Sunday, August 31, 2008

ECP 16km & Ros' Wedding

I had to fit in a long run this weekend, no thanks to Friday's aborted attempt. Decided to run at ECP before kayak course since it was near the vicinity. Alas, too drained from yesterday's sun, sea and sand, that I totally overslept. Managed to finally drag myself out of bed at 7am and head to B1 Fort Rd, while munching on peanut butter sandwich.

I started around 7:50am. Planned to cover 15-16km from B1 to slightly beyond F2, near the PA club. I strapped on my HRM and footpod and trotted off. I think I need to re-calibrate the footpod, but would need to find the instructions first. In the meanwhile, I just took the footpod pace as an estimate.

The first 5km went well, strong and steady. Reached the Bedok jetty and saw some Tampines Safra runers training for TNF100. Knee started to hurt a little, deja vu from Friday. Must have strained something on Friday while coming down MF slope. :( Reached the PA campsite and turned around. Managed 10km in a sub-1h, decent. Thereafter, it was downhill. I could not really sustain the same pace, and my watch pace-readings went up and down like a spring. Endure endure. Past MacDonalds, Big Splash. A little more.

As I neared B1 end point, I saw Alber waiting at the pavilion. What a nice surprise! :) 1:28h for about 15.5 - 16km? Not sure of exact distance. Had to work harder. Meanwhile, mad dash to Kayak session. Hungry and late!

[Kayak course - separate blog posting]

Rushed home after kayak to change and attend Rosalind's wedding. Such a sweet lovable girl, finally her big day. The dinner was held at Hilton, and I was running late. Reason? Could not decide and find appropriate attire for a wedding dinner. Too much workout gear in my cupboard, way overloaded. Now, where have I stashed all my non-sports nice pretty accessories and stuff? Finally made it to the hotel, and dinner had not started. Nice to catch up with Anthony, DO, Ronnie, Doreen and TDK. Our half of the table was only talking about running and run times and run gear and everything related to runs. Ros and Jancy looked wonderful. Ros was clearly relaxed and enjoying herself. :) Congratulations girl!

Kayak Star-1 Course Day 2

We showed up at the PA Water Ventures for Day 2 of our Kayak course. First thing we learnt was how to rescue a capsized kayak. To do that, we teamed up in 3s and 4s and took turns to be the victim, lead rescuer, and assistant rescuer. V would capsize, swim to the bow of his kayak, raise the paddle and shout for help. LR would paddle over, check if V was ok, take V'2 paddle, and get V to hold on to LR's bow while LR holds V's kayak. AR then came over and his job is to raft both kayaks together and stabilize them. LR should position V's overturned kayak perpendicular to his own boat, and lift it over the LR and AR's decks. Then both rescuers had to see-saw V's kayak to drain the water from the cockpit. Finally, flip the overturned kayak upright and slide it into the waters, bow and stern in opposite direction to the rescuers' boats. Lastly, V had to climb and get himself back into his rescued kayak.

J, A and I formed a group. J capsized first, but we soon drifted near the shore that he could stand up! Haha. So he swam and towed all of further out to deeper waters. The first rescue attempt was a bit klutzy as we tried to remember the steps. By the time we did the drill 3 times, it was second nature. Quite fun actually to be the victim and watch the 2 rescuers trying to coordinate.

In the afternoon, we paddled across to deeper waters at the Tg Rhu condominiums and practised the rescue drill again. This time there was no way for the victims to stand on the sea bed and pretend to struggle. We happily posed and snapped many pictures during the exercise, all thanks to KC's waterproof camera.

After we were done, we rowed out towards Sheares Bridge and back. On the way back we did a mass capsize drill, where all 23 of us flipped, and we had to try and get everyone upright again. It was chaos and the trick was to drain 2 kayaks and get them upright for the rowers to climb onboard and we could then proceed with rescue drill as usual. The last 'game scenario' we had was to lose 10 paddles, and figure a way to get everyone back to shore somehow by tagging on to another kayak.

The day ended soon enough. After washing up, we were all presented with our certs. Armed with the Star-1 cert, we would be able to rent equipment from PA and also take part in adventure races that required the certification.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Kayak Star-1 Course Day 1

The day started off bright and sunny, fabulous weather for a day out in the sea. A group of friends and colleagues had signed up for a weekend of 2-day Kayak Star-1 course. Three of us were taking it so that we might be able to take part in adventure races that required the certification. The rest had a motley mix of reasons like getting a workout or suntan. There were 23 participants in the class, some of whom had NRICs starting with "S90/ S91xxxxx"! Babies! The 3 instructors looked like they were in their twenties. They brought us through some basic theories, capsize drills and paddling techniques.

First everyone had to swim about 50m (while wearing the buoyancy vest). Then we practised getting in and out of the kayak and pushing ourselves off from the waterline. Next came the capsize drills, which were quite fun actually after one mastered the technique. The drill was for the rower to hug the kayak hull, flip ourselves over, tap the hull 3 times, and emerge from under the water. Admittedly, I did it totally wrong the first time, and had to re-try. The minute I flipped over, I automatically floated out of the cockpit. Oops, forgot to hug the hull tightly. The instructor gave me a couple of extra drills, like deliberately flipping me over, and upright again, so that I knew what it felt like. Thankfully I succeeded at the 2nd try. :) A, KC, J, C and G managed to execute the drill nicely on their first attempt. SM tapped 4 times instead of 3 and had to re-do.

The rest of the afternoon went by quickly, with a series of paddling practices - forward, backward, raft-up, front and back sweep, side J-draw and classic draw. It started raining heavily as we finished for Day 1. The last thing for us to do was to jet-spray clean the kayaks and reload them onto the storage racks.

