Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cantebury Estate

Yet another marathon meeting today, which went on for more than 3h. I could run happily for 3h, but I could not keep my concentration at a painfully long meeting for 3h. Scooted out of the meeting and sped to Safra for run.

I was going to miss the hill training today. Again. Last Thurs I was down with a flu. Tonight, I still had a bit of cough and phlegm. I was bad with phlegm - for some strange reason, I could not cough it out of my system. So I went for a short slow jog around Canterbury Estate with Alber instead. He was tapering off for Saturday's Biathlon. I could feel my tight hamstrings from yesterday's gym. After about 15-20min, a light drizzle started. My nose followed likewise.

Canterbury Estate comprised sprawling clusters of former colonial houses amidst lush green open fields. It was one of those areas not served by public buses. Everyone drove or took taxis, or took long strolls. At one house, a taxi pulled up at the gates, and out dashed a very excited black dog, yelping happily at the car door. A little child was heard screaming after the dog from inside the house. At another house, a little brown puppy was looking quizzedly at us jogging by, and wagging its fat tail playfully.

The drizzle ceased, and the air was fresh and crisp in the estate. We looped out and went down Alexandra Road, back to the assault of the evening traffic pollution and noise. Jogged back via Henderson, I did not even bother to chiong up the slope tonight. The rest of the runners returned shortly after. They did their 5x MF Loops tonight. Good job. Aiyo, how to increase speed if I kept missing hill trainings?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Swiss Hip Extension

Still sneezing and sniffing in the office. This cold spell had been bugging me for a week. Decided that a RPM Challenge class would be too strenuous on the throat, hard panting and all. Popped by the Safra gym instead.

I did not have a systematic gym/ weights training plan - lazy lah. I usually just worked at whichever body part I felt enthused about that day. So it was the triceps, deltoids, and a couple of upper bod parts with the free weights. Then I tried the hamstring machine. Runners often had muscle imbalance from over-developed quads and weak hamstrings, resulting in many knee joint injuries. (There, sounding like an expert! Merely parroting what running magazines say.) I think I did not adjust the machine position properly, so the first 2 sets felt 'off'. After some fine-tuning, I did another 2 sets.

Last, the gym ball for my usual sets of crunches. I was trying to execute a Elite Abs workout featured recently in Runners World. The magazine photo of Carrie Tollefoson perfectly balanced on the ball, doing Swiss Hip Extension, with her cover-picture-perfect abs, made it look so easy. Until I tried it. It was difficult trying to maintain the bod on the ball and not roll off, while lifting one's leg to mimic the running motion. Maybe I was doing it wrong, because I did not feel my abs being engaged. Hmmm.... Have to experiment more. Maybe on the bigger gym ball for better stability.

Went to collect my borrowed MTB tonight. Its sizing looked good, but I would have to bring it for servicing this week. First time I was transporting a bike in my car. Decent. The entire bike went in without having to remove anything. But there was only space for 1 bike. Oh well.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Running Nose & New GT-2130

I reached office, stepped out the car, and started sneezing immediately. My nose was irritated by the dry office aircon and started running (away?). I spent the entire day in the office sniffing, coughing and trying to catch my nose. Urghs!

I contemplated if I should go for the run. 12km, easily manageable at a slow non-irritant pace. But an irritating route that goes through many traffic lights, roadside construction and heavy traffic/ pollution. Going down Lower Delta Rd to Clarke Quay & Esplanade, there were many stops and single-file running.

I went in the end, because I had to give Dom a lift to Safra. There were about 20ish runners. Many of the fast runners were not around, and there was a noticeably relaxed atmosphere today. People were chatting on the run, not really pushing, more like a recovery jog. I deliberately slowed down to sweep the rear, breathing only through my nose. When I breathed through my mouth, my throat would get irritated and my nose threaten to sprint! Dom was trying to regain his running base. We ran together for a short distance, at a comfortable pace I hoped we could keep for 3 days in Sabah. Ok, so KC and I can't ride, and Dom can't run.... our 3-day adventure would be very eventful. Oops!

Dom u-turned back around Boat Quay, so I ran ahead to catch up with the rest. Bev was fast, improving a lot over the months. If she fell behind, she usually caught up quickly. Nowadays I try to run alongside her. She was good company to run with, a nice comfortable pace. Like a slower version of Anthony - steady & consistent. Good coaching, haha.

I pushed a bit harder after Tiong Bahru park, up the Henderson slopes back to Safra. That short push was ok for my lungs, but my throat felt dry. We met Sumiko, Eddie etc for dinner at NUS. Had not seen Eddie since CNY, hilarious as ever. There were 8 of us at the Chinese Noodle shop beside Fong Seng, slurping down our steamed dumplings and noodle soup amidst cracking up with jokes. Trying to save my throat and not talk too much was an exercise in futility! Sumiko brought my new Lady GT-2130 New York - delicious lilac-purple! My fav colour, very very pretty! So ladylike and sweet, I can't bear to wear them out. Tempted to stock up a few pairs for colour's sake. :)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Another Gym Day

Had a marathon meeting that ended late. :( Today was cardio-rest day, so off to Safra after work.

Gym day. Re-enacted some moves from Body Pump classes with the bar-pole weights at Safra. Chest, triceps, back and lunges. Usually I would do the exercises in sets of 3 x 10,varying the counts/ rhythm. Did some tricep dips on the bench. The bench was high, unlike my step-benches at Fitness First. Those were low, and one could discreetly sit our butts to the ground if our triceps gave way. Haha. The ones at Safra were chair-height. Plonking down on the ground would be utter embarrasment!

