Friday, November 30, 2007

Polar Melt

My Polar watch flashed me a low-batt warning on its screen this morning. Horrors! It was the first time since I've had the watch in 2 years, that I almost forgot that it ran on battery. Given that the marathon was 2 days away, the situation necessitated a mini-crisis response! I hurried to Athlete's Circle and got Ben to change the battery. We chatted about the marathon and running in general. About an hour later, my watch was returned to me, resuscitated and beeping healthily. :) I think my heart, too, beeped in sync, relief that my race watch would accompany me step by step through 42 km-markers on Sunday.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tapering Off

Wednesday evening I went for a RPM Challenge class. Kee Leong was back on schedule and the usual participants came. A couple of weeks ago, Glen took some replacement classes and attendance was dismal. I tried to spin hard as it would be my last workout before tapering off for the weekend's marathon. I went home for dinner after class. My mum had gotten hold of a Japanese cold dish that was a seaweed-wrapped fish roe. It had a refreshing taste, but I was not a big fan.

Thursday was the start of my 3-day tapering off and carbo loading plan. We had a departmental seafood lunch where I polished off 1.5 bowls of rice with the dishes. I had a massage at DJ's place in the evening before she returned to China for 2 weeks. The back of my knees and lower calves were rather tight - my perennial problem zones. And horrors! My big toe had not fully recovered after such a long time. Hopefully none of which would give me any problems during the marathon. Dinner was another huge bowl of rice and some chicken pieces. Oooh, I can have rice any day, everywhere! Perfect.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Chatty Run

Safra's 10km run this evening was from club house to Fort Canning Hill. This must top the list for being one of the most disruptive routes the group has done. We were caught in so many traffic junctions, roadside constructions, vehicles turning into small lanes, and total darkness at Fort Canning Hill, it was a nightmare just trying to keep moving.

I guess the run was more bearable because everyone was in a tapering off mood and running rather relaxedly. I even managed to chit chat with a few runners along the way, something that I'd not done for a long time when everyone was all geared up for marathon training and chiong-ing all the way. Due to the relaxed mood, the group ran closely together, and I could hear lots of laughter from the back. Clearly, the girls were enjoying themselves, jibing one another. On the way back, I chatted with Lai Chee about bicycles and gear parts, and how expensive they were. Fortunately for me, it was an easy run today and she slowed her pace to accomodate me. I would never be able to run alongside her and talk to her at the same time!

We ran along riverside walk, where diners were tucking into their fancy dinners and wines. The aromatic whiffs of food filled the air, tempting us to slow down and check out their table spreads. We went past a Japanese charcoal grilled restaurant, and Jaime commented it smelt like satay! I guess it was true to a certain extent. Afterall, yakitori is simply a much more expensive and refined version of satay.

Next we passed Gallery Hotel, where I had dinner at its Satsuma restaurant the night before. Lovely quaint little cafe, nice ambience for an acceptable quality of food. I started discussing with KK about otoro and sake toro, and why tuna costs so much more than salmon sashimi. Oooh, the love of my tongue. I could have Japanese cuisine everyday and not tire of it, especially melt-in-your-mouth belly slices.

The group made our way back to the clubhouse in light-hearted banter and company. Such was a run I missed, the easy comraderie and social pace that made running all the more enjoyable at times.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sports and Nature

It was a sad weekend as many of us stayed glued to the news for updates on the dragon boat accident in Phnom Penh that claimed the lives of 5 fine young rowers from our national squad. I was constantly checking the online news and soaking up every report. The sudden national tragedy made headlines for many days, and no amount of empathy could enable us to comprehend the extent of grief felt by the bereaved families. The national squad comprised mostly young men in their 20s. Disciplined, full of potential and in their prime, they represented some of the best athletes and citizens our nation could have. To me, it was especially heart wrenching that they had to go through such a devastating experience at that age. They might be men and leaders in the team, but back home, they were just sons, brothers, and.... boys, if I could use the term in a non-condescending way.

The accident set me pondering on the perennial question of us sports(wo)men vs nature and the risks we take. Why do we choose to pit ourselves against nature and push the human limits? I am not a parent, and have no intention to be one, but I can only imagine the dilemma all parents face in trying to bring up their children to be worthy sons and daughters. Do you encourage your child to explore the outdoors and be independent, knowing that there is an inherent risk in any outdoor activitiy? Do you quietly accept that risk, knowing that your child would eventually grow and blossom into confidence? Or do you keep them strapped beside you, safe and sound under watchful eyes but missing out on the shaping and moulding opportunities?

My parents have never violently objected to any of my outdoor passions, which they think are crazy and extreme. I say 'violently objected' because my mum would hint ever so often that I should scale back on my activities, find a good man and settle down. She even once suggested that I scared off potential suitors by my excessive (her view) running! But yes, they have never 'violently objected'. Each time I tell my mum of an upcoming climb, she would order it to be the last, and we both knew it would not be so. Each time I mention an overseas race or marathon, she asked why I ran so much, but we both knew I would not stop. And in a morbid way, I am thankful they were not the last climb or race. My parents have been extremely tolerant each time I picked up a new hobby, which meant a whole array of new gear and storage space. Supportive, even, with the occasional drives to airport and training grounds. Thankfully I have since narrowed my pursuits to a few, - running, mountaineering and cycling - but which could still throw up some harrowing moments.

