply doing my very first OD tri - that's scary enough. 
Riding 40km scares me - so I did it last week. 
Doing a 65km group ride with my super fast tri group* scares the shiznit out of me - so I'm doing it next weekend. Yes, I will get dropped. Yes, I have already pre-emptively asked for a map and my tri group friend's cellphone number. 

*How fast is the tri group? I am not an especially SLOW swimmer, compared to the general population. At training on Wednesday, I was dead last in the last lane - the farthest one right at the edge of the pool. I popped up between sets, already an entire pool length behind everyone else, and looked at the coach plaintively. 'Can I drop down a lane?' 

- I've also discovered that looking for a no-one-gets-dropped, longish group bike ride that caters to total n00bs who don't even clip in (i.e. me) is basically like looking for a unicorn in a tropical rainforest. A pink unicorn. That happens to also be invisible. 

Can we talk for a second about a few things I've read lately? 

1. I went on holiday and my pretty little Google spreadsheet of all the books I've read this year basically spiralled out of control. But I've just finished...
... Charles Stross's Iron Sunrise (I still think Ted Chiang and Geoff Ryman are the world's most underrated sci-fi/ speculative-fic authors, but I'm quite partial to Charles Stross too.) 
...the Brownlee brothers' Swim Bike Run (I don't usually go in for athlete biographies but this is honest and quite funny and they have an interesting sibling dynamic) 
...Gregory Maguire's Wicked (probably better than the musical? quite drastically different?) and its sequel, Son of a Witch. 

It disturbs me that in lists like this the author always feels the need to make it about being attractive to men. Or, alternatively, 'chicking' them (mm...did someone say chicken?). Why do we need to define ourselves in relation to other people and other genders? Can't it just be 'run times get faster, fewer injuries, yay; pants don't fit, boo'? Oh but that would make for such a boring list and then no one would read it. 

Everyday Sexism, via the Guardian, on the sort of bizarrely rude, busybody food-policing that appears to go on in less civilised countries. 
So, oddly, I've never experienced it in Singapore (my Caucasian friend from Australia who posted it on Facebook says 'It's an ang moh thing'...Singapore friends, can you corroborate please?) I don't know why, and I could be wrong and am plucking this theory out of my rungry ass, but honestly, most people in Singapore live to eat and understand what it is to really enjoy your food. Plus traditional foods and the act of enjoying food are deeply embedded in my cultural identity - so criticise my food and you criticise my culture, and you wouldn't want to do that now would you? 

4. Here is an excellent response to food-policing, body-commenting and general backhanded complimenting. Look them in the eye. And say: 'I don't fucking care if you like it.'

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tri training, week 1, and a mid-year check-in

Some time ago I read this from the Telegraph, that bastion of liberal gender equality (/sarcasm cos it don't translate well on the internet) and was mostly baffled by the entire thing. Sometimes the stupidity is not worth getting worked up over. 

Anyway, it reminded me that the secret to a happy athlete marriage is that only one of you can train SERIOUSLY for a thing at one time - and you take turns and SHARE. Umm - I learned this in kindergarten, didn't you? Husband is training for the North Face trail 50K in October (I'll be there cheering, with gummy bears) so right now I'm taking a step back. (He has his own training plan - I'll leave him to it!)

I know it sounds like I have a funny definition of 'taking a step back', but the Tri-Factor OD tri in September isn't really a goal race. It's my first Olympic Distance tri, 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run, so I'm happy to complete it - even DFL. But since I'm used to a nice little six-day-a-week marathon training routine I figured I might as well carry on. Fortunately it's literally a change of pace from marathon training.  

Some people can believe six impossible things before breakfast. Here are all the short-term and long-term thoughts about training I am capable of having on any given morning before breakfast. There is way too much to think about: Ugh, am I going to be too late for swim? I'm already late, is it worth running for just 20 minutes? Am I running enough? Should I do more swim intervals? Should I add another bike ride?