There was this rotation machine that I had taken a liking to. You sit down and hug the supporting pads, and twist your upper torso left-right. I started with a heavier than usual weight, and could feel it engaging the side obliques. After finishing our separate workouts, I challenged Alber to do the "plank". A fuss-free quick abs workout. Each set was 1min, single-legged. We did 4 sets. Nice. Next time I should challenge him to lunges. Haha.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Run with New Toy

Ricci shared that one way to train for ultras was to do back-to-back runs, ie. long runs on consecutive days, where the total distance amounted to the ultra distance or more. After yesterday's long run, I had wanted to do a shorter distance this morning. After hearing Ricci's theory and since I was already at Safra, I should try to complete the training and decide on the distance accordingly if I felt tired.

We were doing the 21km Safra-MSP route today. Lai Chee said one section of the Marina Grove loop was closed for construction. The loop was about 1-2km. Off we went, there were relatively fewer runners today. Peter, Wong, Ong, Jaime, Michael, KK, Siew Li, Trevor, Lai Chee, Ricci, and a handful others whom I did not know their names. Many of the other regulars were not there. This was also the weekend of the Langkawi IM that Snr Chua, Sok Hwa, Chin KK and Teacher Lee were participating in.

Today I had a new toy - my pink Nathan Speed 2 hydration belt that I bought in HK. Very cheap, only ~S$27 after discount! I wore the belt with the 2 bottles behind me. Siew Li said it was cute, like a Barbie Doll's toy(!), and that pink was not a colour associated with long endurance runs. Oh gosh... I hoped she did not mean I was like a Barbie Doll, goodness gracious me! Music of "I'm a Barbie Girl, in a Barbie World...." started ringing in my ears. Haha. The belt worked great, snug and no bounce. I did not have any problem pulling out the bottles or stuffing them back. I even hooked my M-frames on the belt without it shifting about. I discovered that an unintended function of the snug belt was to hold in stitches, instead of me having to press my thumbs on the affected parts. How cool!

We started off with Peter and KK slightly ahead of me. My legs felt ok after last night's massage, but still I went slowly. Did not want to risk ITB or something. Maybe I should buy the "red toy" that Anthony, Bev and DO raved so much about. The guys were going quite fast. Then Siew Li came from behind and ran with KK throughout, who held her bottle in addition to his 4 Nathan belt. Ooh how sweet. I followed a short distance behind them, charmed by their adorable little acts. :) I am placing my bet that they would get wedded soon if things went as they are now. More wagers, anyone?

After 7km, my legs did not feel light anymore. Hmmm. I was practising going for as long as possible without Endurance drinks or powergels. I recalled Adrian's comment that the body could adjust eventually if we tried not to be over-reliant on those stuff for ultra runs. The trick was to push back the body's tolerance over repeated runs, and try to tap on some inner source of strength. Easier said than done. I had no inner source of fuel (= strength!). Don't know where I was going to tap whatever from.

The weather was humid today, not much sun from behind the cloud cover, but we were all soon drenched. It was a far cry from the coolness of HK, no way to achieve any PBs in Singapore. I was drinking a lot more water compared to during HK marathon. 1:10h of run. We reached MSP for a refuel (= thirsty gulps from the tap), and proceeded back. Starting to feel that my breakfast sandwich was gone, and tried to prop up with more water. 1:24h, resisted the urge to have my powergel, and sipped more water instead. Ok, about 40min more to go. I can, can, can do this without the powergel.

I passed this middle-aged runner (whose name I did not know) with his son, and then Michael. The guy came for the run with his wife and son. How lovely, something that the whole family could do together. I saw the front runners (Peter, Wendy, KK, Siew Li and Ricci) cross the Kg Bahru junction and turned towards Mt Faber. Were they going up MF? I crossed and continued straight towards HarbourFront & Henderson. Trevor and Lai Chee came in the opposite direction, they had gone up MF and descended from Morse Rd. I stopped at the Shell kiosk before Henderson junction to check out pump prices. Petrol was so expensive nowadays, better plan driving routes carefully. I turned up Henderson slope, oh boy, could not power up. Never mind, stuck to constant shuffling steps. Baby steps to conquer the slope, bit by bit.

Reached Safra, happy that I went without powergel. Covered ~20km, 2:08h. Positively hungry.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sundown Familiarization Run (25km)

I went to bed early last night, trying to combat a sore throat from becoming full-blown flu. Downed a panadol flu drink, a lemon-lime flavour vaguely tasting like Gatorade, but with a tinge of bitterness. Woke up feeling ok for the Sundown Familiarization run today. I got to Bedok Reservoir at 7am, just in time to catch the group running off. It was quite a big turnout, about 20+ runners, mostly from the SGRunnerz group. Ricci, DO, Anthony, Bev, Lai Chee, Rosemary and her friend were there. Jancy and Vincent came slightly later but caught up by the U-turn point. Suhaimi led the way.

The route was approximately 25km - from Bedok Reservoir Park, via the PCN (park connectors network), to Kembangan MRT, Siglap/ Marine Parade, over to East Coast Park C4, and U-turning at the Sailing Club Carpark G. We had covered part of the route during the last Tampines Safra location run, but this time extending into ECP.