A few years ago when I was still with the Singapore Women's Everest Team, we grappled with many What Ifs scenarios. What if we died on a climb? What if a team mate went down? What do we do with our bodies should mishaps occur? How could we be answerable to ourselves or our loved ones, yet not compromise the safety of our surviving team mates? I guess accepting the prospects of death and disability is a large part of being a mountaineer. One does not conquer a mountain, but by its graces, be allowed on its summit. Sudden avalanches, crevasses and many inhospitable elements keep climbers on our cramponed toes. Every climber has his/her stash of near-misses and close-calls to tell.

How we handle ourselves and recover from those situations, if we are lucky to have survived them, spells the fine print between make or break. I salute our national dragon boating squad for the shared courage and leadership they had shown the nation through this trying time, especially the young 21-yr old captain for displaying a raw maturity beyond his years. I hope they emerge from this episode to become stronger men and beacons for others to follow.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Race Expo & Sundown Marathon

The annual Singapore Stanchart Marathon race pack collection and expo is here again. I could not believe myself, but I went down on all 3 days! On Friday afternoon, I went to collect my pack, thinking that it would be less crowded at an off-peak hour. But hundreds of other equally kiasu runners thought likewise, so I had to queue over an hour to get to the collection booth. The exit funnelled us to the sports and fitness expo, right smack into the PowerBar/ Athelete's Circle (AC) mega booth. I met many friends and fellow runners/ triathletes, either helping out at the booths or collecting their packs, it was like a huge gathering at a carnival. We bantered around, joked and checked out the discounts and gear. A group of us excitedly swarmed around AC's upcoming events next year - Dirty Weekend, Sundown Marathon and Aviva 70.3. A day before, the AC newsletter had gone out announcing those events ( We inundated poor Ben with repeat questions at the registration booth, and he good-naturedy answered all of us.

I was already set on joining the Sundown Ultra 84km Marathon the minute I saw the news, so I was pleasantly surprised that we could register on the spot. Without hesitation, I keyed in my details and made the payment. On learning that there could be a 100-pax limitation for the ultra race, we started roping in more runners, and those in turned called their friends upon signing up. Ah, the power of peer-pressure. Or could it be peer-pleasure in running together? :) In the end, Ricci, Alvin (tri), DO, Anthony, Jancy, Ronnie, Freddy Yeoh and many others registered. I think we easily "sold" 20 slots for the organizers, and counting. I spotted Mika too, and told her about the race.

Set! I'm very much looking forward to the event. I have no doubt that I could complete the distance. What piqued my intellectual and physical curiousity was how such a long run (I reckon it should take about 10hrs +/-) would differ from my recent Mustagh Ata expedition where we climbed an average of 9hr each day at high altitude. I am not new to long durations of demanding physical activities at unspeakable hours. Almost every summit attempt of major mountains sets off around 2-3am, and easily takes 13 - 18hr to summit and descend to a safe campsite. However, running and climbing are different sports, and I wonder what the demands of such an ultra distance would be on the body and legs.

Adrian (Mok) shared with me that long-dist running in the night enhances all sensories and makes us more aware of ourselves and the surroundings. The silence and still of the night brings out the sense of solitude, and forces us to reach far deeper within ourselves to find the strength and motivation to carry on. I believe. Climbing is often a very solitary sports too, just you, yourself and the mountain all around. I'm full of admiration for Adrian. He's my age, yet has achieved so much. In between keeping up with the growing joys of his young son, and building an expanding business based on his sporting passions, he remains one of the top endurance athletes in the nation. Over the years, I have benefitted from his friendship, advice and business services. It is always a joy to chat with him, the impossibly-busy and ever-positive guy finds time to indulge in leisure gossip and generously shares tips with everyone.

I spent some time at the Addidas booth and was very pleased to find the new white-purple running jersey that I had been eyeing for some time. Seduced by the 20% discount, I happily bought 2 pieces. Over at the Keypoint International booth, Sam, Eddie (Chang) and Sandy were busy with the retail crowd. Helen was gushing praises about a pair of 2XU running tights that I was looking at. Just my type of gear - simple, short, functional, yet good-looking. I bought a piece, tested it during Sunday's morning run at Safra, loved it, and went back to buy another piece!

My sense of retail restraint and reasoning goes into cardiac arrest when I'm in a crowd of sports junkies and race gear, and the expo organizers appeared to milk that vulnerability very well. Oops, I guess it's cheapo veg-rice for lunch in the coming weeks. :)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

RIP Shoes

The time has come to lay my shoes to rest. Two very special pairs of runners that led much fulfilled lives. Shoes that have steadfastedly supported me through a year of long tough mileages, accompanied me on overseas races, been sloshed on foreign terrains, and saw me through many "firsts".