But marathon training has given me a couple fine pieces of wisdom. Especially for something that isn't a goal race:  
a) don't think - just go 
b) trust in my training

And so I'm trying not to habitually-overthink things. running late? DON'T THINK - JUST GO. Is my training going to be enough to get me through this tri? DON'T THINK - JUST GO. TRUST IN YOUR TRAINING. 'Ok brain, whatever you say.' 'Go enjoy yourself, Pinky.'  

...Not gonna lie, the thought of doing my first OD scares the crap out of me.
In case you were wondering, here's my basic routine. 
Mondays - 45-min to 1h solo swim (this sounds substantial but it's not - usually 2km or so) (and yoga?) 
Tuesdays  - bike for an hour, run 20-30 minutes, glute & other strength exercises - I really miss AM track so I may just try to hit them up once or twice. For purely social purposes.  
Wednesdays - swim in the AM with my tri club  
Thursdays - tempo run, glute & other strength work  
Fridays or Saturdays - rest, yoga/ strength, or longish easy run (I can comfortably run up to 20ish km relatively easy as my long run for the OD tri, and not have it be too taxing) 
Sundays - long easy bike or bike/run brick with friends (accountability FTW!) 
And that's pretty much how it played out this week. This morning I checked off one of the items on my list of Things for this year
- go on a bike ride longer than anything I've ever done before. Enjoy it.

Lin, Boya and I rode about 40km along the East Coast Park/ Changi park connectors. Which is a minuscule distance, but I am a total n00b and it took us two hours with breaks. By the time the tri rolls around I would like to not take two hours to go 40km, thanks very much. I foresee checking off that list item several more times over the course of the next few weeks. 

I fell off only once, 
Please don't tell my mum. 
and that was a mis-stop (stopping too fast to avoid crashing into large group of cyclists that had inexplicably halted, couldn't dismount in time so I tipped over into the grass). I am fairly tough and chewy, so in general after the first fall of the day I'm good. 

I am also the world's slowest cyclist. People on foldies were passing me. If nothing else this tri is my way of entertaining myself! 

Here's something I need help with though: where did you learn bike maintenance and etiquette and the basics of how to be a cyclist? Not how to ride, that's simple enough. How to be a cyclist.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A visit to the physio (some literal and metaphorical navel-gazing)

On Monday I had a day off and paid a visit to Gino the physiotherapist over at Sports Solutions. ('How on earth did you hear about us?' 'Blog.' And of course when your ex-colleague, the best athlete you knowlinks to it you pay attention.) 

Of course, like a good reporter, I took notes. 

- If the same muscles cramp at the same time in every marathon - chances are it's good old fatigue. Of those particular muscles. Some possible reasons... 
- ...I am knock-kneed. Yes, this was the bane of my life when I did ballet - YOU just try being knock-kneed AND duck-toed at the same time. 'Turn out! Turn out!' 'I AM turned out!' (Except you never, ever talk back to your ballet teacher - you just push yourself harder.) 
- ...My knees collapse inward, because my gluteus medius are weak. (More on that in a bit.) 
- There are all kinds of unholy knots in my ITB and hamstrings. (And also my calves, but those aren't causing any issues yet and...oh hello foam roller, nice to see you again.) 
- We didn't do a running gait analysis for now. Frankly there are other obvious fixable issues to deal with first, which are causing my vastus medialis muscles to fatigue first. 

And came home with some suggestions: 

- For general fatigue: During the marathon training cycle, do the occasional long run that goes up to the duration of the marathon, but at a much slower pace - this is probably a good idea to put a heavy dose of fatigue into my legs and let them train their way out of it. But something I'd do probably only once or twice per cycle. Four hours of running, even very slow running, is likely to leave me wiped out for the rest of the day. 