Looking forward to Day 2 tomorrow where we could paddle further out for longer distances.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Wrong Shoe Day

I planned a 15km run with Alber tonight - 1.5x MF loops. But silly me brought the wrong pair of running shoes - Pearl Izumi - and ended up with a sore knee after 7km. Ended the run and strolled back to club. Oh well, I would have to try again on Sunday.

How exciting, we are going on a Star-1 Kayaking course tomorrow!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pump it

Today was the first time I attended BodyPump at the ORQ gym. I normally go there only for RPM, so I even had to ask for directions to the group exercise studio. Oops. Leonard took the class through some older songs and new releases. Legs felt a bit heavy during the warm-up lunges. The 'problem' with old releases was that there was no or very little break in between. That meant biceps all the way, no breather stretch during the track. Or triceps all the way. And most other bodily parts. Ouch ouch. Managed to do the lunges with weighted bar though. :)

Came home for dinner. Mum roasted a giant pork knuckle.... and nothing else! Argh... too jiat lat to eat much. That one knuckle bone joint was the size of my fist, and bigger than my hand!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Trackwork 10,000m

My first training today! I was so excited, yet nervous. Track work. Oh my, I was tentative about speedwork, not my most desired state of activity. At 530pm, I was hungry and stuffed myself with some sandwiches and chicken pie. Gosh, hope I would not get stitches later. I drove to the CCAB tracks. Hmmm, would have to find a better route, it took me 20min to get there. I saw Kumaran at the tracks too! He was there with his colleagues preparing for a company run meet or something. I started on my warmup jog, and bumped into Evelyn and Peggy. Great, now I had some company.

Training plan: 3,000m at 5:30min pace, 3-4 sets, consistently at 100m/33sec and 400m/2min 12sec. Ok I could manage that, I thought to myself. Since I had no idea what pace that was, oh heck, just dived right in. :)

It turned out pretty survivable. KM paced me for the first set and I gradually found the rhythm. Going round and round the track was a challenge, together with staying focused on the pace, plus checking the timing every 100m, 200m, 400m and 1km to ensure that I was right on target - not too fast nor slow, and still having to count circles. Every once a while I lost count, and KM would do a mental reverse calculation based on elapsed time and confirm the number of rounds. He tried to explain the calculations, but obviously I had no spare bandwidth to absorb the numbers. Haha. I finished the set on target timing, panting and slightly breathless, and wondered how I could complete 3-4 sets.

We rested 3min precisely, than started off on the next set of 3,000m. The 2nd set seemed harder. KM ran alongside for a few laps then went off to work with Eve and Peggy. My watch was accidentally set on the wrong function and I could not take my own timings. Damn. Nevermind, just continued running and running. At least I remembered the number of laps, and finshed as targeted too. 3min rest, still hard breathing.

KM decided to extend the final 3rd set to 4km. The last set actually felt the easiest of all, perhaps I was attuned to the pace and rhythm by now. There was a sense of happy achievement when I managed to reach the 100m cone each time exactly on 33sec, and 200m around 1:05/ 1:06min. Alas, there was a group of guys doing interval workouts on the track and they ran abreast and blocked up 5 lanes! I had to weave my way through the pack, then they picked up speed and I felt like I was being attacked by a school of fish from behind. Then they slow jogged, I weaved past, they picked up.... Repeated that for a good 400m while I was trying to maintain a constant pace, so irritating! The last set went well, especially the last 1,200m. I could go below the target pace (2:07/ 2:08/ 2:10) and still felt comfortable. But I held back, aim was to complete on pace, not chiong.

Happy to have lasted 5:30min pace for 10km total. I suspect that the last time I held the pace for prolonged distance was last year. So tired that I went home, grabbed a quick dinner, and flopped on the bed. Must try to get more sleep everyday. Sprayed my lovely Body Shop Deep Sleep mist on the pillows - ahhh, heavens - and promptly knocked out.

Mt Kinabalu International Climbathon

As we were running AHM last Sunday, another team from Singapore was slugging their hearts out on the annual Mt Kinabalu Climbathon. The absolute distance from Timpohon Gates to Low's Peak is 8.72km each way, but the actual (taking into account slopes) is abt 21km, so says the official website.

Congrats to one of our Safra runners, Chin KK, for being one of the 7 Singaporeans (of which 2 are ladies) to clear within the time limits. :) And Kim Hong certainly did not disappoint, he came in 1st amongst the Singaporeans, although in his words "still far from the podium of KK". He described the race toughness as "very bad", worse than a full Ironman. Wow.... Salutes to them and all who have attempted the gruelling race. Certainly something that pushes one's limit - trail run, speed, and altitude. Well done! For now though, I think I still prefer scaling mountains the mountaineering way. :)

#43 Men's Open: Yeo Kim Hong Summit 2:21:45h, Finish 4:02:22h
#35 Men's Veteran: Chin Kok Kai Summit 3:26:15h, Finish: 6:23:19h

For the gruelling 8.72km (each way) from Timpohon Gates to Low's Peak, the time limit allocated to each participants were:

A. For Men Category:
i) Starting line to the summit within 2 hours 30 minutes.
ii) Summit to finish line within 2 hours

B. For Women category:
i) Starting line to the summit within 3 hours 30 minutes.
ii) Summit to finish line within 3 hours.

