Wednesday, October 31, 2007

RPM & Dreadmill

I felt the urge to get on a bike. So I went for RPM Challenge class, not least also because KL was taking the class today. I wanted to do some brick training for the Powerman race. So, despite the long run last night and my legs feeling somewhat jellied, the music selection was so up my alley, I just had to spin hard during class. It was worth it. Maybe I'm a slacker, I can't seem to push my heartrate up to that threshold on a run, but I can do it with the flats & sprint RPM tracks. After peddaling hard for an hour, I hopped off the bike and made a quick dash to the treadmill. Thankfully there were a couple of them available today. However, there's something about a treadmill that makes running very very very dull. It was all I could to force myself through a 2km run on the machine. Verdict, no onset of cramps. But I wonder if that was due to the varied spinning positions and that the duration was not long enough to inflict cramps. Hmm....

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lazy Runner

I did absolutely nothing on Monday. No training. Just ate, ate, and ate. I was ambivalent about going for training, having just done a long run on Sunday. Tuesday was supposed to be Queenstown stadium 8x800m. As usual, I warmed up with the group to Queensway, where I'd then decide whether to join in the training or do my own run. And typically, I'd head off towards Portsdown Rd for my own run.

I'm such a lazy runner, I'm too lazy to get my heart rate up, preferring the comfort of my relaxed recovery run to the hectic sprinting round the tracks. So I did a 2h slow run along our usual Portsdown route, and added a loop round Harbourfront and returned from Kg Bahru. My run started off lethargic and draggy, it was truly a recovery run for me. I reached the Club about the same time as the stadium folks.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Safra LSD 39km

This morning Safra planned a 38km run and I was looking forward to it. I had prepared my breakfast and drinks last night, so this morning was a breeze when I woke up. It felt almost like race day. My strategy today was to keep a consistent pace (as if I had any other strategy, haha) and not to stop at all. KK and Wayne very kindly set up 2 water points along the route, but I was determined not to stop and break my rhythm.

My trusty Endurance drink took me to about 32km before I topped up my bottle with water. I took 3:02 to return to Fort Rd B1 (~30km), I thought it was a good pace. Alas, the next 9km (I extended a little to loop round the lagoon after seafood centre) took me 1:10h! The weather was very hot and I tried to run in the shade. At some stretches along Nicoll Highway, I was almost plastered to the fence/ barricade so that I could catch the shade. All in, my run was ~39km, 4:12:22h, 3pkts of powergel, 1bt of Endurance drink. At this pace, I can almost predict my marathon timing. :( Oh well.... Let's just enjoy the long run as it is. Some of the newer runners also clocked fairly long distances. Everyone then headed to Old Airport Rd hawker centre for a well-deserved lunch.

When I reached home, I was surprisingly diligent. Maybe I was still high from the powergel-caffeine overload. I washed my running shoes, cleaned, degreased and lubed 2 bicycles, packed some climbing gear, and vacuumed my room! Domestic therapy huh. :)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Powerman Night Ride

Tonight's (Friday) training for Powerman was a long ride. We set off about 930pm from my house and headed up the usual route towards Kranji and Neo Tiew area. I'm not experienced cycling at night, my Oakley lenses are all too dark. I wore a pair of industrial lenses that was almost clear but with a slight tinge of grey. Bad choice - the shades did not stay well on my face and kept sliding down my nose bridge, so I had to tilt my neck to see the road ahead. That meant a totally stiff neck and shoulder. The lenses also could not bring out the light contrast in the dark, which meant I couldn't go fast as I couldn't see well. I think I'll invest in a yellow lens for my M-frame.

Then I had an idea. The Lim Chu Kang cemetry area was a long flat stretch lit by street lamps, and had zero traffic. Perfect for doing laps. Brilliant! Each way was about 3km, so I suggested 4 laps. At the last minute, I decided to add another 2 laps so as to push up the mileage so as to experience race distance. Total riding distance 64km. Time, slow.... Got home past midnight and decided to refuel with prata supper. :)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Discounted MF Loops

We had a training discount today. Trainers decided to scrap the staircase workout as we were going to have a super long run on Sunday. So it was only 5 MF loops this evening. My legs felt fresh after 2 days of rest. But I didn't want to push, lest I aggravate my toe further. I've not done hill loops for a long time, and took it at a relaxed consistent pace. By the 3rd set though, I could feel a little tightness by the outer side of my knee. Hmmm, could this be the ITB spot that so many runners experienced? I held back a little on the downslope. My philosophy is to not get running injuries at all, so as not to have any downtime. However, I felt quite geared up to blast off the 5th set, so I put down my bottle and took off. It made a huge difference without the bottle in hand, my arm swings were much more fluid and effective. I found myself gliding up the slope steadily, lightly. I held the pace all the way to the top of the slope, and picked up on the way down. It was my fastest set ever. I was very surprised, I could not remember the last time I clocked such a timing on MF loop. I'm very much looking forward to Sunday's incredibly long run.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