My purple Mizuno Wave Elixir was (and I'm still not used to calling them in a past tense) my race day competition shoes for the longest time. I used the Wave Precision some years back, and realized it was for my feet type. So I tried the Elixir for its lightweight stability support. It helped tremendously that the shoes came in purple-lilac (my favourite colours) and totally endeared me to them. I bought my Elixir about the time I joined Safra Running Club in June 2006, and saved them specially for race days and a couple of long runs. My Elixir saw me through many firsts:
- an improving AHM 2006
- PB at Singapore Stanchart Marathon 2006
- PB in Ang Kor Wat Half-Marathon 2006 (also my 1st overseas race)
- PB at KL Pacesetter 30km 2007
- PB at Hongkong Stanchart Marathon 2007
- MF Challenge 2007 (my 1st ultra 50km)

My baby blue Asics GT2100 was my everyday training shoes, that quietly held me in place as I tried out new running techniques, routes, terrains, dirt and dust. They softly caught my feet when I'm low and unthinkingly dragged my strides. They smartly adjusted their landings as I clumsily pounded downslopes. They held up in the rain, and never complained in the mud. I
repaired their 'opened mouths' once, and off they went, smart as before.

Sadly, the support and cushion is now gone, and the shoes feel "flat" during runs. Continued use of them would only cause knee strains and other injuries. I have extended their lifespans for gym and RPM use. Before they retire from the running circuit, this blog entry is my tribute to them. With thanks. :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hairpee Birdday

My charming friend, Linda, penned this for me, together with inputs from Joyce, Chee Meng, Joanne, Alex and Alvin. Hilarious! Thanks guys. My little reply is below. :)

Hairpee Birdday

run run (bun) run
bun bun bun (run)
Give her a bun,
so she can run;
or does she run,
to earn her bun?!
Such is the life of our dear Phei Sunn.

*hmm, maybe that's too simplistic -
let us be more realistic:
muffins, ice cream, chocolate, rice...
all desserts made of sugar and spice -
all of these will never escape
once she puts on her gourmet's cape!

Aiming for epicurean bliss?
Just ask this snazzy savvy miss;
voila, you'll have in your fist:
your well-researched dessert A-list!

She's lucky to have achieved a balance
with other fat-burning passions:
she loves running and climbing
(and more uselessly, writing);
else, instead of setting us drooling,
we'll probably just see her waddling!

Indeed, her figure's so svelte,
she maintains it well.
She always makes us melt,
cause she's the best pal...

For this special '3-long-2-short' year,
we'd like to send a special mail order:
Send in oodles of kaching and laughter,
and finally, someone just worthy of her.

(it's time for dessert)

P.S. We love you.
p.p.s. Xiaoming: on your future mountains, be friendly to Koreans; and to a group photo do submit, before we embark on the summit! :p

A Hairpee Reply

Yes yes, must run to earn my bun
A bum like a bun is so not fun
I can well be an epicurean bliss
But I'm usually a manicurean miss

Fat-burning passions are very cool
Ever seen a muffin waddling in the pool?
I hope your mail order will come soon
A special someone to take me over the moon

Thank you for this poem that brings a smile
Your gems of wishes would light the Nile :)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mad Dash Along the Roof of the World

A fellow running friend sent me a news link today:

A new world record of (3days 2h 36min) had been set for a gruelling 188mile trek/ run (~300km) from Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu.

I love such stories. They combine my twin passions of running and climbing in a singular event. Absolutely awesome and inspirational. One day when I've mustered enough courage and conditioning, I would love to try a mountain run at high altitude. :)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sort-of Birthday Run

Birthday Saturday

I turned a year older. My dear friend, Lee, said older but better. :) I had grand plans to do a birthday long run, but did not manage to wake up in the morning. Oops. In the afternoon, Alvin and I drove to JB to eat and pamper ourselves with facials and hair cuts. I rebonded my hair, and the stylist told me not wash it for 3 days. That's an impossibility given that I was due for a morning run in 10hrs!

Sunday Run

This morning Safra planned a 25km run from clubhouse to Marina South Pier, and ending with 2 loops up in Mt Faber. It was a humid day and I could not tie my hair due to the rebonding. It was hot, hot, hot. I started off the run with a relatively fast pace and light legs. That felt good given the very dismal week I had. At some points, I was even running alongside KK, but fell behind after we crossed into Marina South area. Today I deliberately weaned myself off my trusty Endurance drink and used plain water instead for the run. I wondered how long I can sustain the pace with water. I stopped for a refill at the Pier while Julie ran ahead, speeding up in her usual fashion. I definitely cannot run like her, I think I'm deprived of any fast-twitch muscles and have no explosive power whatsoever!

I took along a Clif-shot gel (Orange Cream) after coming out from Prince Edward Rd. It was the first time I'm trying the gel - it tasted like the Fruitella soft-chewy candy that we used to eat when we were young. Alber, Heng and I ran together out of Marina South and back to Kg Bahru, and then the two guys fell behind. I went up the steep MF hill, and was beginning to feel the strain from the upslope. There were 4 roadies training on the MF loops. After we crossed a couple of times, we started saying hi and giving thumbs-up to encourage one another. It certainly brightens the day when fellow runners or cyclists smile at and encourage one another along the way. A simple flash of smile or thumbs-up sends positive vibes for the tired bodies. I finished another pack of Gu-gel (Choc) before returning to clubhouse. I took 3h to finish the run, and it definitely felt >25km. My conclusion - Powergel works for me, the other gels simply could not match the "kick" of Powergel. After the run, Jaime and Ong gave me a Sugoi tri-tank top as a present. :) It was white with red prints and fitted me perfectly. Lovely!