There were 3 bridges to cross - one stairs-bridge (gosh! how to climb stairs without cramping during the actual Ultra?), and two slope-bicyle-bridge. Apart from those, the route was flat all the way. So flat that it became a very mental run from sheer boredom. My legs were still tired from HK. Anthony said they would be going slow, 7min pace. It was anything but that. Haha. I was probably the only one at that pace. Try getting a bunch of very fast runners to slow down. It was a crawl for them. Pretty soon, they were all far ahead. Bev was slightly ahead of me. She had improved so much since she started running with us last year.

I reached ECP in about 50ish min. Not even 10km but it felt like forever. Another 15ish km to go. Oh no. Today's effort felt much harder than HK marathon. I dragged my legs to the u-turn point at the Sailing Club toilet. Most of the runners were there already. Wow, there was even Powerbar-Endurance drink from a dispenser for the group! A welcome relief, I was beginning to feel low on my supplies. It tasted rather diluted though, compared to my normal sachet concentration. I filled my bottle with the Endurance drink. Took a much needed toilet break as well. We waited for a few remaining runners to gather before starting on the return run.

Ricci and DO were chatting about running shoes while I tried to keep my pace constant. Bev caught up shortly at the Marine Parade overhead bridge. I waited for her at a traffic crossing and we ran together for some distance. We were both tired and our shoes were pounding very loudly on the ground. The PCN marking stated about 6.5km to Bedok Park. Soon it was about 5km, then 4ish km. Bev picked up speed after we crossed into Bedok Park. There was still abt 2-3km to go before reaching the Reservoir.

The last stretch back to the Reservoir seemed endless. My cardio was ok, plentiful supply, but my legs were protesting. A slight nagging right ITB and a tingling left knee. Tsk Tsk. I was conservative and careful not to punish my throat and lungs. A cough is the worst thing for a sports person - you aren't sick enough to stop workouts, yet it totally interferes with them.

Finally the run was over. Approx. 2h 50min. A fresh chilled supply of Endurance drink awaited. After some stretching, we took a group photo. Some of us drove to Tampines Safra for a shower, and headed to the Tampines Round Market for the braised bah-kut mee that Adam had earlier introduced to us. We discussed the training plan for Ultra, and Jancy jotted down the dates/ distances. Fortnightly long runs at night, starting with 35km and culminating to 60-70km. The distances sounded daunting. I would have to draw on my experience from the MR Ultra for strength and confidence.

I had a massage appointment in the evening to fix those leggy problems. But first, it was back home for a good sleep and rest.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

YOG 2010! Yeah!

Singapore won the bid to host the YOG in 2010! Yeah! Our bid and preparations was truly a community driven effort. In a country where almost everything was government-led, the bottoms-up effort was very commendable. So in 2010, would that translate to a baseline of tourism receipts and hence my bonus? Haha.

Had a sore throat, felt fluish. Skipped Safra run. Speedwork around Labrador Park sounded unfriendly to a sick person. Totally unappealing. Went home early, but was stuck in the outbound peak traffic. I usually drove home late at nights, and had no idea what the evening peak traffic was like. Ambitiously thought that I could do a short jog around my estate to 'sweat out the flu', but had waited for the Youth Olympic news broadcast until it was too late. Running gave way to a rumbling stomach. I crashed to bed by 10:30pm, totally knocked out.

Airshow Aerobatics

I was at the Airshow in the morning attending a Space Conference and managed to catch the flying display over lunch. The first item was by our RSAF Black Knights in their F16s splendor, cheekily teasing the audience with their formations. The familiar booming engines reverberated each time they flew by. There were 5 jets, and one of the formations was a heart-shaped cupid arrow. 2 jets outlined each side of the heart-arches, and the 5th pilot (Philip - Zoe's husband) flew a line through the heart like cupid's arrow. They ended their display with a 'curtain drape'. I felt an immense sense of patriotism, like a child watching national day display and wanting to cheer and clap.

Then there was a series of solo aerobatics by pilots from various countries - USA, Korea etc -spinning, rolling, and vertically climbing their different planes in the sky, executing tight-corner maneuvers. Next up was the A380, the Queen of the skies. True to its title, the A380 flew in, regal and majestic, to the strings of Pachebel's Canon in D. After the pulsating stunts of the previous fighter jets, the Queen was a sharp contrast. Like a fairy tale, it parted the clouds, slowly and surely, with an air of reassurance that you would safely reach your dream destination.

The last team display was by the RAAF's (Australian) Roulettes. They flew the Pilatus PC-9, a single engine turboprop training aircraft. The Pilatus PC-9 was unlike the F16, and much quieter. The team reminded me of teenagers out on a group date, shyly dating, with the occasional tease to catch the attention of the others. The 6 planes entered in extremely neat triangular formations, pulling in and vertically up in unison. From the ground, the planes looked like a 2-dimensional triangular kite, gliding through the sky, very fluid and graceful. One execution had 2 pilots flying in horizontally from opposing ends, and crossing each other in the middle. Another had 5 planes flying ahead, and the 6th doing tumbles (like horizontal cartwheels) behind them. I was reminded of a young brood of chicks strolling along, and the last playful one falling out of line, skipping along.

Salutes to the pilots and their hard training.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Rest Day = Weights & Sashimi

I felt lazy so I went down to Safra gym. Weights session = rest day for me since there's no cardio workout involved. And the amount of weights I use hardly qualifies to be a training session. Where Alber and the guys heave and puff over slabs of weights, I am happy to go with the minimum. Case in point - the Triceps extension machine. I had 2 slabs of dunno-how-much weights vs his 6 chunky slabs. Oh well. Did a couple of shoulders, back and triceps. But was happier to hit the gym-ball for my abs crunches. I made it a point to do a minimum of 60 front and sides each. Then I did a couple of exercises for the lower abs (raise legs vertically towards the ceiling as if pushing something upwards), and 2x 1min sets of the plank. Must have laid off abs for some time since last week's marathon, I could feel myself wobbling on the plank position.