C. For Veteran (40 above) category:
i) Starting line to the summit within 3 hours 30 minutes.
ii) Summit to finish line within 3 hours.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cold Swim

Safra pool was surprisingly empty. Good, I could finally do laps without colliding into divers and children. Saw Peter at the gym, all geared for a run. Henry too. It was a week of no-runs but we were all too enthusiastic and kept running. :) Sumiko, Alvin and gang were out at East Coast running tonight, preparing hard for their upcoming Aviva.

Arms felt the strong resistance from the swimming gloves, perhaps from the push-ups and dips yesterday. Upper body was so not conditioned, oops. I managed about 24 laps and decided the water was rather cold and started sneezing. Melvin (Snr) was in the lane beside me training for Aviva, ploughing through his laps non-stop.

Alber finished his gym and joined me to meet the coach to discuss possible plans. Found renewed sense of purpose in trainings. Yeah! Exciting!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cool MR Run & SMU Tracks

I miss running at Macritchie. My course ended early today so I had time to dash home, grab my trail shoes and hit the dirt paths. There were very few people at MR on a Monday evening. I saw Grace waiting for her friends. I started on the 10km loop, with little disturbances except me, the greens and the occasional monkey. The cool weather made it all the more pleasant. The trail was surprisingly dry despite the heavy downpour in the past days. The rocks and pebbles and somewhat slippery sections spiced up the run, and the soft mud was so gentle on the knees. Then I was hungry towards the last 3km....

I had to rush, because my friend and I were going to meet a coaching friend and check out his training programme. The group had not formally started their training, tonight was a sort of recovery from AHM. It was at the old SMU tracks. I skipped the warm up jogs on the track, and joined them for some basic running drills. Drills to train muscle memory and get the legs to remember the correct running action. Interesting stuff as it was my first time doing such drills. But wow, quite sng on the muscles that were not normally used. Then we did strengthening exercises - the usual, push-ups, sit-ups, back, dips etc.

I was so starving, I walked over to Mr. Prata and ordered a huge dinner for myself - Maggi goreng, plain prata, and a Horlicks. The chap serving me the noodles was surprised to see me attacking the prata already, and looked around to see if there was anyone else at the table. Haha.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

AHM 2008 & Philharmonic Winds

I reached the start line of AHM just as the horn sounded the flag off. It was a cool and lovely weather for a morning run. The route was the best amongst all the years of AHM, crossing the newly opened Marina Barrage. The best part of the run was a dirt track leading up to the Barrage - a 2-3km of soft tar that provided a respite from the cement ground. Sok Hwa overtook me around 16km at the Barrage. Many people achieved their PBs today, given the great weather and route. I tried my best too, I ran hard, non-stop and non-slacking. But only a dismal 2:04h timing. I guess that was my base pace, and my best just was not good enough. *Shrug* This year I am resigned to not running well.

Caught a Philharmonic Winds concert with some friends tonight. It was quite fun, almost like attending a school concert. There were so many students waving light sticks and shouting. The orchestra played many pop songs that got the audience clapping and drumming our fingers along. It was a nice relaxing break from my usual training routine. I had been watching the Olympics and hot lean bods. Looking at the musicians on stage, I suddenly realized that they could look quite sexy with their instruments as well! Just a different sort of confidence and competence. :)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pumping Fireworks

It was a day of many impromptu showers of race information. Continuing my indecisiveness on 70.3, I was given a dose of reality kick by a good friend. There, sealed the fate - no go, not signing up. Decided that the money could be better invested on say training for better performance.

Then, as if someone sensed my apprehension from above, I received a call from a primary school classmate (!) to form a team for TNF100. Nice. But I checked the website, only to find out that registration had closed. Emailed the race director and verified that indeed we could not squeeze in. :( Oh well... So back to work..... I had a work trip coming up and casually surfed to see if there were any good races in those regions. Imagine my pleasant surprise at discovering the Lucerne Marathon on the very weekend I was there! Such a welcome bonus! I happily jumped around the office, too delighted to contain my joy. Ok ok, so now my race calendar looked like a big party of marathons, all smacked in Oct. Hmmm. TNF (if anyone withdrew), Borneo and Lucerne. Followed by Powerman in November. Will need to do some prioritization and re-planning. But Lucerne! Oh boy, that was like a once-a-lifetime chance. Under normal circumstances, I would not be flying all the way there just to run that! Cold weather, jet lag, how to get to the race site and so forth....... many many questions, but one overwhelming aim - run it! :)

I had arranged to meet friends for the fireworks tonight. Having many hours to kill, I went for a BodyPump class. Pump was ok, but I decided to spare my legs on the lunges. Took a quick shower and plonked myself on the pool chairs, awaiting the fireworks. There was a group of expats having a party on the roof deck, how charming. I think I should also be able to catch the fireworks comfortably from the pool deck.

So my friends watched from another nearby building, and I from the gym. We could see one another from where we were while we waited and waited! The fireworks finally came on at 930pm, half an hour delayed. Pity we could not hear the music from so far away, it would have been lovely to see the lights synchronised to the music. The fireworks lasted 15min, the finale of lights erupting dynamically non-stop. Fireworks were also a delight to catch, though it was not the best show that I had seen. Nonetheless, there was always a happy and wistful feeling when one watches the lights dancing in the sky. The 15min of magic was soon over, and I met up with my friends for dinner. A happy way to end the week and start the weekend.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

DQ worth $370?

Agonized the whole day if I should sign up for Aviva 70.3 or not. I had 24hrs to decide on an event the magnitude of S$370. Ouch. On the one hand, I should gain more race experience, eg. transition, nutrition on the go, and so forth. Yet these could also be gained through more training and mileage. Of course there was the mighty 70min swim cut-off looming over the horizon, casting gloom on the registration. So much to pay for a DQ and no medal!?