In the afternoon, Alber came over to help wash the bicycles which had been left uncleaned since last week's Powerman race. I was increasingly getting agitated at the thought of my dear bicycle being caked in dirt for so long. It was a funny sight, two grown-ups each squatting by our respective darling bicycles and slaving over them. Degreasing, rinsing, hairdryer blow-drying, lubricating and pampering the bicycles. I always get a kick out of seeing the chains expel black dirt after degreasing, and then seeing water droplets scurrying out of screws and bolts from the hairdryer blasts. The last stage was to lub the chains link by link, as well as my cleats and pedals. Ah, inner calm restored.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


There are some days you wished they never happened, and weeks you wished never existed. This is one of those. Bad run day #2. In a week of 2 runs, that's a 100% hit-rate. Over-fed, under-ran. I'm feeling fat, lazy, unmotivated and useless. Times like this really throws one into self-doubt, and sends confidence spiralling down. Bummer.....

I went straight home like a whimpered kitty, dejected. Curled up on the dining chair, I munched on my mum's home-baked lasagne rice, seeking solace in the solitude. Comforting.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Iron Legs

Today was a bad run day. Period. I went for Safra's MF Loop training, but my legs (quads) were so heavy from Sunday's race that it was a pain to go uphill. I forced myself to go through 5 loops before I surrendered. Each loop took me such an incredibly long time, I knew it was totally ineffective and was merely going through the motion of chugging up the loops. I was not going to make it through the stair sets, so I skipped them. The plan was to go down Morse Rd and run back to clubhouse, hopefully getting some recovery on the flats. I was angry with myself for not listening to my legs and insisting on doing the prescribed training. In the end, I achieved neither mileage nor speed training. *sulk* To add fuel to my discouraged ego, I half-trotted and half-strolled the shorter Henderson route back to Safra. I could not muster up the power to run up Henderson Rd, one of my favourite slopes. :(

I'm probably lethargic from the race and a lack of sleep. I guess a race time of 4:32h is not something to crow about, neither is it to be scoffed at. I consoled myself that it was still some amount of effort nonetheless, and I should not be too hard on myself for a bad run day. I headed home for a quick dinner and early night. I think this is my down-cycle recovery week. Oh fraps....

Monday, November 12, 2007

Powerman Malaysia 2007

The Journey & Pre-race Day

I headed to Lumut, Perak, for the Powerman Malaysia race ( over the weekend. It was a 11km run, 64km bike, and 10km run race event. I'd raced in duathlons before but that was my first overseas and the longest race. It would also be my first time using my brand new cleats and aero-bars.

On Friday night, Eddie, Alber and I waited outside my house for Alvin to pick us (and 3 bicycles) in his van. When we reached Golden Mile Complex, many others had already arrived, some of them cycled from home. There were about 34 people and 32 bicycles to transport in 2 super-VIP coaches. A few of us were first-timers (Aili, Eliza and myself) amongst the many race veterans, like Chin KK, Freddy, Eddie Toh (Safra MF), Eddie Chang (Safra Tampines), Chin Ye (Safra MF), and James (Safra TPY). Mika Kume (of MR25) and Sumiko Tan (national athlete) were there as well - names I'd always heard but never formally met.

The loading of bicycles was an eye-opener for me, being the sua-ku that I was. We removed all front wheels and perched 2-3 bikes on the back/headrest of each seat. It was an impressive sight with 32 bicycles neatly resting on the seats. 8 of us travelled with the bicycles while the rest filled another bus. Alas, Alber and I had the seats right in front of the rows of bicycles, which meant a 8-9h ride without being able to lean the seats backwards! We departed about midnight, had a few supper and pit stops before arriving at our Lumut hotel at 8am the next morning. Our drivers were fast, we overtook the other passenger bus to be 30min ahead of them. We unloaded all the bicycles and fixed back the wheels before the rest of the group arrived. Hungry and tired from the long ride, we had some breakfast from the hotel's buffet - which was mere functional.

Melody from the Powerman organizers brought the race packs to our hotel and briefed us on the next day's details. I was not aware that there was a 5h cut-off time. Oops, I hope I could complete within 4:30h. After the briefing, Alvin arranged a small bus to send us to the stadium (race start point) as some people wanted to buy powergels at the race booth. By the time we reached our lunch venue at 3pm, majority of us were starving. It was a seafood tze-char venue, and they took nearly an hour to prepare all the food for our 4 tables. My table tackled the most food, we wiped our plates clean and even polished up food from the other tables. I was so hungry that I had 2 plates of rice. 3-4 of our guys cleaned off 8 flower crabs. We joked that hopefully we could race as well as our appetites. We returned to our rooms at 5ish pm and prepared for the race. I made my tuna sandwich for the breakfast, attached all the stickers and packed my transition gear. We had to cycle to the start point (~8km from hotel) early in the morning, while our bags would be transported to the end point later. I was asleep by 8pm, lethargic from the good food and previous night's poor sleep.