Dinner was the highlight. Had a craving for fresh sashimi over the past days. So I went to my favourite Sakuraya fish-mart-eatery at South Buona Vista-Pasir Panjang Village Centre. The place has expanded its seating area to the shop next door. There were many customers when I reached, but easily got a table. We picked our slabs of fish from the mart and had the chefs slice them. Salmon belly (sake toro), Tuna (maguro), swordfish, squid and octopus. Plus rice and a chuka hotate (some chewy seafood marinated in sesame and sauce). Heavens. Sake Toro that melts in the mouth. I have quit eating normal sake ever since I discovered fish-marts a few years ago. Why settle for expensive, non-textured salmon in the shops when I get an entire slab of belly for much cheaper? The meal ended with a mocha ice-cream picked from the mart's freezer selection. I had wanted black sesame (I spied it at other tables and it looked good), but was out of stock. Green tea version was equally nice too. Milky-creamy enough but not too rich. At $2.40 for a larger-than-haagen-daz-cup, there was enough for two to share comfortably.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Recovery Run

Did a nice slow recovery run tonight. Safra planned a 14km to Portsdown, Buona Vista and Queensway, and Depot Road. Rosemary did not know the route so Chairman asked Alber and I to sweep the rear since we were going oh-so-slow-a-trot. My quads were aching slightly. Had not stretched after HK marathon and the cramps. By 10km, legs started feeling heavy. Stopped at Caltex's '5-star toilet' for a break. At Depot Road, I felt lazy and wanted to stroll back. Oops. Had a quick dinner at Henderson. Akira was there to drink with the guys. He said we should go with him if we wanted to do Tokyo marathon because he knew the race officials there. Hmm... idea for next year perhaps? :) I wondered how our runners in Tokyo fared in sub-zero weather.

HK Marathon (17 Feb 2008)

Sunday Race Day (17 Feb 2008)
Info: 7:45am, 14-16degC, 68-88% humidity

I woke up a couple of times the night - 2:30am, 5:30am, 6:00am - before the alarm went off at 6:45am. Hit the snooze button. I lazily dragged myself out from under the blanket warmth at 6:55am. The flag-off was 7:45am outside our hotel. I peered out of my window to check out the people on Nathan Street below and what they were wearing as a weather gauge. Not too bad, the patrolmen were in jackets but not gloves. Alber and I quickly readied ourselves and made breakfast. I had my usual instant Quaker oatmeal with milo, whilst putting on my race belt and shoes. I chose to wear my tried-and-tested pink Nike long-sleeved top that I used at the USA trail marathon, and teamed it with a Nike 3/4 tights that had a snug-compression feel to it.

We left the room at 7.30am to walk to the start line. Ahh, the perks of staying at the Miramar. We went past the elite warming up zone and saw 2 runners (whom I did not know) wearing white jerseys with Singapore flags. The crowd was slowly forming in the gathering area. Runners were dressed in all sorts of. Some were in sleeveless jerseys and tights/ shorts, some long-sleeved, long pants, windbreakers, gloves and some had plastic ponchos over themselves. According to the weather report, the mean temperature that morning was 14-16degC, with humidity 68-88%. We joined the front pack and started stretching. Suddenly Alber exclaimed that he had forgotten to bring his water bottle. Time check: 7:37am. There was enough time for him to dash to the room and retrieve it. He came back just in time as the crowd was moving forward towards the start line. Within a minute, the horn sounded and the race was flagged off.

The run started slow, but it was less crowded than last year where the beginning point was a bottleneck. This year first 2km took 12:28.8min because of the crowd. Derrick came up from behind us, said hi, and ran off. After 17min, Alber had a slight diarrhea and needed the loo. We split up and ran separately from that point onwards. I paced myself, keeping a check on my breathing, mindful of my last CNY long run with SGRunners where I started out too fast. I sped up a little since my breathing still felt light.

It was one of those mornings where things fell in place. I eased into a nice rhythm, going with the flow of the run. I had no timing expectations today, seeing how dismal my recent long runs were. The weather felt good. At the exposed sections on the bridge, I pulled down my long sleeves. In the enclosed tunnels, I rolled up the sleeves. Similarly, my tights were doing a good job of keeping me cool and warm when appropriate. They also held up my knee joints and kept them warm. I was also wearing my Rakuwa necklace for the first time in a race, not sure how it might help.

10km time check - 58:13min, 5:49min pace. I felt good and encouraged. I seldom clocked sub-1h for 10km, especially not during a marathon. I kept going, wondering when Alber was going to catch up. It would not be easy because I was going faster than my normal pace.

The first turning point was at 15.4km at Tsing Ma Bridge. Shortly after, Alber waved to me on the other side. He was about 1ish km behind me. The sharks were back again! Last year, there was a group of runners dressed as sharks running the full marathon as an anti sharks fin protest. They were strong runners, despite the heavy outfits. This year there were 5 of them - 4 sharks ahead of Alber, and 1 behind him.

21km time check - 2:00:07h, 5:43min pace. Tuning point after Ting Kau Bridge. Very good. I might be able to do get a good timing if I maintained the pace. Saw Alber on the other side again, still running with the sharks. I started my powergel at 20km and still felt strong.