- For the gluteus medius weakness leading to fatigue of the quads: I came home with a couple of exercises - leg lifts (the secret is to point your toes inwards) and standing leg lifts. I reckon I should also continue with those hip hikes and single-leg bridges I've been doing... 

- Consider a 10-day or bigger training cycle - I am ruling this out for the time being because it takes all of my logistical ability to even plan a single week's sessions. I do start with a rough week by week plan for the whole cycle. But the time that I start work changes from week to week. The time that I get off work changes from day to day. I have slight control over the former and almost no control over the latter. It is tough enough to figure out when I can go to track or swim with my tri group, and/ or ride or run with friends, when my training week is the same length as everyone else's! I might consider this when I have a more flexible (and relaxed!) schedule. Someday... 

We also did a bit of dry needling on my leg to attack those unholy knots, but since I am a single data point and the only available data is how I feel pre-treatment and how I feel post-treatment (remember I have never done this before), it's impossible to tell whether it worked, only that my leg felt subjectively less knotty

Of course then this week I hurled myself right into training for the Tri-factor OD in September so now everything is back to normal. Hungry, tired, knotted up, etc; and I haven't been in the pool or on a bike for ages so now I am remembering how to swim/ ride all over again. (In fact I went to swim training this morning and the swim coach was like 'HEY, LONG TIME NO SEE', but then I survived 2.2km of swimming so it's all good.) 

Meanwhile my training group is trying to find a new head coach, since the last one left for family commitments. I really liked working with the last one because he wasn't super technical or a lifetime elite athlete, but empathised with what it's like to be a slow talentless adult beginner who struggles. (My philosophy is, if you have zero natural talent you cannot get by just working hard, you have to work smarter than everyone else too. And if you cannot be tougher physically, well, you can be tougher mentally.) 

That's also what irks me about most athlete autobiographies. I must be the only person on earth to dislike Chrissie Wellington's 'A Life without Limits'! I simply could not get into the 'I'm a gumby n00b but somehow I managed to win this tri' tone. (She and I have very different definitions of gumby n00b. During my first tri I was trying not to fall off the bike or drown.) Dancer biographies are so much more relatable - dancers are all very tortured people... 

Sunday, July 13, 2014


This week I was utterly sidelined by a combination of work, a nasty cold, and early morning rain, and so what was supposed to be a rest and recovery week after the marathon turned into a no-good, very-hectic, very-stressful, no-running-at-all week.

Today I finally had the day off and was absolutely desperate for a run. (It's true, running keeps me sane and the whole getting to train for a marathon thing is a bonus. I could just as easily swim or bike or go to the gym for classes, but...too much logistics.) So off I went.

Now, I think of myself as being pretty up to date on workout gear. Sometimes to the point of absurdity. I don't *really* need two separate triathlon tops because let's face it, I do one tri a year. Or four pairs of the exact same shorts. Or the race number belt. Or more arm and waist pockets than a human being can use at any one time. Or the arm sleeves...well, okay, I needed the arm sleeves in Australia.

But clingwrap?

Apparently I have missed some sort of memo, because out there the path, there were two women brisk-walking together, and one of them was wearing what appeared to be plastic clingwrap wound around her upper arms down to the elbow.

A few possible reasons scrambled through my head.
- Clingwrap as makeshift stability brace - maybe.
- Clingwrap as sunshade - unlikely; the clingwrap was colourless so it wasn't really protecting her little skin cells from the sun
- Clingwrap as spot-reduction tool - yes but WHO THE HELL tries to spot-reduce their elbows?
- Clingwrap to keep one's elbows fresh and fancy - the stuff is airtight; this is a pretty good bet.
- Clingwrap as insulation - I mean, when I lived in New Hampshire we used to insulate our windows against the freezing winter with plastic film, and come summer the whole window frame would be mysteriously full of dead flies... So uh anyway maybe she was just cold. (30C temperature notwithstanding.)