Thoughts aside, I went for a swim. Only managed 16 laps before it was time for Safra run. The route was supposedly 10km, to Dempsey, Tanglin Rd and back. Either I was very very slow, or the distance was longer because I took much more time to complete. Hmmm. Could feel some lactic in the legs too.

Went home and continued pondering.........

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mad About English

I did a a recovery RPM class tonight, thought I should ease my legs somewhat and save some of them for Sunday's AHM. Anna, the new trainee instructor, was there again. I think she rides outside of class, she has quite good form on the spin bike.

Rushed for a quick dinner then joined my colleagues for a late movie, Mad about English. It is a documentary depicting the fervour with which Chinese are scrambling to learn English in the lead-up to Beijing Olympics. A delightful and hilarious production, which left me both tickled and threatened. Tickled and amused by the wit and determination of the Chinese in their English-fever. At the same time, threatened by the intensity of their willpower and sense of mission and how quickly they picked up the language.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympics Marvel

The Olympics fever continues. I caught snippets of various events throughout the day and each race was gripping. I was totally blown away by the performance of the athletes. Where do all these super humans come from? All the lean taut bodies, every muscle precisely tensed and executed for their events, were drool-worthy enough. Adding on the nail-biting never-over-til-it-was-over close fights in many races, it was little wonder why I was glued to the live telecasts.

There was a sense of identification with the athletes especially if we indulged in those sports ourselves. Like how the swimmers powered through their freestyle laps, to conclude 1500m in 14min and the last tenth guy clocking in 15min - that was like 3x my speed! The sprinters blasting through their 100m, 200m, and other track events; Usain Bolt was a joy to watch, his effortless dash to a 100m gold medal with untied shoe laces, in an event he was not naturally built for; the 10km runs in a blazing 27min; the steeple chasers and hurdlers stretching over the hurdles and finishing 3000m much faster than I would without obstacles; the long distance road cycling where cyclists took the bends and turns courageously at high speed; the men's and women's triathletes finishing strongly in 1:48h & 1:58h - a time that I took to complete just my bike, proving once again that strong runners finish better; the beautiful Russian pole vaulter flipping over 5.05m, every ounce of muscle tightly wound like a spring, held in place with precision and control, the entire stadium went berzerk when she cleared the bar; gymnasts contorting their bodies in mid air, commanding every twist and turn at will; our Team Singapore table tennis strong fight in the semis and finals; and of course the legendary Michael Phelps' 8 gold wins. I could go on gaping in awe.

The most poignant moments were the medal presentation ceremony. Many athletes could not suppress a few tears as their national anthems were played. It had to be so, years of discipline and sacrifices cumulating in a podium finish. Even the mere presentation of Silver medals by Ng Ser Miang to our paddlers was enough to raise goosebumps on me. I could only imagine the immense pride and emotional roller-coaster the prize winners go through.

..... back to oogling and drooling over the athletes for another week.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Marie was back from her holidays to conduct her BodyPump classes. She looked tanned and refreshed from her 5-week hiatus. I was taking it really easy today, light weights, slightly distracted. But the lunges were a pain. Quads and hamstrings were still slightly sore from the Desaru race. Where I normally had the weighted bar on my shoulders during lunges, tonight I chose to go weightless. Ouch, quads burned. Happy to go home for dinner and sleep early in my 2XU tights.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Half-ironed Legs

I was lulled into a deep restful sleep and woke up pretty fresh. Pity I forgot to bring my 2XU recovery tights, it would have helped to sleep in them. The buffet breakfast area was crowded from the weekend holiday crowds as well as the triathletes. It was not difficult to spot all those who had raced the day before - they easily stood out in their super tanned tones. Had breakfast with Lau PK, Eddie, Robert, Dexter, Ken, Jessica, Fiona and her cute children. The guys played mahjong last night til late!

We had a few hours to kill before our ferry departure. I headed to the spa for a 90min massage, so soothing for the tired muscles. The ferry ride was interesting. First we loaded the bicycles onto the resort's van for transporting to the ferry terminal. We saw a big group of foreign participants too, no doubt working in Singapore, with their fancy bikes, wheels and bike cases. There was a guy who had a trophy cup on his luggage trolley, and a bike with a full Zipp disc wheel. Wow.

Would I attempt another half-IM soon? I'm not sure. I do not particularly relish the sea swim. Obviously the stronger half of me are my legs. The guys talked about Langkawi and Busselton next year. I am not as ambitious. Much as I am intrigued by the cycling and run challenge, a 3.8km swim is too much of a leap of faith for me. Not in the near future anyway. For now, I will happily bask in my half-ironed legs and mind. :)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Desaru Triathlon - Half Iron Lady!

Friday 15 Aug 2008

We set off on Friday afternoon in Melvin's station wagon, where we entrusted 4 bikes and 4 passengers in it. The drive to Desaru took about 3h, immgration clearance and all. We reached the Pulai Resort, and saw Daniel and Robert arriving shortly after. It was like a mini gathering at the hotel lobby. After checking in, we went to meet Chua, Sok Hwa, and Wee Haur fo dinner. It was a place in Sg. Renggit called "Good Luck" seafood restaurant, how apt! We had loads of food - steamed baby lobsters, cereal sotong, vegetables, wild boar and so on - and it was really cheap and good. After the satisfying carbo-loading, we drove about 20min back to the our hotel to prepare for the next day's race.

