Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Conference Presentation & a Long Run

My presentation this morning went well. Our slides and video were well-received. :) The networking was decent too, I made some good contacts.

Lunch had some white fish cooked in cream sauce. I just could not resist fish, and had two big servings of it. Oh dear....

In the afternoon, I went to a Russian travel agency to inquire about visa. I wanted to see St Petersburg over Easter weekend. They said they could not do it for a SGP passport and gave me another agency's address. That agency was able to process it for me, but it would be very costly. 55Eur for a base application, 10Eur for service, 65Eur for express application, and an unknown XXEur for SGP passport (could be 5-65, only to be known at the point of application at the Russian consulate). Gosh, that visa would easily be 150-200Eur!?! Darn, I should have made a 1-day express application before I left Singapore, which would just be about SGD200. Then there was the uncertainty of an unsuccessful application, and all logistics hinged on the visa.

I am having second thoughts about the trip. Too many uncertainties and uncontrollable factors, it might not be worth my brain cells to figure out contingency plans... I had 12hr to decide, tomorrow is the last day to submit my passport for the application.

So to clear my brain (and calories), I went for a run. The weather is fabulous now in Helsinki. The sun is shining and lakes starting to melt. The days are getting longer, sunset is about 8pm. I knew my way around enough not to need a map. I ran, and ran. Following the lake and away from my hotel. Cutting through the Senate Square and to the waterfront. Suddenly I was back at where I got 'lost' on Sunday! Ahh, so that was how the roads linked up. Slowly my thoughts cleared up and I was able to think through options and reflect on the conference. I headed back to the hotel. To clock the time and mileage, I went round, and round, and round the lake. A total of 4 loops to end the run. Total of 2:10h. It should be about 20-21km. :)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Conference Starts and a Mad Dash

The Innovation Conference started this afternoon. Now what is a conference without the food review? :)

Lunch was buffet and I was fascinated by the giant slabs of grilled salmon! Yoohoo, my favourite! Then a series of presentations and more presentations. And tea break - raspberry cream cheese cake, and sugared almond pies (with viscously thick caramel sauce). Die... calorie and sugar overload. The conference dinner had starters of bread, fatty slices of smoked salmon, cream cheesy stuff. Main course was veal (looked like steak until I took a bite) with potato crepes. Dessert was a traditional Finnish 'bread-cheese' pie, with cloud berries that could only be found in Lapland.

I managed to squeeze in a very fast run for 20min just before dinner. There was a lake opposite my hotel, each round was about 2ish km. I had to run fast, it felt like interval training, and did 2 rounds. But looking at the food I had been having,.... I needed many more rounds. :(

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Running at 3degC

We left Leena's house in the afternoon and drove to Helsinki. I checked into my hotel and headed out for a run (because the gym charged Eur15 per entry!). I put on a long sleeved workout shirt, my micro-fleece, and my new Montane light shell. For bottoms, I had my 2XU tights and a pair of GTX Paclite pants to resist the wind and water. Then I tied my light weight down jacket around my waist and started running. My hotel was across a lake (well, there are many many lakes in Helsinki). It was cold initially.... My head was losing heat and fingers freezing. I put on my beanie, pulled up the hood, and stuffed my hands into the sleeves of my down jacket. It was a mistake to bring my normal Asics instead of the Goretex Salomon trail shoes. The roads and paths were sludgy - melted dirty ice and water. Soon my white-pink shoes were stained with blotches of dirt, and I had to take care where I stepped.

I sort of knew my way around since I had walked to many places during my last trip. The big display clock near the train station stated 6degC, bearable. After 10min, I warmed up and did not feel so cold. But I had to keep moving or else lose the heat. I explored the area, and took a few new routes. I ran to the cemetry grounds and lakeside, then back to the train station. The temperature was now 3degC. So far so good, I knew my way around. Then, oops! The last new path brought me to somewhere alien. I consulted the city map and found myself in the opposite direction from my hotel. It was getting cold and I wanted to be back in familiar territory before it got dark. I put on my down jacket and ran in it. I asked a few people along the way, and finally made it back to the city centre and train station, from where I knew my bearings and directions. It was 2hrs since I started on my run. I popped by the supermarket to buy some food and walked back to my hotel. Brrr....

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Naked in the snow!

Leena invited me to stay at her new house for a night. John picked me from the airport and we drove to a place further up from Porvoo. It was snowing, the wind was strong and it was cold. Porvoo was about 45min drive from Helsinki city centre, and colder. It was about 0degC today.

Their house was a lovely wooden lodge by the lake, still sort of under renovation-construction, but habitable. The place was warm and cosy, built with lots of wooden logs in a traditional Finnish way. There was a huge ceiling to floor glass window that offered a picturesque view of the lake. It was frozen now and everything outside was white. In summer, the view would be equally spectacular, deep blue waters with a floating wooden jetty and rowing boat. They had a little sauna house as well next to the main house. Most Finnish houses had their own sauna. Leena kept it traditional - ie. for easy access between sauna and the outdoors/ lake. After a short stroll in the old town of Porvoo, we headed back for a sauna experience.