No go RPM

I went for RPM Challenge class in the evening. My first spin class after a long hiatus from the studio bike. Kee Leong wasn't around to take the class, and there was a replacement trainer. Young chap, I think he just started teaching. His class wasn't as loud and motivating as KL's - music and noise level plays a part in getting the class fired up. But I was happy to have gone. I had total rest on Mon and Tue, and I was aching for a nice workout again. Especially so after all the food binge entertaining P. Hope my toe recovers for tmrw's Safra run.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Entertaining P

My dear friend, P, was in town for a couple of days. So friends and I took turns to bring him out for lunches and dinners. On his last night here, a whole bunch of us drove to Changi Beach Club's Palms restaurant for dinner. The tofu was their speciality, very silken and soft, like soya beancurd. It was lightly toasted, with some gravy, plus small mushrooms and stalks of steamed vegetables. Light, healthy and tasty. Apparently one could get a good view of the sea from the restaurant during the day.

The group then packed into one car to Changi beach, where we all stared wistfully at aeroplanes flying directly overhead. Both P and I love flying, the longer-haul, the better. There's a tremendous sense of adventure and going "some place" with a long-haul flight. P bullied L and made her sprint across a wooden bridge in high heels! I'm getting more sedate (that's a nice way of acknowledging age) and merely trotted along behind them. We ended with late supper at Bt Timah's prata stretch. Not doing wonders for my diet at all.

Sprained Toe

I've no idea when and how I sprained my big toe. So last night I went to my usual Chinese masseur, F, and got it treated. I meant, tortured. Today I showed up in office in work clothes and my favourite orange Rockport sneakers. It was a fashion non-statement disaster.

I'm upset that I've been banned from running for a couple of days. Last night F texted me after he closed shop, to remind me again not to run. I've been entertaining a friend visiting from abroad for the past few days, and the amount of food intake is not squaring with my running ban.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

1st Brick Training

Today we tried brick training, in preparation for Powerman race in Nov. Alas it was raining in the morning, and we only got started at noon. We did a slow bike from my place to Neo Tiew area, passed the Lim Chu Kang cemetery which is my favourite cruising stretch, and returned via Boon Lay Way. We rode for about 2h plus at a rather relaxed pace.

Since it was meant to be a transition training, we jumped into running shoes and took off - or attempted to. I didn't refuel myself after the ride, big mistake. I was so low on glucose, the short run was a total lacklustre disaster. The only time I perked up was when I ran past a snake that was coiling its way up a tree. I happened to catch it around my eye level, it was an instant fright-flight situation. With my goose pimples turned on 120%, I sprinted down the pavement.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Golden Hills Trail Marathon

Golden Hills Trail Marathon, 13 Oct 2007, Berkeley, CA, USA

I was in Berkeley, CA/ USA, last week for a work conference, and managed to sign up for a Golden Hills trail marathon I have never done a trail version before, so I went with no time targets and not knowing what to expect.

As the name suggests, it is a full 26mi/ 42km route through 6 scenic regional parks, mostly through the hills. The trail terrain was about 2/3 uphills, and 1/3 down. Where it went up, it could be relentless for 1-2mi (1.6-3.2km), with the longest uphill stretch being 4mi (6.4km) long. It was a wonder how anyone could run continuously up those slopes. Imagine seeing Singapore’s Mt Faber slope many many many times throughout the entire race. Some sections were like the very steep Kent Ridge slope off South Buona Vista Road. Similarly, the downs were the types that one could dash down, never mind the knees and ankles.

The trail marathon was part of a 50mi/ 80km race. I guess it was considered a “mini-full” compared to the 50milers. If you visualized the route to be from Pt A (start) to Pt B (end), the 50-milers started their grueling run at 600am, doing approximately B-A-B. The 26milers (aka me) started at 900am, A-B. About 4 – 5mi (6.4 – 8km) into our run, we would meet the 50-milers coming in the opposite direction. The fastest amongst them would eventually catch up and overtake us in the last stretch of our marathon.

It rained heavily the day before the marathon, and the course was wet and muddy. Luckily the weather cleared up, with bright sunshine for race day. We had to assemble at Pt B at 700am to take a shuttle to Pt A (so that we could get to our cars that were parked at the end point after the run). In the early morning, the weather was cold. Everyone wore their tracksuits and sweaters while waiting for the race to begin. Slowly, the sun shone through and warmed the area.