Race day!

I woke up at 5am feeling fresh from a long deep sleep. I munched on my sandwich as I got ready. Then, with a flick of the table lamp switch, I somehow triggered the circuit breaker, and the whole room plunged into darkness. Excellent... so I pulled the bicycles from the balcony and turned on the head lamps. We were supposed to check out by 545am, and everyone was gathered, ready to go. There was an excitement buzz in the air, everyone looked more pro and serious than the joking group the day before. We only set off at 630am as we waited for a few late comers. The race start time was 730am and I was starting to get jittery about not reaching there in time - I was not a fast rider and I certainly did not want to sprint to the stadium before the race. Mika had some problems with her bicycle, so Ping and Alber helped her while I went ahead. I decided to wait for them after a left turn. Forgetting that I was in cleats, I braked. But it was too late to unclip my shoe, and I had a classic sideway-0kmh fall, bruising my right knee. Damm. I cursed mentally along the way, adding to pre-race jitters.

Luckily we reached the stadium before 7am and had enough time to settle ourselves at the transition area. Sok Hwa's bicycle was 2 race numbers after mine. Last check to ensure that I had everything in order, took photos of the area, and went for a warm-up run on the tracks. We gathered at the start line, people saying hi to familiar faces. At 730am, the officials flagged off the Individual category - mens and womens together. I started near the end of the pack, not wanting to push with the fast runners in front.

We had to do 2x run laps. For the 1st lap, I was trotting along slowly before being overtaken by Snr Chua and Mr Lee. I only warmed up after the first 5km, and sped up in the 2nd lap. My cue was to look for the next female runner ahead of me and aimed to overtake her.

I reached the transition area in 1h, and headed for my bicycle. The ride was 2x 32km loops (or 4x 16km stretches). I was a little apprehensive on the 1st stretch, trying to get a good feel of my cleats and aero-bars. The seat post felt a little low when I was in the aero position. But it was too much trouble to get off and do a very small adjustment, so I lived with it. I experimented with the cleats, and using the hoods, drops and aero-bars, and feeding myself in the interim. I was overtaken by some of the slower runners but stronger sprinters on their bikes. Zoom Zip, I heard the wheels fly by and I recognized the more prominent jerseys. Snr Chua rode past me again - I think in endurance races, it really helps to be experienced and knowing where/ how to pace oneself. I rode past Aili, Sok Hwa and Alber near the 1st U-turn.

After I completed the 1st stretch and was more familiar with the route, I started cranking up my pedals. There were 3 bridges along each way, much like the ones along West Coast Highway and Jln Buroh in Singapore. One was rather steep and I saw cyclists slowly trudging upslope. I reminded myself that I was in cleats and I must never stop pedalling on the upslopes. It would certainly be headline news if my bike rolled backwards with me attached. I was also mindful of lifting my thighs instead of stepping down, to save some muscles for the run. Slopes were advantageous to me as I was light. I typically overtook many riders on the way up (including some who went past me earlier) and pedalled furiously down, enjoying the rush of wind in my face. Of course I was no match for the guys and swanky tri-bikes on the flats. And so it went. A couple of riders and I would play the catch-up game for the remaining sets. We recognized one another's bicycles and number tags after a while.

The weather was relatively cool, though humid. The sun was behind the cloud cover and only shone through during the last run leg. The police and traffic marshals were rather effective, the road junctions were well-manned and they stopped traffic for approaching cyclists. Unfortunately, Alber recounted that an errant truck driver left turned into his path, causing him to jam-brake and almost skidded. Cyclists behind shouted at the driver, who drove on nonchalantly. Alber insisted on using his MTB for the race and completed race in 4:55h. Quite a good showing for his very 1st duathlon with a MTB.

Finishing my ride in about 2:15h, I started on my run. I thought my legs felt good, and might have a chance to finish strong in good time. Alas, my quads started to cramp after a few minutes. Oh shoots. I had always suffered cramps after riding in all my duathlons. To be fair, the cleats helped tremendously and my cramp was not as bad as the Oakley Duathlon earlier this year. Still, the walk-jog-stretch-apply-muscle-rub routine cost me 15min before I was able to start running proper. :( Sumiko lapped me at the end of my 1st run lap to finish her race in 4:00h with a top 3 placing. Going into my 2nd and last lap of the race, I mentally willed myself to finish the run and not stop. I had a mental image of me at 39km of a marathon, with a few more km to finishing line. I am a long-distance runner, and I must not quit on a running segment of a race! That would be embarrassing, to say the least. I hung on, took my powergels and drink, and kept my steps steady, bypassing many participants who were walking back. The last drink station had ice-cold water and I poured them over myself. It was a perk-up, and I picked up speed to the finishing line, coming in at 4:32h. The organizers held out a race banner for all finishers to run through for a nice victory photo. Someone thrusted an icy dripping cold towel and drinks into my hand. The towel felt so good as I doused myself with it.