GUYS APPARENTLY THIS IS A THING. Apparently cutting off airflow to portions of yourself...that maybe don't have as many sweat glands as other parts of you... is a thing. Video is pinched from Youtube. (I watched, dumbfounded, as she basically wrapped herself in a clingwrap onesie, and am still shuddering at the thought of clingwrap onesie PLUS being slathered in cream.)

And thus I present to you my honest and unbiased review of clingwrap.

Last week we made a bit too much polenta so I fried it up in chunks (and even then there was still a bit too much). Turns out there are approximately 1057 containers in the household and 1056 lids, and the box I had already dumped the polenta into (try frying it, it's tasty) was the sole lidless one. In a bid to save my leftovers, I slapped on a bit of clingwrap, and lo and behold the things remained crispy till the next evening when we gobbled them all up.

I know, it's a bit anticlimactic.

FTC disclaimer... I was not provided a sample of plastic clingwrap for review and will not be able to give one away; however, you may go to your nearest supermarket or dollar store to find affordable clingwrap...for whatever purpose, you filthy-minded whippersnappers. Please tag yourself on social media showing off your best athletic use of clingwrap! Best photos will be featured on this page to be giggled at for all eternity. #clingwraptastic 

PS - tomorrow I have the day off AND an actual, real-life physio appointment so I can finally start figuring out what is wrong with my #%(& quads. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Same old gory details: Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2014

I'm going to warn you upfront: you will have heard this story from me before. It's like a horror movie where you know exactly who jumps out of the bushes and who dies at the end. Same old story. It's going to be a little repetitive. But you can read it anyway.

If you recall I had a nice little race strategy all planned out:
- Absolutely no faster than 6:22/km for the first half
- Shot blocks every 5km; electrolyte tab and a minute's walk break every 10km
- I am allowed to run-walk if I cramp - I will probably cramp... (OBVIOUS FORESHADOWING, I COULD BE A SCRIPTWRITER NOW)

On Friday morning Holly got into Gold Coast and we ran about 2.5km to the Broadbeach convention centre for bib pickup, stood in line for five minutes, picked up bib, wound our way through the usual assortment of watches/gear/ads for other athletic activities

This watch is telling me it's 'exercise day'. What, you mean like every day except Wednesday? 
and popped out the other side...

...just in time for a Friday afternoon coffee with Char, who was in town for her 10th Gold Coast 10K in a row. We'd never met in person before but when you share your lives on the Internet it can feel like you've known someone for a very long time.

Photo credit: Holly and her long arms

I was suitably impressed, by the way. I haven't lived in one place long enough to do 10 of any race in a row.

And it was incredibly sweet of her to bring us (cup)cakes despite having had a rough week - thank you!
Here are the ruins of one of the cupcakes. Didn't pause long enough to take photos. Rest assured they were very pretty. And delicious.

On Saturday morning we went to watch the 10K and get the lay of the land at the race precinct, and then went on a whale-watching cruise. Humpback whales come up the Australian coast from Antarctica in winter to calve and mate, and we saw several pairs.

I was not fast enough to catch a photo of a whale.
Fortunately, clouds don't move as fast as humpback whales, so I got a nice picture of one shaped like a boxfish
That afternoon, three more friends got into town. Holly, Mel and Sarah were doing the half; Boya and I would do the full, and it was Boya's first full marathon. (You never forget your first...though sometimes you'd like to, especially around the 30k mark!)

Sunday morning was race day, involving a 4am wakeup for the half marathoners and a 4.45am wakeup call for the two of us full marathoners. Race organisers had provided shuttle buses to the start and the early ones were apparently very crowded with long queues (said Holly). But by 5.30am they were fine and we hopped on the first bus that arrived, for a 15-minute bus ride to the start.

That sunrise. I was pretty chilly, but I really can't complain.

but first, let me take a selfie...
We shuffled our way into the last corral. I had picked up a 4:30 pace band at the expo but was so far back, and so relaxed about the whole affair, that I never even really saw the 4:30 pace group. I had no time goals for this race except 'maybe finish under 5 hours again?'