30km time check - 2:51:22h, 5:42min pace. Excellent! That would be my 30km PB as well. My fastest 10km stretch was 21-30km, taking 56:54min at 5:41min pace. Definitely was hopeful about my marathon timing. I wondered if I could break the 4h barrier or come close to it. Not wanting to distract or add pressure to myself, I focused on positive thoughts and my breathing technique while sipping my 2nd powergel.

The sun was starting to peek out from behind the clouds, and it began to feel like our normal Sunday runs. According to the course elevation chart by the organizers, the steep climbs were mostly over by now. There were so many tunnels and bridges that I lost count of which one we were running on. At 34km, my pace started to waver and I tried hard to keep it under 6min. I could feel the lactic building up in my calves, slowly but surely. I saw Kumaran somewhere along the way. Was I mistakened? I rubbed my eyes and took a double look. It turned out that he was having a tough time running because of blisters from new shoes. By 36km, I crossed the 6min pace, much to my disappointment. I willed myself not to stop, especially on the remaining slopes, for walking would trigger the cramps immediately. Last year I cramped near the finishing end and had to slow down. From 37.5km - 39.5km, it was a steep climb all the way for 2km. Then a gradual descent to 40km. I took care to place my feet properly and not have sudden shifts in posture or body weight.

40km time check - 3:53:50h; 5:50min pace. Starting to feel painful now. No more chance of getting sub-4h but nonetheless a good effort. Alber overtook me from behind. Great job, he sped up all the way despite 2 toilet breaks and finally caught up with me at 40km. He waved for me to follow him but my legs were quite dying and I was focused on not having cramps. I could not follow his pace and he ran ahead. We turned a corner towards the 41km marker. Horrors! There was yet another slope. At 41km! In all honesty, it was a short stretch, something like 50m of Morse Road, definitely easy on a normal day. But at 41km, it loomed like Titanic. I gritted my teeth, took a deep heave, and up I trotted. Careful now, no cramps.

The public lined the roads along the finishing 1km, cheering and clapping. I spied the finishing timer arch in the distance and tried very hard to open up my last few strides. Finally, I crossed the mat deliriously at 4:08:28h. Alber came in slightly earlier at 4:05:42h - also a PB for him. Well, those were the official timings. But Alber and I started together and his gun and chip timings differed by 50sec, whereas mine were the same. Weird.... Based on my watch too, my timing should be slightly lesser at 4:07:50h. Oh well, nonetheless, it was a sweet moment to savour, my marathon PB! :) I felt good breaking my physical barrier and resume some semblance of running form. If I could achieve this timing, I was sure many of our female Safra runners would do equally well or better in similar runs. It was a run where I did not hold back unnecessarily, and had tried my very best. No regrets, no ifs or buts.

HK Marahon Pre-race (15 & 16 Feb 2008)

Friday 15 Feb 2008
Pre-HK marathon trip. I went for a 1.5h massage appointment with Da Jie in the evening. As usual, a thorough check. Knees ok, minor soothing. Sides of knees ok. She laid her strong fingers on the muscle running up from both my ankles (Google: peronei muscles) and I was squirming from the pain. Ouch. Probably the result of some misaligned steps in the trail. Apparently they were causing my calves to be very tight, which felt significantly lighter after she worked at those spots. Next was the infamous ITB at the hip. Burrowed deep under, she had to use her arm to press and knead. Click click click. It was not as painful as I imagined.

Have not finished packing. Rushed to pick up Alber, who was down with a bad throat and fever. Gosh, I had not seen him so sick before, not very responsive or alert. I drugged him with Panadol, flu drinks and strepsils. Hopefully the HK weather would not make it worse and he recovers by Sunday for the run.

Saturday 16 Feb 2008
Flight was 640am. Planned to reach airport by 520am. Reality - alarm went silent after the 1st ring. Overslept, 5:00am! Jumped awake with a start and called a cab, in between getting dressed and dragging my bags down the stairs. Thankfully cabbie uncle was a Daytona champion, he sped all the way to the airport by 545am. I heaved a great sigh of relief when the Departure board stated that my flight had been re-timed to 710am. Whew! Bags checked in, duty-free shopping done, and even had time for a quick breakfast at Killiney. After all the rush and anxiety, we were finally onboard and taking off for HK.

We arrived and took the Airport Express MTR and free shuttle to Miramar Hotel. I deliberately booked Miramar as the race day weather was colder this year and the hotel was next to the start line - minimizing waiting time outdoors. Got the room online at a good deal too, cheaper than Kimberly Hotel where we stayed last year. We checked in and went for a quick lunch at a Cha Can Teng nearby called "Qing Song Yi Xia" ("relax a while"). I ate there last year too and the food was decent. The locals were decked out in down or thick fleece jackets, but we did not find it to be as cold. Perhaps it was an excuse for them to dress up in winter finery.

Gear Shopping
My friends had given me a Salomon gear list to look for, so we headed straight to the shops. First stop - Chamonix Alpine Equipment at Nelson Street. It had a good selection of outdoor gear and was having a storewide 30% discount. Tonnes of cheap Salomon trail shoes and spoilt for choice. After discount, the shoes were S$88-93 (vs Singapore's S$130-170). Unfortunately the shop only had women's petite sizes up to UK6, but my friend and I needed UK6.5. :( What a letdown.