Race day 16 Aug 2008

The race time was 10am. I was rudely woken up at 5am by a calf cramp when I stretched my legs. Ouch! Then my tail bone ached, a result of the soft mattress I suspected. I finally woke up around 8am, made my oatmeal-raisin breakfast and readied myself. We cycled about 2ish km to the race site and Desaru Golden Beach resort, and had our bodies marked. I was pleasantly surprised to see Catherine beside my number at the transition area. There were many familiar faces - Prata was opposite my row, Henry, Fennel and Helen were there for relays, Sam, Hee Shen and the other regular triathletes. We went down to the beach to check out the waves. Whoa! Choppy and high waves. We swam a little into the open seas and got tossed around instead.

2km Swim (2x 1km)

We were flagged off in a single wave - no age or gender categories. There were 5 elite participants in yellow swim caps whilst everyone else had orange ones. It was a struggle to swim against the oncoming waves. I kept to my freestyle, very slowly, but at least I felt confident in it. A mass of orange swimcaps bobbed in the water. Nearing the end of my 1st round, I saw a yellow cap bobbed past me. Damn, the elites were finishing their 2km swim while I was still a few hundred metres away from shoreline - which took forever to reach. And I still had another loop to swim. Argh. By now, there were only a handful of orange caps floating. I saw a swimmer hanging on to the buoy line, resting, before he/she continued. After an eternity, I completed my 2laps, cursing with great relief that I did not have to swim anymore. 76min. Who cares? The race is not over til it's over. There were 2 more disciplines to go.

90km Ride (3x 30km)

I caught my breath and walked (haha, instead of run) to the transition area. Shortly after, Sandy and Grace came in as well. Obviously swimming was not our strength. 6min T1. We clipped into our bikes and pedalled off. The cycling route was a challenge. There were many long rolling hills, not extremely steep, but never-ending. There was no respite from the rolls, no breather, each climb was followed by a long drop, and another climb. There were hardly any flats on the route. One upslope was especially short, sharp and steep. I reached the max of my gears but not the end of the slope! No choice, simply had to keep on pedalling. I was really thankful for all my hard RPM classes. Each time the slope seemed daunting, I mentally switched to RPM mode, replayed the music in my mind, steadied my cadence and pushed on.

The headwinds added to the difficulty. The slopes per se were manageable, but the head and cross winds slowed every pedal. On a particularly bad stretch of downslope, where a typical non-pedal cruising speed would easily be 32-35kmh, the headwinds slowed it to 23kmh! Had to pedal hard just to keep going down. Where there was headwind, there was also tailwind. Somewhere whilst flying down a long slope, one of the rubber bands on my aero bottle snapped! Oh shoots. I hoped the other band stayed intact. Mentally I ran through various options on what to do should it break as well. The picture looked bleak.

The weather was erratic. We started off being toasted in the sea, to riding in drizzles, which gave way to a downpour. It continued that way until the end of the 90km ride. It was a shower blessing actually, as it cooled the weather tremendously. In between battling the winds and rain, I tried to eat my Powerbar. Bad decision. I had to remove the wrapper with my teeth, and tried to squeeze the sticky bar through the plastic, which was flapping in the wind and smacked in my face, while steadying my bike with my right arm on the handle bar. When I finally got the Powerbar through, I leaned on my aerobars and tried to chew on it. Sandy and Alber who passed me were amused that I appeared to be enjoying my food in that position. Oh boy, if only they knew. Cookies and cream smeared all around my lips, like a kid with his fingers caught in the cookie jar. How unglam!

I found extra power to speed up for my 3rd loop of cycling, and overtook Grace and Sandy. There was an 11-year old boy who was the youngest participant in the long distance event, and he was riding steadily in front of me. When I passed him, his face was expressionless, no pain no joy. Just a straight face going on. As I pulled into the transition area after about 3:24h of riding, I saw many of my friends already on the roads running. Henry had finished his swim relay, and was at the bike area. Thankfully so as he gave comforting advice while I dismounted on wobbly legs, taking care not to rush or run before stabilizing myself.

21km Run (2x 10.5km)

It was drizzling as I sat down, pulled on my socks and shoes on my rubber legs. Sandy came in with her bike shortly after, but ran out of the transition area before me. 3min T2. I followed her all the way and kept her in sight. I saw Grace running in the opposite direction after my 1st u-turn. Knowing what a strong runner she was, in no time she would catch up and cut all of us. True enough, she did just that. :) A strong runner eventually finishes better in a triathlon. Even though it was a mass flagoff, I caught up with many people who were strolling by then. No doubt they were all out of the waters before me.

I was very careful not to go too fast and trigger a cramp in my legs. The Ceepo tri-bike setup was really great, legs still felt ok, could trot along and warm up without cramping. By now, the rain was pelting down in buckets. It was torrential. I gritted through. Stay focused. I repeated many motivational mantras to myself. I kept seeing Freddy, Melvin, Alber, Chua and Lee in the opposite direction. Each time we passed one another, we gave a thumbs up across the road.

1st lap 1:02h. I could not stop now. I'm a runner, I could not possibly give up on my run segment! And I had a target to gun for, trying to come back just under 7hr. So I ran, non-stop, except for that steep sharp slope where it was better to walk than run. My legs were starting to feel very tight, the soles and calves threatening to cramp any moment. It was deja vu, like the last 10km of Sundown ultra. I cleared the last u-turn and was on the home stretch. Time check, 10-15min left before 7h. I picked up pace slightly and overtook many people who were walking. Argh, but the last stretch seemed forever and forever, and still no sign of the Finish arch. I saw the minutes ticked by on my watch, slightly past 7h. Oops. Then I heard spectators' voices and the emcee talking. Surprising he managed to call out my number and name as I entered the finishing bay. Completed! Awesome! We posed for some hard-earned photos, before cycling back to our resort. Freddy and Melvin returned to Singapore that evening, while the rest of us drove to the same seafood restaurant for a well-deserved dinner.