The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and there was really no excuse not to high-five all the little kids, including a small girl in unicorn footy pyjamas.

And this view. I could have high-fived this view. 
Along the beach there was a guy in what I can only presume were very small and possibly hideous swimming trunks, holding a large and alarming sign in front of them: 'Run faster or I drop this sign'. And around a corner, there was a nine-year-old boy holding a sign that could really only have been composed by a nine-year-old boy: 'Run faster, I just farted'.

The course wound its way south for 15km, then turned around and continued north for another 15km along roughly the same stretch we'd come down. I obediently chugged on at 4:30 pace, stuck to the fuelling plan, and went on feeling pretty good. Ominously good. I knew I'd maybe be a little sore by the end, but experience tells me there is a big difference between sore and damaged, and I was not going to be damaged.

And then, going uphill around 31km, disaster struck. (DUN DUN DUN.)
It was a totally predictable, very familiar sort of disaster. With a terrible sense of deja vu, I felt my right vastus medialis muscle, the lower part of my inner quad near the knee, go TWANGGGGG and seize up in a spasm so powerful I nearly screeched. And then my left one. For probably three or four minutes, I stood there, clutching the centre rail, trying to stretch. I'd stretch one leg and the other side would clench; I'd stretch the other and the first one would fire off - TWANGGG. And again (twanggg). And again (TWANGGG). And again (ARGGGH COME ON STUPID LEGS WHY WON'T YOU COOPERATE).

And that's why my splits look like this:
'30 to 35km: 42 minutes 16 seconds'. Not stated: 'Five of those minutes were spent stretching and screaming invective at the sky in front of hundreds of spectators'. Yes, my quads had chosen the start/finish point to seize up. 
When I finally started hobbling on again, my crazy sport-psychologist bike-crash-survivor long-distance-triathlete friend popped into my head. 'What would Kirsten do?' The answer turned out to be 'relax and focus on the process'. The process turned out to be:
- Drink more water.
- Take another salt tab.
- Run six minutes. Cramps? Walk one minute. No cramps? Run another six minutes and check in with your body and make sure you're running tall, loose, and tilted slightly forward. Rinse and repeat. You know perfectly well you can do this because you've done this a dozen times before.

The remaining 10km became a sort of death-march shuffle, a delicate exercise in warding off cramps, at exactly the tipping-point speed between bobbling along and debilitating spasms. God, but I loathe my treacherous quads. (When other women say they hate their thighs they usually mean something different.)  I have cramped in exactly the same muscles for five marathons now. Also one sprint triathlon. And very probably one hot-weather OD triathlon in September. Do they do muscle replacements?

So at this point I had plenty of time to pay attention to the signs and road signs along the rest of the course.

Along a narrow bend there was DO NOT OVERTAKE. (I followed instructions.)

A spectator held one that said WORST PARADE EVER. (I kind of agreed.)

I counted down shot blocks to the finish. (30, 35, 40... just three more! 35, 40...just two more! 40k...last shot block! As I finished chewing the last one I realised I had only one mile left but I was proto-spasming too hard to run for it.)

Hence the hunched-over, paroxysms-of-agony marathon shuffle in this photo at 41k:
Photo credit: Char
In the end, I PRed by one crucial but deeply unsatisfying second: 4:54:17, down from 4:54:18 in Perth. I know I said I was going to chip away at my PR but seriously this is ridiculous! Is there even an upside to this? Yeah, well, I guess I now know a sub-5 marathon isn't a fluke.

Temperature-wise, while the temperature hovered between 12 (at the start) and perhaps 20C (at high noon), much of the course was in full sun and I ended up feeling like a salt-baked chicken by the end. I was wearing shorts, compression socks, a tank top and arm sleeves and thus have some interesting tan lines...