I was browsing the backpacks when someone shouted "Hello!". To my pleasant surprise, it was my university schoolmate, Bernard, who had been posted to HK for a few years. He was a fellow ultra-marathoner and endurance junkie. We traded race stories and gear reviews. HK had so many trails for hiking and running, he was buying a hydration pack for run. He suggested to check out Vasque trail shoes for their superb hardiness especially on the soles. Montrail was good but wore out fast.

Alber and I spent almost the entire evening at the shop and its nearby branch to compare brands and models. I was tasked to buy 4x Salomon Raid Revo 30 race packs for my friends, and happily found them newly arrived at the shop. I got a smaller yellow Raid Revo 20 for myself too. There was a nice pink Suunto Vector watch costing S$278 after discount. Must buy!

We shopped until 9ish and headed back to the hotel because our harvest was too much to carry around. After dumping the purchases, we settled for a simple (and not nice) dinner near the hotel. Ricci had helpfully collected our race packs in the morning and left them at the Concierge. We returned around 11pm to settle in and prepare for the race the next morning. By now, there was a SOP for race-day preparations so it did not take long to get my things ready. Hit the bed past midnight. Luckily the marathon flag-off was 7.45am and not some unearthly dawn hours.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

New Hort Park run

The runners turnout today was significantly less. Some were in HK for the marathon this weekend, whilst some were enjoying their valentine's dates. At the last minute, Chairman decided to alter the route. He brought us on a guided tour-run into the new Horticultural Park and its connection through to Kent Ridge Hill.

The Hort Park was an eye-opener. When we did the reverse route last Saturday with the SGRunners, we ran along the peripheral of the Hort Park and did not enter it. Tonight, we meandered through the greens, plots of blooming flowers, landscapes and water features. There was even a cafe that was cosily decorated, but no one knew if the food was good. The new Hort Park could potentially be a new dating ground.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Improved Trainer

I drove to Capital Tower for RPM Challenge class. The peak traffic was unusually heavy, and I reached the club barely 5min before the class. I peeped in, it was not full yet. But gasp! Glenn was the covering trainer today. Having bad vibes about the class, but since I was already in the changing room, might as well go for a spin.

Surprisingly, the class turned out decent. Glenn has improved a fair bit since a couple of months ago. The workout was hard enough and sweat-inducing. It was a few weeks since my last RPM class, so the spin felt energizing.

Now for a nice dinner of fresh sashimi. :) Needed to go home early to start packing for the upcoming HK trip too.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Taper Run

Tuesday was a short 10km standard MF loop. A couple of us started the run late - myself, Alber, KK, Siew Li, Shirley, and Jason. The rest were on a fly, hammering their MF loop-PBs. I was on a slow tapering run, at a 50-60% intensity where I could have a complete conversation over the distance. I could still feel some tightness in my right hip when going downslope. Hopefully my Friday massage would knead the problem away.

The runners went to Henderson for dinner. Michael shared with me that a sports doctor recently started him on a different brand of glucosamine, and which cured the knee cartilage problem that had bugged him for months. I think it was called OsteoFlex. The conversation then moved on to how people stayed motivated for long races such as Full-IM. Senior Chua, Sok Hwa and Chairman all chipped in with their views.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

End of Hols MR Run

Today marked the end of a nice long CNY break. We return to the grunt and grind of work routine tomorrow. It was a hot sunny day, and MR beckoned. Between running under the cool canopy of trees and getting baked on the tarmac roads, I chose the former. It helped too that MR was only a 10-min drive from my house.

I reached MR at 540pm and was surprised to find the car park full at what I deemed a late hour. There were many families out on a stroll, with prams and children in tow. There were also some foreign workers out on a date, enjoying the quiet of the park and perhaps too, the end of the long break. Runners/ joggers were about a handful. A quick check on my watch, I should have enough time to complete a loop before it turned dark.

I set off on my usual trail, it was my 3rd time at MR over the CNY period. I was wearing my TNF Amp Boa trail shoes, they were lighter than my other pairs with Goretex XCR. But they were also the same pair that gave me a blister on my sole during my Wednesday MR run. That blister had since been pricked but felt a little inflammed.

There were a couple of leisure runners around, but otherwise, the trail was empty. There was something alluring about running in the quiet trail, having the path all to myself. It was MR-Ultra deja vu, the last lap. I liked the way the leaves rustled noisily in the wind, the sound cascading from far to near, as if bringing a message from afar. Trails were like childhood fun, side stepping over rocks and stones. Perhaps constantly bracing one's core to keep our balance on trail might result in tighter, firmer abs? :)

I had a craving for Island Creamery Horlicks ice cream. I was so lost in my thoughts that I went straight up a path after the fitness station, only to find myself facing Lornie Road. For a moment I was stunned, before realizing where I was. I backtracked to the fitness station and followed the trail out to MR park. A recent RW article wrote that hill runs were great for burning calories, so I thought I should go fast up the last few slopes. 1 pineapple tart down? Haha.

The waters were at high tide at the trail exit. I stopped to do some stretching by the water bank, it was breezy and tranquil. A nice evening run in solitude.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

CNY SGRunners 4-Hill Run

I joined the SGRunners for a 4-hill run this morning. I was so tired from my CNY openhouse yesterday that I skipped dinner and hit the bed by 10pm. Technically I should be fully recharged for the run this morning. Well, sort of. I definitely had enough sleep, but not enough carbs to last the 24ish km of hills and slopes.