Yes! I survived! My maiden half-ironman. 76min; 3:24h; 2:10h. Happy to complete. So now can I call myself half-iron lady? And which half of me would that be? :)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Counting Down

About 6-7 years ago, I read a ST feature on active couples who raced in triathlons together. The image is still vivid in my mind today, as I recalled being in awe by the triathletes themselves, let alone coming in a paired package. At a point in my life where I only ran a maximum of 7km, I wistfully wondered when it would be my turn.

Fast forward to today. I am eagerly looking forward to my first half-IM distance in Desaru this weekend. I would never have imagined myself going for such a race so soon. My premise had that Desaru had no time cut-offs so I could attempt the route in relative comfort. If I were to DNF my maiden race, at least I did not have to rack up a huge race fee. So with a deep breath, eyes closed, I jumped on the application form. Submit. Click. There. For all my cool rationality, I have no idea where I get my wirings for such crazy antics. Plunge right in, then figure out what to do next. It certainly is not hereditary, adventure does not run in my lineage. My colleague suggests that everyone has an exit valve to rebel and turn away from our regular selves. Crazy adventures could be mine.

For now, I am contented to count down 22hrs to the race. My goal is simply to enjoy the process, soak in the event, and pamper myself with a nice spa (hopefully!) after the race. :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Final Spin

Spin spin spin. KL really whacked the class hard today. There was a trainee foreign instructor on stage as well, she looked familiar, I think she was a regular spin participant. She wore a nice capri Parentini cycling tights and a Pearl Izumi top, and looked very lean in the outfit. Well, definitely a more eye candy than Panda KL. Haha.

Tried to set up the bike as close to my tri bike as possible. Hmmm, in my years of spinning, I had never adjusted the saddle and handle bars so close to each other before. But it felt comfortable. So spin I did, like interval trainings. When I felt like stopping, I visualized myself on the Desaru slopes and rolling backwards if I did not climb hard enough, and I continued pedalling. Huff huff, big gasps of air. When there were rest breaks, I continued cruising. On a race, there was no stopping.

KL chose my favourite flat track, and announced that 'people who just bought a full carbon bike must spin faster'. Haha, oops. Ok might as well, since it was my favourite song. It was one of the rare RPM songs that had a 90min flat segment (most were 30 - 60min). The extra 30min non-stop sprint really pushed the lungs.

Yeah, last hard spin before the race. Kinda looking forward to it, hope to complete the entire race. I estimated a 7-8hour timing (Swim: 1h-plus; Ride: 4h-ish; Run: 2h-ish). I'm already mentally planning for a good spa session after the race!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Telok Blangah Hills

Many people came today, surprisingly given that it was hill-work day. Linda, Sumiko, JD, Alvin (who brought some new people), and many regulars. Quite a big turnout. Ong said I finally joined in their Telok Blangah hill repeats tonight. :)

Well, but I did 6 instead of 8 loops, at a consistent 3:50-odd min for every loop. Still breathing ok, better not over-push. By the 5th loop, I could feel a tightening down my right back and knee. After the 6th loop, I decided not to stress test my hip further. The problem was still persistent, ever since last Thursday's Labrador training and Sunday's PI run. The main trigger seemed to be slopes and long runs. A TCM doc said there was a slight imbalance in my frame, hence my weight distribution was off. So the right hip had to counter and compensate for it, resulting in frequent stresses. Hmmm.... ?

Went to Clementi Botak Jones coffeeshop to try a new Italian stall. Had to get some bicycle gear from Eddie as well, all in time for Saturday's race. The guys ordered 2 huge pizzas and 3 baked lasagne. For the price, the food was decently done. As usual, between bites of pizza with melting cheese strands, I was trying hard to chew and not laugh my food off.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fear Drives

Over the past week, I have been constantly amazed and impressed by the human body's ability to adapt, learn new tricks and be conditioned. I am a hopeless swimmer, a klutzy rider who slows down when vehicles whiz by, and an average so-so runner. By all natural accounts, I probably should not be taking part in races. But!

Fear drives. Fear inspires. Fear puts us in our right places and kicks us to get started. Take a deep breath, nail the fear, and go. Next comes repetitions. Reps give us the confidence to keep at it. The realization that we can, and let's try it again.

Let's talk about swimming first. I was seized with a fear of not being able to complete the swim distance. 2km?!? I could not comprehend why anyone would want to swim that far. (And the Olympics long-distance swim was a whopping 25km!) But swim I must. So I popped by Safra pool. Monday evenings were good, fewer swimmers and divers. I put on my gloves and jumped in. One thing led to another, one stroke after the other. I managed 20 laps with the gloves, in decent (to me) timing, abt 16min each set. Then I removed the gloves, and wow, arms could fly! I managed to maintain a per lap timing around 1:20min (more or less), and sustained another 20 laps in about 14ish-15min each set. Wow! More importantly, I had never thought that I could feel so comfortable in freestyle instead of breastroke. If someone did an aura map around the pool, surely he would have seen the bright glow radiating from that swimmer in pink cap. Haha.