The sauna room was heated up, so Leena and I wrapped ourselves in sheets and sat down. Males and females usually had separate sauna rooms so that Finns could enjoy their saunas in the traditional way - naked. When we felt hot enough, we went outdoors to sit by the bench. Just sitting quietly, enjoying the silence. Very tranquil and calm, the white and the silence. Then we went inside the sauna again. We did that a few times. Then Leena suggested we rolled in the snow. Gasp! In the nude! The lodge was relatively far and shielded from neighbouring houses. So I gamely followed her. We did not really roll, because the snow was rather hard. But we smeared snow over ourselves, it was surprisingly not too cold. When our feet started to feel numb, we ran back into the warmth of the sauna room. :) The next time, I should try going from sauna and jumping straight into icy cold frozen lake, then dashing back to sauna. *shivers*

We had a lovely dinner of creamy fresh mushroom soup, potatot & cheese salad and grilled salmon. That was followed by a mixture of traditional Finn desserts - something called Mammi - a choc-malt like mousse with vanilla sauce, and another thing called Pashpa (I think). That tasted yoghurty. Plus we had a very rich chocolate cake, really awesome. I could not stop dipping the cake into vanilla sauce. Oooh....

Friday, March 27, 2009

Yellowfish Swim

Last swim before a long long break. I had barely regained some strength and conditioning after my previous trip, ops and climb. Now I would have to break the momentum again for 3 weeks.... The excitement of a long trip is weighed against re-conditioning for training.

We did some drills - catchup, side kicks, sculling. Then 2x 100m, 400m, 300m, 100m, (I think....), then 4x 50m sprints. One of my sides was stronger than the other. Both sprints on that good-side were 57sec. Best timing ever! :) But the weaker side took 1:04min, quite a huge difference. Hmmm....

Off to airport soon. Looking forward to the long haul flight, in comfort. Finally I could get some decent rest and sleep. And finish up the Slumdog Millionaire movie that I watched midway on my last trip! Haha.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Last Safra Run Before Trip

We did Kent Ridge Park today, 1.5 loops, and then back via Kg Bahru. I started off with super heavy legs, which eased somewhat when I reached KR Park. The loops were ok..... I was distracted. As usual, which was the case for the past 1-2 weeks. Today my thoughts were on packing - how to best pack for 3 weeks and still fit into a single manageable luggage. I liked my blue Samsonite case that had followed me for the past trips. I had to lug it up and down steps, trains, slopes, snow etc. And it shouldered on. ..... Before I knew it, the loops were done and it was downslope to Pasir Panjang, and then back to Safra.

Argh, my laptop died on me today. 5pm. Bad move, bad attitude. I was 1 day away from the trip, and had to retrieve various documents etc. IT-colleagues took it away for emergency resuscitation, hopefully it would work. Or else I would have to waste time trying to retrieve recent documents from all over the place. Oh bummer!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Recovery Swim

I was extremely sluggish in the pool today. I was way below par per lap and per set of 10 laps. Tsk tsk. Maybe it was a lack of sleep, and spillover from last night's hill run. :( Swam 30 laps with aching arms and shoulders. Nonetheless it was good. I needed the personal space to clear my thoughts and mentally run through my packing list. 3 weeks! and still unpacked! *nail biting*

I got my new toy today! Yippee! Very cool. :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Labrador Hill

I was late and did not have time for a swim before the run. It was my first time in... 1 year?... that I was doing Labrador hill loops. Really. The last time I ran that was eons ago way way before Stanchart 2008. Wow, time flashed by.

I was very surprised that I could complete the 6 loops within 1hr time limit as instructed! And still be able to do a decent run back to Safra after that. Happy with my run today. :)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Extended Biathlon

Woke up early for Safra run. Drizzling rather heavily. Decided to go back to sleep and workout later in the day. The Aviva chaps would be flagging off soon. I thought of going down to cheer and see the race, but sleepiness got me. When I woke up around noon, the weather was fabulous. Cool with cloud cover, it was a perfect race weather! After much dragging and a light brunch, we made it to Safra. I swam 40 laps and went for a 10km run MF loop. I needed the run time to have private thoughts and conversation. Too many separate trips, too many details and logistics, bandwidth not enough! Haha.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Yellowfish Class

Class was so empty today! Some were away at the Aviva 70.3 race briefing, and perhaps some went away with their families for school holidays. There were only abt 10 of us today, ample space in each pool lanes. Coach was extra patient too, maybe the smaller group made it more cosy. We did some drills, then 500m, 400m, couple of 100m and 50m sprints. Technique technique. I went under 14min for 2 consecutive sets of 10laps! Yoohoo!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Swim & Run

Swam 22 laps. I was not sure if it was 20 or 22. Looking at the timing when I finished 2 sets, it was slightly fast. So I swam another 2 laps. But the timing became way too long. So I guessed I swam extra. Am I making sense? Haha.