Everyone cleaned up and waited for the buses to arrive and reloaded all the bicycles. It was going to be another long ride home. I did not have enough carbo-reload after the race, and perpetually felt hungry. Sumiko treated our bus to KFC enroute using her prize money, and we happily devoured fried chicken on the bus. After several food stops, we finally reached the 2nd link at 130am. Some of us alighted at Tang Dynasty and had to wait for people from the other bus to claim their bicycles. By the time I reached home, it was 3am.

From our group, Mika took 1st position in the women's individual 45-49yrs category, Tanya (from NZ but staying in Spore) won the women's sprint event, and Sumiko was 3rd in the women's individual 20-29yrs category. Well done! Mika finished her race in 3:40h, I could only gape in awe of that sort of timing. It meant having to complete the 21km run in a strong sub-2h pace. I chatted with them during the trip and found them to be friendly and had no airs. Mika heartily enjoyed her seafood lunch and beer (no rocks!) with us the day before. Sumiko and I had some common friends, and she cracked me up with stories of all the F&B places she used to work at. She's a really gregarious and outspoken girl, very young with lots of potential. It is interesting how we tend to form stereotyped impressions of people we do not know firsthand except to hear of their glowing achievements, only to realize that they can be rather pleasant and charming in real person.

My results ( 11/18 position for W30-39 category & 212/293 individual participants by 5h cut-off; 4:32:15h, Run 1:00:24 (31.21min, 28.43min), T1 0:02:25, Bike 2:15:07 (33.44min, 32.40min, 33.28min, 33.33min), T2 0:02:29, Run 1:11:47 (40.42min, 31.11min).

It was a good race experience, and I am already looking forward to more races. :) Meanwhile, today is a eat and rest day, to recuperate my sore cramped quads, and recover for marathon training this week.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Day of Slopes and Parks

I woke up at 630am to the smattering rain, my incessant alarm, and the beeping of sms-es from friends alerting me to the wet weather in various places. It's great to have equally enthusiastic friends scattered across the island who wake up early to check the weather for runs. Ronnie and I had planned to do a long run around Macritchie-Mandai, but we were not keen to do so in a mud bath. Since it was still drizzling, I decided to crawl back under my silk blanket. An hour later, the sky still looked unhappy. We scrapped the Macritchie plan and headed to Safra for a road run. I saw KK's car in the carpark and was pleasantly surprised he came to run in the rain.

We readied ourselves and hung around the lobby until the rain ceased at 9am. We followed the Sunday route - Club, South Buona Vista, NUS, Kent Ridge Park, Labrador Park, Mt Faber and back via Kg Bahru. It was a cool drizzly morning when we set off, Ronnie fast disappearing out of sight. It was comforting to go up the winding South Buona Vista road, it was like home-coming. I lived in the NUS area for the past 20 years, and that was my oft-trained route. I knew almost every nook and turning of the routes around there. So much so that I almost ran on and missed the turn back onto campus. Like a pigeon's homing device! It was almost 10am, and campus grounds were damp from the morning showers. Hostelites and students began to stream onto the soccer fields and tennis courts for their trainings. Ah, the beauty of running, anytime, anywhere, anyone.

There were many slopes today (all the above named), and it was challenging to tackle them so soon after the MR run last Sunday. Kent Ridge Park was pleasant and cool. There were some groups and families strolling with umbrellas, a dog rolling on the grass soaking up the dew, and an uncle practising his Taiji, accompanied by many birds chirping in the overhead trees. I did an extra loop in KR Park. On the way out of KR Park, I realised that I'd not explored any of the marked mountain bike or walking trails, and made a mental note to do so one day. The wooden walkway leading out to Pasir Panjang road reminded me of the overnight trek earlier this year when I was training for Mustagh. At 430am, we had rested at one of the benches on the walkway overlooking the canopy below. Glad to be relieved of our heavy backpacks, we laid staring at the stars above and foilage below, nearly falling asleep in the still of the night.

Next up was Labrador Park. Traffic was building by now and the sun was slowly breaking through the cloud cover. I passed the breakfast prata crowd near the entrance of the park, and was distracted by their creamy frothy teh-tariks. I stopped at the water-cooler for some sips and headed for an extra 2 rounds on the flat loop. The prime waterfront real estate was abound with activities - families having picnics, middle-aged couples holding hands on strolls, people meditating on the benches or fishing, children laughing merrily chasing one another in the fields. A little 2-yr old girl blew soap bubbles at me as her proud daddy watched from the sides. I slowed down along the waterfront, enjoying the calm lapping waves.

The last stretch back to MF was both a delight and pain. Delight in knowing that the finishing was near, but only after clearing the painful MF slope. Time check, about 2:20h. I had no idea how much I ran or the pace. I went on the basis that a run >3h would be at least 30km. I wore my Mizuno Elixir today (I was saving my Asics GT for the weekend's Powerman race), wanting to test the shoes on long distance. At the recent AHM, I almost had foot cramp and I wondered if it was me or the shoes. But so far so good, my Elixir were holding up well. I caught my reflection in a bus-stop billboard and tried to analyse my running form/ posture.