Then I reached home. Fear of not being able to ride 90km on my new bike forced me to DIY and review every single measurement. I fixed my new bottle cage with new screws, and set up the bike trainer. For a non-technical person, I was pretty impressed with my mechanical skills. I tested many combinations and adjusted everything - from saddle angle, to pedal and brake tensions, to aero bar height, length, angles, dropping and adding stem spacers, moving elbow pads forward and back. Every new combination required hopping on and off the bike and testing some spins. Thankfully I had a reflective balcony door next to bike, and it was much easier to check the riding positions and leg angles. I spent an eternity fine tuning all the minute adjustments, even whipping out the measuring tape to be precise. But there! More than an hour later, I had a perfectly comfortable setup that I liked.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

PI Run Series (2nd Race 20km)

Woke up late for the PI run. Oops. Sped to the start point, thankfully traffic was non-existent at such an early hour. But no carpark! Had to circle a few carparks before ending up on the multi-storey one, where we saw Wayne and Siew Lee just arriving as well. Managed to find our way over to the start point. The girls were flagged off as I was walking in. I went over to the Start banner and began the run. However, after about 1km plus, one of the marshals somehow waved me back towards the starting area, and I could not see any female runners. Maybe I went the wrong way, so I ended up re-starting the run with the guys. Duh.

The weather was surprisingly nice and cool. I was treating it as a normal Sunday morning training. We weaved in and out of the Kallang Riverside area, and crossed a bridge near PA to National Stadium. My stomach felt a little queer, but I could still run. We somehow made our way onto Nicoll Highway, where we had to do 2 loops. We kept going up and down the Nicoll Highway that I soon became disoriented and lost track of which of the bridge/ road I was on. I think the guys were all running fast, because I could always see some of them from the opposite direction. There were also many familiar faces in the midst, saw Shuyin and Eliza on the run.

After the 2nd Nicoll Highway loop, I surrendered and went to the Caltext toilet near Golden Mile complex/ Crawford Lane. Spent about 8min in the restroom - yes I counted time. When I rejoined the run, I saw Teacher Lee and Wee Haur ahead of me. Slowly we all completed the run. It was definitely less than 20km, because I could not have been a sub-2h at the pace I was using today. At the finishing line, Eddie, Alber and Fiona were playing around with the camera. We posed for various shots and stayed around to chit chat a little with the rest of the Safra runners.

Had breakfast at the nearby North Bridge Road Food Centre. There was a little stall selling freshly baked muffins, cream puffs, swiss rolls, egg tarts etc. Pretty decent for the hawker prices. The scones were buttery, the swiss rolls soft and smooth, and the cream puffs rather generous with the filling. Ooooh.

The afternoon was spent shopping for more bicycle accessories, and tweaking them further. I almost bought a pink bottle cage, but it looked really awful when placed against my bike. Almost Barbie doll! Yucks. Settled for a black sleek one instead. Oh so broke now, would have to scrimp on meals for the next 6 months.....

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Test Ride

The 3 new Ceepos hit the road for a test ride this afternoon. It was blazing hot, and I just about coated myself in sunblock lotion. Alas, 10km later, at a coffeeshop in industrial Kranji, it started drizzling. New bikes were baptized in a wash out.

It was a different feeling riding on a tri-bike. I was not used to the gear shifters being on the bar ends and separate from the brakes. Just this morning, I played with the shifters and figured out how to loosen the tension/ friction so that my finger could flick the gear changers smoothly. Last night I had to literally grip the flicker with a few fingers to click it - that should not be happening on the roads. How to have so many extra fingers and split concentration just to shift gears? After loosening it, the shifter seemed to be more amenable now.

Something in the setup did not feel totally comfortable. I initially rode on the flat handle bars, very tentatively, trying to get used to the new bike. And my shoulders-arms ached. Then I pushed the saddle backwards slightly, and it felt much better. The aero position on a tri bike was really comfortable, with the thick gel pads supporting the elbows. Slightly more comfortable than my clip-on bars on roadie. I just had to get used to it and not wobble too much. Every little elbow movement and twitch could easily send the bike (and rider) off course. After some trials, I managed to stabilize myself. But climbing slopes on the aerobars was not as efficient, I preferred the handle bars. Being not very proficient in controlling the bike with only my left hand, I did not dare lift my right hand to click the gears. A couple of times, I used my left hand on the shifters, while keeping my right hand close to the brakes. It seemed to work and I found my rhythm.

We rode about 45km, and Eddie had to go off for work. It was a good test ride, I just had to gain more confidence on it. But at least can't lose me in the crowd. My front rider (all black bike) said he could spot me 1-2 bus stops away. My back rider (yellow-black) complained that no one looked at his bike cos ppl at bus stop were still staring at mine. Haha.

Friday, August 8, 2008

New Toys!

Today we went to collect our new toys - my shocking pink highlighter (, and Alber's bumble bee ( Together with Eddie's total black Venom, we bought the bikes from Key Power:
Then we popped by nearby to Canondale, where Daniel kindly clocked many OT hours to help us with bike fitting. By the time we were done and headed for dinner, it was almost 10pm. After which we continued fiddling with the bike setup, aerobars etc, and only managed to crawl into bed around 1am. Oh my, I was almost dozing off and falling off the bike trainer.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Labrador Hills

Tested out my new swim gloves this evening. 1st lap, wow, the drag was different, faster but needed more power. It was less tiring than the hard plastic type of hand paddles, but obviously more so than normal unassisted front crawling. Consequently each lap took a longer time. I had to stop and breathe a bit more after every lap. I managed 17 laps, before the rain started splashing down and the whistle blew. The lifeguards chased everyone out of the pool as the rain came pelting. Nonetheless, good try with the gloves.