The first 4mi (6.4km) was a muddy uphill path, due to the previous day’s rain. Initially I wondered why my legs were getting heavier, and my shoes felt like they were falling off. Looking down, I realized that mud was accumulating on the soles. Wet mud was picking up more gooey stuff with every step! That was a good lesson for me, as I had not experienced that in Singapore before. People kept stopping every 5-10min to scrap mud off the shoes. It was very difficult to run as the wedge of mud grew heavier. I took about 1h to clear the first stretch!

Finally I reached the first aid station (aka water point). It was like a picnic. In fact, the entire race had a carnival atmosphere. People were friendly and chatted with one another. It did not feel as competitive as per some of the road marathons that I had done before. Race volunteers and officials were very helpful and encouraging.

At each aid station, they would take your timing (it was a manual recording), and someone would come forward to ask if you wanted gu-drink or water. And he/ she would take your water bottle (almost everyone carried 1-2 bottle(s) on the run) and fill it up for you! There was also coke available. On the tables, there would be bowls of food – M&Ms, cut bananas and honeydew, chunks of Clif bars, packets of Gu gels, cubes of brownies, jellybeans, Clif Shots (cube-shaped jelly), pretzels, peanut-butter-jelly sandwiches, and cookies!

I have never seen such good logistics support for a race. I stopped for about 2min at each aid station for refuel, and must have tried almost all flavours of Gu gels. It was almost sinful not to stop and check out the food spread.

Back to the run, the next couple of miles and aid stations involved rolling hills, going up and down countless times. The first section was along Skyline Trail, aptly named because we were running along the ridge of a hill range, and one could see the city view on both sides of the trail. That was an exposed trail, which meant in the direct sun. But that was good – I’m used to tropical weather afterall, a little heat and light humidity improves my run. Then we went under the canopy of redwood trees, and the weather became damp and cool.

It took a lot of discipline to continue the run and not be rooted to a spot, taking in the surrounding sights. It might have well turned into 1-day hike if not for my return flight that very night.

There were many stretches where one ran alone in the cool quiet of the trail marked by pink ribbons, lost in thoughts and accompanied only by the rhythm of the number tag flapping in the run. There was an incredible sense of freedom and adventure, an almost innocent child-like delight in the exploration.

Many a times, I felt like I was on a fast hike/ trek, rather than a run. On the upslopes, many people (including myself) would walk up so as to conserve energy – there were just too many long slopes to push through. My strategy was to trek up briskly, which I reckoned would be about the pace if I ran, and managed to overtake some people. On the downslopes and flats, I would open up my strides and dash down. It was very different dashing down trails vs roads. On trails, one was usually running on soft sand, or fallen leaves, which cushioned every step. There were some short sections where we ran on tarmac roads, and one could immediately feel the impact on the knees.

After a tough 4h, we were only 16mi (25.6km) into the race! We cleared majority of the grueling upslopes only after 17 – 18mi (27.2 – 28.8km), thereafter the slopes (still have!) were gentler or mostly downhill. Where I have always paced my runs on km, it was difficult to track the route in miles. The only markers were at the aid stations, where they would indicate current distance and distance to the next station. After a while, I gave up trying to convert the distances. Psychologically too, it was easier to countdown to 26, rather than 42. J However, it also meant that I was unable to gauge when I might cramp, or ‘hit the wall’. Thankfully, I managed to avoid both – almost.

The last aid station was 3mi (4.8km) to the end point, so I thought I could have a strong finish. Alas, shortly into the stretch, an upslope and more! By that time, the 50-milers were beginning to overtake me. I was full of admiration for them, still going strong after such a long distance and time. Then I saw Lake Chabot open up beautifully in front of me, which indicated the end was near.

The last 1mi (1.6km) was on tarmac road, and by then, every pounding on the hard surface was amplified in the knees. I tried to sprint, but the legs would not go. I was even overtaken by a lady 10years my senior.

And finally I made it through the finishing area. One could hear the cheers and claps even before reaching it.

The end point was a party in itself. There was a huge BBQ pit churning out burgers and hotdogs (of giant sizes), pasta, salads, fruits and desserts. Drinks were free flow. Many supporters came with families and dogs to meet the runners, and people were lounging around the picnic area, chilling out on a nice warm Saturday afternoon.

My gear:
Nike dri-fit long-sleeved top
Nike ¾ dri-fit tights
Nike sports bra
Oakley M-frame, VR28 black iridium lenses
Salomon XA-Pro-3D Goretex XCR trail shoes

Time spent feeding at aid stations: 17min
Time spent posing for and taking photos: 3min
Time spent breathing in the scenery & having fun: 5:42h
Total trail marathon time: 6:02h

Overall – 72 / 115
Women’s – 25 / 57
Category (age grp) – 9 / 17

Experience: Priceless. I’m hooked on trails!