When I returned to Safra, Ronnie had already been back for an hour. Oops. On long runs, the gap between fast and slow runners widened non-linearly. We chatted about the distance covered and the route. I guess morning long runs in Singapore could be rather charming in little ways, we just have to open our eyes and minds to them. :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Staying Neutral

Running does not have to be complicated. It is not. It is a simple act of putting one foot out in front of the other, until we reach the finishing point. Runners are complicated. And they make the sport complicated. Where there are egos at stake, the dynamics change. Unfortunately that is the case for the pursuits that I like - run, climb, cycle. Intrinsically, it is due to the individual nature of these sports, which means BIG individual egos on pedestals.

I love running, for running's sake. Having good company is a secondary bonus. Running is uplifting, stride after stride, a sense of etheral peace it provides. Running gives me the mental and physical space and privacy to sort out my thoughts. As some runners put it, we may drag our feet on bad days, but we never regret a run.

I love climbing, for the immense challenge it gives and for totally ripping us out of our comfort zones. Having good company is critical here. For you will have to face the person/ group in close proximity under the most inhospitable conditions that test your limits on all fronts. Even the best of partners and friends snap at one another. The crux is to find climbing buddies whom you can throw daggers at one minute, and entrust your lives to one another the next. In the mountain, egos are worshipped and crushed in a matter of seconds.

I love cycling, for the exhilarating control and freedom it offers, although I am not good at it (neither am I good at the other 2 passions). Having good company is somewhat important, from a safety perspective. Someone to watch out for one another on the roads, help out if a tyre goes flat or a fellow rider takes a tumble. When the rubber hits the road on a long deserted stretch, it is all systems go. Just you and the bike melded as one, eyeing the never ending tarmac, gaining strength and speed with each pedal. The adrenalin thrill of high-speed is addictive.

I guess, therefore, that having good company counts, albeit in varying degrees. Perhaps it is the search of such good company that adds to the complexity of the sports. Yet my realist side mocks at such a naive conclusion. I guess it is possible to stay out of the complex dynamics (in other words, politics) when company does not really matter, but not when it is a life and death matter. I am determined to stay neutral and injury-free, literally and figuratively, on all aspects. It is a tall order, but I'll try.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Dragging Feet

I went to Da Jie for massage last night. She has not lost her touch after 1 year's break, spot-on as usual. It was interesting how she kneaded the back of my knees to relieve the tension in the calves. And she did a great job with my sprained toe, which had been bugging me for 3 weeks. I think it just did not have a chance to recover fully, given my running. The toe was nagging again after Sunday's MR run, so imagine my relief when I could finally bend and wriggle it freely after DJ was through with it. :)

My legs felt ok today. A group of us decided to clock some mileage instead of following Ong on the hill repeats. I planned to run the Botanic Gardens route (15-16km) and then extend to HarbourFront & Kg Bahru (4.8km). I started off rather strong, but after we exited from Botanic Gardens, I could feel that I was going downhill. True enough, my pace slowed tremendously. I've no idea why. Perhaps it was due to the mild diarhhea I had before the run, or the ice-cream we ate in the office that spiked-dipped my blood sugar. I cut short my run and ended at the clubhouse. It was a drag just to get back, and it was getting late. Hope to run better on Thursday.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

MR25 35km Progressive Run

I joined the MR25 progressive run this morning instead of Safra's long run. The target was 35km around Macritchie Reservoir, Upp Thomson, Rifle Range Road area. RR and I started slightly later after the runners were flagged off. Bad decision, because that meant I'd be the last runner amongst all the very fast MR runners. I mean, people who wake up early on a Sunday morning to log 35km with MR25 cannot be tortoises.

So there I was, trudingly going through my steps. Somehow I was rather sluggish after the Northern Trail. I was wearing my Salomon trail shoes that I used for my USA trail marathon. It was great in the trails, but rather heavy pounding on the tarmac roads - and the route today was split 50-50 across the 2 terrains. I had my Endurance drink, but it did not perk me up as much as last Sunday's long run. 2h into the run and I felt like I needed a powergel. Last week, I took my gel only at 2:20h. Perhaps the rolling slopes expended more energy. I was my most sluggish between the 2:00 - 3:00h stretch, my strides wouldn't open up. My breathing wasn't heavy, in fact I was probably too relaxed. My legs did not feel heavy, yet they would not respond to my push. The last water point was at the end of Rifle Range Road. I think the distance by then was around 25km and I reached it at exactly 3h. Crumbs.... I finished up my pk of powergel, took some water, and prepared to head back to MR.

And then the feeling came! Yes! I felt like I could run back decently and not drag my feet. :) I overtook the guy who was ahead of me, so that made me 2nd last. Gee, I should not be proud of that. Actually, I really was not bothered by position or timing. My aim was simple - complete the entire route in about 4h. I had about 10ish km to go. I decided to return via the MR trail that would take me to the Jelutong tower, wooden bridge and golf course, rather than follow the prescribed Northern Trail. I wanted more exposure on trail because my shoes would perform better. I felt really breezy on the way back, and the strides felt strong and sure. I focused on the chi-running technique of mid-foot strike, leaning slightly forward, and swinging my arms backwards. I completed the last 10ish km in 1:07h, and stopped at the canteen to get a much needed Sportade.