I changed, and joined our Safra runners. The sky miraculously cleared up as we started our run. We went to Labrador Park for 6 loops of Labrador Hill. I suddenly realized that it was my very first time doing the hill there, and did not know what to expect of the route. I almost died and want to give up. But I peservered another 5.5 rounds. By which time, either my lungs were bursting out, or my legs were dead beat. Ong and the rest were still waiting for me (the last one) to return to clubhouse together. So terribly embarrassing that so many people had to wait. Ooops. :(

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tired Legs

The tiredness finally caught up with me at RPM tonight. My legs were not as fresh, and felt heavy on the spin. Mind was willing but flesh was weak. Only managed to spin hard for a few segments, and still had to last through the hour. The lactic was definitely building up. Left the class with legs wobbly. Oops.

I was agonizing throughout the day if I should splurge on a new set of wheels. Two-wheels, not four. Oooh, tempting.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Shaving 2min

I shaved 2 min from my swim today! Yes! For the first time since I had been crawling, I finally felt what my friends had always described as "grabbing" and "pulling" through the water. I felt that my strokes had slightly more power than before, and that sense of pull was quite uplifting. My first set of 10 laps took 15:30min, and the second set 16ish min. Alright, it was only a teeny weeny improvement, but there it was. I grinned like I struck gold, even though the guy next to me (who was already not very fast) was bypassing me at every lap. Managed to swim 22 laps before time was up for the run.

Joined the Safra runners for a 10km MF loop. Lah lee lah, hopping and rolling along right behind. Panted up Kg Bahru, then decided not to kill my throat with hard breathing. So prone to sore throats and irritation. Walked the remaining few lamp posts up the slope. Ok, run was not looking good at all. Made it back to Safra in my usual MF-loop timing.

This morning I overheard a radio snippet that women needed 1h of workout 5 times a week in order to lose weight and keep it off. That exceeded the healthy lifestyle recommendation of 30min of exercise 3 times a week. Well, I did 1.5h today, so I'm on target to maintain my weight! Haha.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Bad Knee Joint

Bumped into Eddie Chang at RPM Challenge class. Heard that he went for brick training wih Lau PK over the weekend. I rode hard, and basically killed my legs. Almost my lungs too. Perhaps RPM classes counted as interval trainings. :) But now one knee was hurting from yesterday's long ride.

Hmm, how to shave off 10-15min from my ride time? Maybe it was time to upgrade my bicycle.... But oh so expensive!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Rolling Hills and Headwinds

Alber's back from his 1-week Sydney trip. And his welcome home treat was a bike tekkan session by me. Haha. We met up with Henry at West Coast park under the blazing afternoon sun. I planned a 70ish km circuit route, taking advantage of the rolling bridges along Penjuru & Jln Buroh, and the long flats but strong headwinds at Tuas. The idea was to maximize ride time instead of many start-stop traffic junctions, so we confined the ride to a smaller area, but repetitive loops.

There were 4 bridges/ flyovers along Jln Buroh - Pandan Bridge, Penjuru Flyover, Buroh Bridge, and Jurong Port Flyover. I had us do the rolls (7km each direction) 3 times, and branch off at Jurong Pier Rd to Jln Ahmad Ibrahim. Heading straight to Raffles Marina & turning left at Tuas Bus Terminal, we rode smack into the strong headwinds and could only maintain an avg speed of 25kmh. The road joined up with my usual training flats at Tuas South Ave 3. We u-turned at Tuas Power Station, and repeated the Raffles Marina loop. It was headwinds all over again.

We rode about 58km before stopping at Tuas Amenity Centre for a drink. Alas the coffeeshop was closed! Luckily there were some little mama shops available for buying drinks. The sun was really hot today, and my already tiny tights were leaving all sorts of ugly tan lines on the thighs! :( Not to mention a permanent Oakley imprint on my face. :((

The return ride of less than 20km was over in a while, except the pain of having to cross the 4 rolling bridges again. I focused on my cadence and gears. I was practising the smaller crank and high cadence spin, and must admit it paid off. My legs felt relatively fresh even after the long ride. It was indeed a more efficient way of cycling compared to my previous heavy gear and power pedals. We reached West Coast park, clocking in about 75km, and went to Mac for a well-deserved snack.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

SWET Launch & Long Long Swim

The SWET girls formally launched their Everest expedition this morning, wiht Dr Vivian B as the guest of honour. A number of friends turned up early in the morning to help out with the launch. It was great seeing everyone again. The presentations reminded me of how hard we used to train, 6 days a week, 2-4 hours each session. I feel like quite a slug now in comparison! Haha. In between trying to demonstrate the displays and entertaining guests, we kidded around and joked about past expeditions and adventures. It was awesome to be in the midst of these serial adventurers - desert runners, mountaineers, extreme sports, rock climbers... you name it. Discussing potential future adventures was always the highlight. Everyone traded ideas on where to go for the next adrenalin shot.

After the event, I went to Safra to get my swim mileage. My aim was 40 laps. I had to, or would not be confident about the race swim. The pool was relatively empty, thankfully. There were divers and children having classes, but the other lanes were uncrowded. The sun was out in all its glory and the heat was up. I swam, and swam, and swam, counting down 10 laps per set. It seemed forever. I swam some more, slowly crawling through the water. Each set took longer and longer to complete, from 16:50min to 18-odd min. It was obviously slow compared to my more accomplished swimming friends. But I psyched myself to complete the laps. Eventually, I finished 50 laps! Yippee! My 2nd time doing that. From a non-front crawl swimmer, to doing only 1-2 laps, to 5, 10 and gradually building up. So 50 was like major major deal for me!