We gathered at the NUS Kent Ridge Guild House at 7am, but only started the run at 730am. Anthony briefed us on the route and said it might be longer with 5 hills that covered 26-27km. Oops. I had only 1 powergel with me, and I was trying to wean off the Endurance drink and gels. A couple of MF runners came for the run too - Julie, TH, Colleen, and Jason. Roslyn, whom I had not seen since last SCSM 2007, was there with Jancy and Vincent. Eddie, Alvin, Jin Ye, JD and Sumiko came for the run too. Alvin had conned JD into showing up by telling him it was only 13-15km, and made the rest of us keep quiet. That was a 50% discount from the truth. Haha.

Anthony assured us that the run would be a slow leisurely one. It was anything but that. The SGRunners were all very fast. Perhaps well-loaded from CNY delicacies.

Hill 1 - Vigilante Drive
The 1st hill we tackled was Vigilante Dr, off S. Buona Vista. I had only hiked up that killer slope before. Midway up the hill, I strolled along with Eddie. Still undecided how hard to run today since HK Marathon was only 1 week away. We went for a loop in KR Park and out to the toilet for a water break. There was a army tanker on display and we posed for a group shot.

Hill 2 - Labrador Park
Next, we ran along the wooden canopy walkway to Bt Chandu. There was a flight of steps to the right of the canopy exit leading down to the new NParks Horticultural Park near Cantebury/ Alexandra. Eddie, Alvin etc went down the usual Pepys Road to Pasir Panjang. They had to go off early. The rest of the group walked down the steps and ran along a series of zig-zag winding paths to reach the Hort Park. From there we headed to Labrador Park. The weekend crowd was out at the Prata eatery and the teh-tarik looked very tempting. We went up the slope into the park and made a left towards the Dragon Tooth. It was a section new to me. Our MF runners normally turned right and did circuits around the 800m loop. After waiting some time, Anthony brought a group of female runners to the rest point. They had gone to run the entire park loop. The group took another photo at the Dragon Tooth. We were only 1h plus into the run, but I was beginning to feel tired. Maybe the pace of the runners was too hard for me. I tried to restore my own pace, staying right at the back of the pack.

Hill 3 - Mt Faber
We headed up MF via Morse Road. I was considering not going up MF loop, but in the end I followed the rest of the runners. Bad choice. I ran up Morse Road but walked half of MF loop to its peak. We stopped at the toilet for a break. I was feeling so low sugar, but I tried to resist taking the power gel, wanting to see how long plain water would sustain my run. I was drinking a lot of water today, much more than my usual consumption. We went down the steep slope at Kg Bahru and towards Safra clubhouse. Where possible, I tried to go in a zig-zag manner to reduce the strain on the legs. I could feel a slight pull at the side of my bums, possibly the ITB position. Shoots... Anyway, I felt so low that I walked back Telok Blangah Rise. Geez. I told David and Anthony that I would skip Telok Blangah hills and head back to NUS.

Struggle Back
I stopped at the clubhouse for a refill. No idea why I felt so horrid. Perhaps it was the lack of carbs over the past few days. CNY gatherings were full of heaty, fried/ baked fatty stuff, but not much carbs. Finally I peeled open my powergel and took a big gulp. Jason ran back to NUS with me in case I fainted! (Thanks!) Well, I didn't think that I would faint, but I probably would have taken a lot more walk breaks if I ran alone. I was simply counting the minutes and seconds to reach NUS. The powergel kicked in briefly, there was caffeine, and I managed to go on decently to Portsdown Road. There we crossed over to Science Park and down PGP. Jason turned out at Heng Mui Keng to jog home. I went along the final upslope towards Guild House. Finally! I was immensely happy that the run was over. Total run-walk time was about 2:30-2:40h. Enough to burn off many many tarts and cakes.

After a nice shower at the Guild House, we had lunch at the F'armosa chinese noodle house next to the Fong Seng prata row. This was the same shop that used to be at Ginza Plaza, serving decent homemade noodles, dumplings, steamed xiao long baos etc. Sat at a table with Julie, TH and Colleen, and exchanged some gossip in between slurps of noodles. Colleen was hungry but had no appetite. TH kept asking her to add vinegar because he claimed the sourness would whet her appetite. Julie and I looked quizzedly at each other and wondered about that claim. :) The handmade noodles came in a huge bowl, but I was so famished, I gobbled up every last strand of the noodles.

Friday, February 8, 2008

CNY Day 2 MR Run

Yesterday was a hectic day of CNY visits. I went home in the afternoon toying with the idea of squeezing in a short ride before the next dinner appointment. I fell asleep for 4h instead. :(

So this morning I popped by MR for a short run before the day's activities began. It was good to be mobile with a car, and that MR was close to my home. There were quite a number of strollers and joggers at MR. I saw some familiar faces, the types that you see in the trails but never know who they are. I did a relaxed run around the 10-11km loop, which probably burned only 500-600 cal, ie 4-5 pineapple tarts, depending on which measurement system we use. Oh dear!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Eve of CNY MR Run

Proud to say that I was at my most efficient domesticated form today. When asked to do housework, I can! I had arranged a run at MR later in the afternoon. To pre-empt my mum's nagging, I would have to finish the cleaning tasks assigned. In less than 2hr, I managed to vacuum the entire 3-storey house with don't-know-how-many-rooms, and washed 3 bathrooms! Highly efficient I should say. *Self pat* :)

I drove to MR to meet KC for a short run. Sumiko and JD had gone ahead earlier. By the time I arrived, JD had finished his run. Oops. I managed to tail KC for the first 17min in the trail at his warm-up relaxed pace, after which he opened up his strides and I fell behind. Somewhere at one of the many split paths in the trail, we were separated and made our own way back to the carpark. Adding to the confusion, I was lost in my thoughts and took a wrong turn, resulting in an extra 1.6km. Coincidentally, we finished at the same time, running out of the trails back into MR.