I guess that was a negative split, but hmm.... I'm pretty sure I would not want that sort of timing. Last Sunday, I was strong until 3h point at ECP-B1, and then the last 9km took its toil. Today it was the exact opposite. I slogged for 3h before my engine kicked in the last 10km. Crumbs crumbs.... I hope I get the best of both on race day (hopefully not the worst combination!).

I swear powergel makes me hyper. I came home feeling non-taxed (sigh.... does that mean the run was not effective?), so I decided to wash things. Lo and behold, one thing led to another - I vacuumed my room, scrubbed 4 pairs of slippers, washed 2 pairs of shoes, rinsed my running gear, washed 2 giant teddy bears, and cleaned the bathroom! Gosh... I think my mum would ask me to run more. :)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

New Cleats & Aero-bars!

I slept at 4am this morning. I was on a roll last night, designing Dawn's farewell scrapbook thingy. But today's Saturday, and my much awaited rest day, so I can sleep in. Went to F for my usual massage. I thought I had a decent week of workouts and not feeling like I'd lost my legs. Alas, once he started pressing, I was a goner.

Met Alvin for lunch and we proceeded to Millen's to install my Look pedals and a set of aerobars on my bicycle. I finally mustered enough wild courage to fix everything after much prodding and cajoling from Alvin. I succumbed to the 'if not now on the flat Msian race course, then when?' argument. The other taunt of 'you're so athletic, how can you be so clumsy at this?' also worked on me. :)

My main worry is not being able to clip in/out quickly at road junctions and getting into accidents. I mounted myself on the bicycle and tested the new gear on Millen's stationary trainer. I practised clipping and unclipping in many times before feeling comfortable enough to go on the roads.

We drove to Lim Chu Kang cemetery stretch to practise loops. Right shoe clicked. 'Ok, here goes nothing', I told myself, and stepped down. Instinctively my left shoe found its way to the pedal and clicked in place just as practised! One challenge down, and I was moving forward. Now to figure out how to brake and stop safely. Remembering to position my left foot at the lowest point, I unclipped the shoe. But I was too tensed up to brake properly, and promptly scrapped the bottom of the shoe on the kerb. That wasn't correct. So I did the drill a few more times - mount, clip in, clip out, brake, stop, foot down. And I got it! It was heartening to know that I'm not as klutsy as I thought. Next trick to learn was balancing and controlling my bike with the aerobars. The first time I rested my elbows on the pads and held the bar (or attempted to), the bike swerved dangerously. I clutched the hoods in a reflex move. It took me a couple of angle adjustments and trial-and-error to learn how to ride with the aerobars.

I did 3 sets of the loop, approximately 20km. It was a nice experience using the cleats and aerobars. I feel more confident to use them on race day next week. :)

Friday, November 2, 2007

A Grand Crazy Plan

I woke up this morning feeling an immense urge to use my swanky new cleats and install aero-bars for the upcoming Powerman. The flat, long race route was an incentive to test the gear, because we would not have that sort of condition in local races. The grand crazy plan was to fix on the Look pedals and go to Lim Chu Kang stretch for a few loops to practise my cleats technique. I could even throw in a 2-3km run for a little brick training! Brilliant! Part of the motivation was because I had no training plans for the evening, and was itching for some workout.

But as the day went by, I was feeling less and less confident. I hate to fall over, and beginners in cleats always crash. As a 'backup' training, I went for Andrew's RPM class followed by a 10-min dreadmill plod. His class was always a high-energy hit. I forgot whatever lactic that had accumulated in my legs over the week, and charged all out as he directed. The idea was to get the legs really sng to make up for the short duration before jumping on the dreadmill.

Thankfully for the little workout. Because later in the night, Alvin and I tried and couldn't remove the old pedals from my bike. So my grand cleats plan fell apart. Oh well, I'll have to bring my bike to Millen for servicing tomorrow, so I might try again to convince myself to affix those new gear for the race next week. A wee bit suicidal, I'm not heeding my own advice of never trying new stuff on race day..... Oops.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Run like Volkswagen Mini

Today was Safra's easy run day - 15km. Yeah! *bells & whistles* But it was by no means "easy" as the fast runners were all storming down the road with such intensity. Me being the perennial lazy runner, kept to one side of the lane and let them overtake me. I felt no compulsion to give chase, in what I knew would be a futile effort and crashing myself in the process.

Heng, Alber and I extended our run into Botanic Gdns while the rest turned off along Holland Rd after MFA. It is always a challenge to run in Botanic in the dark, and not make the wrong turns around the many winding paths. We exited at the Bt Timah/ Farrer Road end and headed back to Safra. Margaret Drive was as mental as before, that 2km stretch is so boring and draining, I tried to distract myself by counting my cadence. Alber sped ahead, and Heng was keeping a nice pace slightly behind me. I tried to go faster along the canal, obviously not being a very seasoned fast runner, I didn't like the hard breathing feeling at all. :( Heng and I then decided to do an extra loop around MF, returning by Kg Bahru. That brought the day's run to about 20-21km. A nice and easy relaxed run.

I feel like a Volkswagen Mini or something, slowly slowly trot along. I probably can trot and trot forever, nevermind the distance, and I'll eventually complete it. I'm so not a Honda CRX. Haha.......