Ten minutes after I finished I had already snacked, cleaned up, stretched, and was lying on a bench with my legs up in the air texting the husband when Holly and Mel found me. Normally after a marathon or even a long run I'm passed out by mid-afternoon, but on Sunday afternoon I was still bouncy. We waited for Boya to finish, scraped her off the ground, and then headed back to the apartment for a shower and some hot-tub time, already plotting where to have dinner. (Priorities.) (Indian food followed by churros, bitches. I finally passed out into microsleep mid-churro.)

But really? Do all my marathons have to go the same way? It's like a bad movie script. In the last 10k and in the few minutes after I finished, I probably went through all five stages of grief that I was taken out by something so utterly stupid. Yes, all five at the same time.

Denial - This isn't happening. This isn't happening. Maybe if I ignore it it'll go away.
Anger - UGH WHY did I decide to do this STUPID thing to myself? !$(*(&# marathons.
Bargaining - C'mon legs. You can do this. Just six more minutes of running and then you can walk.
Depression - I'm never going to not cramp in a marathon. I should just give up now.
Acceptance - FINE. THERE. I'm DONE.

Right now I'm just kind of meh about the whole thing. In general I really did enjoy it. The race was well-organised and well-supplied with bananas and oranges and water, and man, did those volunteers and spectators know what they were about. The breeze! The sun! The views! The signs!

If I had no real time goals, why am I so mad? Well, I'm disappointed because the whole thing was so predictable. Frustrated because I know I'm aerobically, at least, capable of much, much more. In the final 10 km or so post-spasms I felt like I was shuffling along solely to ward off cramps. If not for the cramps I would've literally been bounding happily along, I had that much energy left over. I'm deeply annoyed that I never even got the CHANCE to hit the wall. Look, I HAVE a 4:30 in me. (Well-hidden.) Just that my legs seem to disagree...

Should I try something new? A different challenge? I refuse to even dream of doing an ultra until I've got this marathon-cramp thing sorted out. An OD tri, maybe. But let's face it, I tri purely for amusement and running is where my heart is.

So in future, what are my options, really?

a) Maybe it was hot and the perfect fuelling strategy was short of perfect, and maybe I could have taken in more Endurolytes and water. Endurolytes do have more magnesium than other brands but perhaps a dedicated magnesium supplement might help.

b) Maybe I'm just destined to cramp, so instead of cramp prevention my race strategy should be cramp anticipation. The cramps seem to show up no matter what I wear or how I fuel or how slowly I go at the beginning or however cool/ flat the marathon is, so perhaps I should just run very fast for 32km and hobble 10km? This will make me a very good half marathoner...and make for a pretty unhappy marathon experience.

c) What about doing faster/ longer training runs? What if I ran a marathon as my long training run for a marathon? (The most likely outcome would be 'here you go, two sets of cramps'.)

d) Is it something about my gait? Should I bother investing in a gait analysis that costs more than a marathon entry, just in case that's the problem? I'm not exactly going to win any medals anyway and I'm not fast enough to be worth it. I'm just a back-of-the-pack hobby jogger who runs because I happen to really really like running.

e) Or maybe I should stop trying to run marathons and just retire from this full-marathon shtick altogether, because I am flipping tired of writing the same race report over and over. 'Felt good for 30+km, then cramps, then long cramp-prevention shuffle'. I'm fed up and bored of it. Help me out - I know you are too.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Daily entertainment

What is it about Queensland? Both days I've been here have been endlessly amusing. 

Yesterday I took a quick day-trip to Brisbane for some museum-hopping and churros - both terrific. On the way back, a man got on to my bus which was about halfway back from the train station. 'Do you mind if I sit here?' he said. Sure, fine. Nice of you to ask. I was engrossed in my book anyway. 