It was a good run, about 12ish km. On the eve of CNY. Start of delectable CNY feastings. :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Safra Pre-CNY Run

We were having a short run tonight because of a birthday dinner celebration later. I arrived at Safra early so decided to start first and do a slightly longer run. Headed off to do the 4.8km/ 5km loop around HarbourFront & Kg Bahru, and just missed the rest of the runners when I returned to clubhouse. I had a steamed pau just before the run and my stomach felt uneasy, but could probably still run. I vaguely remembered the route today involved 2 MF loops, but was not sure which way up or back.

I saw a group of runners about 500m ahead and followed them. I turned into MF at Morse Road but did not see anyone else along the slopes. As I was finishing my 2nd loop, Ong ran past me from behind. The group had gone up from Kg Bahru instead. Regardless, I finished the loops and headed down Morse Rd to HarbourFront again. The rest were taking Henderson Rd back. Clocked about 13-14km tonight. Good enough for the dinner later. :) Did a routine crunch workout on the gym ball. Fabulous. Dinner time!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

1st Safra Sunday MR Run

It was the first time that we were doing an official Safra Sunday run at MR. We typically stayed within the vicinity of the clubhouse or east coast, mostly on roads. Hence it was a nice variation from the usual tarmac grind to run on trail this morning. Well, not totally trail. More than half the distance was on tarmac, except for the stretches inside Macritchie and Upper Pierce Reservoir.

I reached the carpark at 715am and got a lot immediately. It was not crowded this morning. We had quite a good turnout of runners today. Everyone seemed bright and chirpy. I wore my Salomon trail shoes, thinking that I should clock some mileage in them since I would be using them for the Sabah race. Not sure if it was a good decision or not since the trail section this morning was rather short. Firstly the shoes were too tight. I stopped twice to adjust the laces, by which time I could not see the runners ahead. Ah heck, I would just run on my own since I was going to extend the distance anyway.

We ran through the Northern Trail and along the golf course into Upp Pierce (water break), 1 loop round the Aircon Road, out the main gate and onto Old Upp Thomson Road (OUTR) towards Lower Pierce (water break). At critical junctions, Ricci stopped to give directions and waited for the back runners - Alber, Peter and I - but he sped off quickly after we caught up. Anthony was slightly in front of me. He was going slow today and keeping Bev company. At the mid-section of OUTR, there was a police sign along the road indicating the scene of a fatal car accident which made headlines a few days ago. I would loathe to run or cycle there at night!

My legs felt tired from pounding on tarmac in trail shoes. Whenever possible, I ran on the grass curbs next to the pavements. When I reached the petrol kiosk at Lower Pierce, the rest were ready to u-turn and head back. Alber wanted to clock some mileage for the HK Marathon, so we backtracked and ran out to the main Upp Thomson Road at the prata shop (instead of OUTR).

I was going slowly behind when I saw Alber stopping by a tree ahead and staring intently at it. Uh oh.... that was not a good sign. Possibly some weird insect sighting, and I am not a fan of creepies. True enough, the guy had spotted a baby tree python coiled sluggishly on a branch. He motioned for me to take a closer look. He's got to be kidding! No way was I going near that thing. (At this point, I wanted to post a wiki link to what a tree python looked like, but I could not bear having slimy, scaly snake pictures staring at me from my laptop, and immediately closed the webpage.) I climbed over the pavement barricade and went onto the road instead. While Alber continued looking at the green coil, I ran off quickly, reminded of my last running encounter with a similar snake near my house. I waited for him at the slip road to OUTR.

It was a slow and tedious run back to MR. I ate a pack of Caramel-flavoured powergel at the 2h mark. I bought it during my last trip to USA, and it tasted good - like caramel. Pity it was non-caffeinated. We went back into the Aircon road, and I was on a jog-walk rhythm by then. I made Alber do an extra set since he was the one who wanted more mileage. :) We headed back to MR via the trails towards Rifle Range. Thankfully it was trail terrain from that point onwards. Springy, cushiony trails. Alber did not quite appreciate the trails. He was wearing his Mizuno Wave Precision - rather soft for trails.

What is a trail run without some mud and sloshing?! The inside trails were wet and soaked from the heavy rain yesterday. Some sections were squishy yellow mud, the skid-inducing kind. It was fun side-stepping the mud baths and hopping over stone debris. At least it took my mind off the cannot-make-it run. As we reached the fitness station, Alber went straight to the main road (aka the MR Ultra route), while I ran left into the trail. Only 2.5km left! Perservering, a few more steps.... finally the end of the trail was in sight! Whew.

It was past 1130am when I reached the carpark. Net run time ~3.30h. Exact distance unknown, it was probably 30km or slightly less. Drank 2 bottles of water and ate 1 powergel. Well, at least the run worked off the reunion feasting I had last night. :)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Skipped Run

So tired. I slept at 5am, crashing out a set of slides for a presentation this morning. The presentation went well, but my brain is fried.

Rain rain rain. Looks like my long run this evening would be a wash out.

It was! For some strange reason, I was happy that I did not have to run. Nursing a heavy head from lack of sleep, I got the rest of the folks to skip the run and we went for a nice tze-char dinner instead. A quick meal, good chat, and off home for a well-needed snooze.