I don't mind chatty strangers but this one seemed very eager for conversation, which put a full stop to my reading. In the first two minutes it emerged that he knew Japanese (when a non-Asian male stranger drops knowledge of [random East Asian language] into a conversation with me it is occasionally a hallmark of yellow fever - DING, on went my warning light) and how long had I lived in Australia? When I said I was from Singapore - oh they don't speak Japanese there do they - and in town to do the marathon, we talked about running. 

- Which one are you doing? The 10k? The half? 
- No, the full marathon.
- How many km? 
- All 42. *polite smile* 
- How did you get into running? Stole a wallet? 
- Ha, no I'm not that fast. 

Now he could just have been chatty, but it's not really promising when someone asks you 'So if you're doing the marathon then I guess you won't be having a drink' in a tone that suggests they'd like to buy you one. 

Eventually I re-engineered the conversation over to Japanese. 
- Did you live in Japan? 
- Oh yes, five years. Teaching English and then running a small business.
- Wow, that's amazing. Teaching English? Oh, JET? My husband did that for a while. 

Finally we got off - at the same stop, which was a stop or two late for me because 1) it was dark and I couldn't see where I was, gee thanks winter and 2) frigbiscuit if I'm going to let a total stranger know where my stop is! I paused to get my bearings and he'd gone off in the opposite direction. 

And then I fast-walked all the way back to my apartment. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

T-minus 4

Well, it's now four days out from marathon number 5. The first one was in 2009; then 2011; 2012; 2013, and now 2014. As a mere hobby-jogger I refuse to do more than one marathon a year - it wouldn't be healthy for my sanity or the sanity of those around me! 

I've learnt new things with every marathon cycle. Things that range from 'when I try to take in a gel I feel like throwing up so this invention called shot blocks is a lifesaver', to 'don't steal your sister's shorts', to quite simply that I CAN finish a marathon at all. Let alone in less than five hours. Don't laugh.

This time round? I've focused more on the process than the outcome. (As Holly put it - "Well, you'll have over four hours of process, so that'd be a good thing to channel.") Last time round it was all about the sub-five or die. Which is more entertaining than slowly and methodically making small changes to training, but, you know...kind of a crapshoot. 

And so here is the theoretical race plan.  
- Take a shot block every 5km or 30 minutes.
- Take a short (1 to 2 minutes) walk break every 10km.
- ABSOLUTELY NO FASTER than 6:22/km pace for the first half.
- I am allowed to run/walk the last quarter if I am cramping as usual. (I will probably cramp.) 

I have no time goals except for 'maybe finish under 5 hours again?' Nobody cares about my race time but me anyway, and I don't care so long as everyone has a good time and I get cake at the end... 

So far this trip to the Gold Coast has been remarkably amusing in all sorts of ways. 

First at the immigration and customs line, one of the security officers asked me (because you have to be over 16 to go through the e-passport gates on your own) "You look very young - are you sure you're over 16?"

To be fair to her, it was 8am and I had just got off the red-eye and I had my glasses on and my hair in pigtails and she probably hadn't had any coffee yet. 

What I thought: Aw, I look 16? That's cute...I'm closer to twice that, honey.
What I said: I'm definitely over 16, but thank you!! 

Next, this afternoon, I was trying to get my prepaid SIM card activated and Vodafone's automated system refused to accept my hotel as a valid address. 
And then neither did Vodafone's call centre representative. 
Of course it's a valid address, I said. I'm standing right here! Even Google Maps knows where it is! 

And finally, I was enjoying a coffee at a little coffee shop by the beach in the sun, when a shadow the size and shape of a small dinosaur fell across my ankles. 

Startled, I looked up to be greeted by one of these, loitering about for crumbs: 

What's black and white and terrifying the first time you encounter one? An Australian white ibis. SERIOUSLY.

It's always a strange adjustment to run in a drastically different climate. It's super sunny here, and if you're in direct sun it feels pretty hot. On the other hand, it's also very dry, and if you're standing still in the shade, it's chilly thanks to all the wind. How am I supposed to run in that?