Changed and joined in the Safra 10km MF loop run. Decent. Could keep pace with Alber for the first 15min - he was slower than usual of course. I managed to go up MF slope (yes, it was that long ago that I went up by Kg Bahru slope). Met Linda on the way down, we chatted. I continued my way back to club.

So tired, yet mentally a lot of things to think through, prioritize and do. Brrrr...... I needed extra bandwidth.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Track Intervals

Decided to forego swim class and join in the Safra run. Interval training tonight. Gosh, must have been 6 months since I last did interval. Legs and lungs were certainly not conditioned. 5x 1.2km intervals. Ong set us a target of 2min per 400m, ie. 6min per set. While most runners had a time target, my focus was 'not kill myself or legs'. Hmmm.... mindset problem? Chairman, shouting out times by the side, said I was running 'too easily'. Maybe I was paranoid about running round and round a track. That was how I injured my left knee last year, doing 3x 4km long intervals. That was 30 rounds (12km)! So I was naturally wary of track work now. During the 2nd set, I thought I felt my knee somewhat weird. I decided to stop at the 3rd set. I ended up with a 6:08min, 6:05min, and lastly 5:57min. Running back to Club by myself, I had the mental space to think through plans and work, and sorting out all sorts of nitty gritty. I took the longer Harbour Front route.

Monday, March 16, 2009

RPM Distraction

Lazy lazing lazily. That about summed up my current state of training mood. Oops. It was a bit of cruise mode, just sailing through, maintaining (weight), and not really training.

RPM class was a bit of distraction today. My thoughts wandered around all the upcoming trips and nitty gritty and planning. And my conference presentation too.... better do a decent job on the slides. Hmmm. Mentally skimmed through possible Busselton travel options for year end. I was ambitiously trying to keep total costs down to $1k or just slightly over, including race fees. Seemed feasible. Then there were other stuff that I had to research on, many mental notes to self..... Before my self murmuring was through, the class was over.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Personal Biathlon

Sea swim this morning at Playground was to cover the 70.3 route, sort of. Coach had us do some warm up laps, then gave 1hr to complete 4 loops. He even had a mini come to beach and run back to water section, to replicate the 70.3! I swam 3 loops, 45min. Coach said I probably would not be cut off, but very borderline timing. Since I had no speed, I should concentrate on getting my direction correct and not drift unnecessarily. Guess I would save the advice for Msian races.

Had a slight cut on sole, so went to B1 car park to clean up. Then put on my shoes and hit the run. I had no specific target, just a nice and comfortable run. Perhaps up to F2, see how far my legs would go. The weather was good, cloudy and cool. There was a lot of people at ECP. I counted at least 3 organized Indian community parties, with banners, blasting music and all. Very carnival like. :)

After the run, I headed for the IT show. The crowd was amazing. When I left about 4pm, City Link was jammed pack, literally shoulder to shoulder. Human traffic stopped, totally. People were not pushing, but the air was stale and stuffy in the tunnel. The MRT shutters to City Link came down to prevent more people from entering the tunnel. Those of us on the other side had only a tiny door for exit! That seemed quite dangerous to me. If there was a fire, we would be toasted!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

MR Run

Did a slow jog at MR. One loop. They closed off the section leading Pierce Reservoir! There was a security guy from the SICC who stopped me from running through the tarmac road. Hmmm???

Met Jan and KM's group for breakfast at LongHouse, and surprise! Bumped into WY, L and K who just finished their ride. Wow. I have been slacking. :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Today - A Day of Firsts

I learnt how to roast a herb chicken, and make Vietnamese rice paper spring roll. They turned out rather yummy, especially the chicken. Oooh.... Well, theoretically I now know to roast one. Theoretically, because all I did was to chop the herbs!

Then there was a Southern Bridges walk today too. Lovely weather. It rained heavily at noon, and we thought the walk might be a wash-out. Luckily the rain stopped and provided very cool weather instead. Popped by in the evening to see Mt KK climb photos, brought back nice memories. :)

Swim class tonight went well. There were many swimmers in Lane 3, mostly faster ones on make-up class. We did about 10-12 sets of 100m. For the sprints, I managed to go under 1min for the first time! I checked my watch - 58:58min. Wow! Could have gone slightly faster too. When I saw the timing, I thought my watch was spoilt! :)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Safra Run

Training tonight was 2x MF hill via Morse Rd and Kg Bahru. Each round was 6km. I followed the runners for the first round, and did the usual 'flat' Harbourfront route for the second. I felt so out of shape and slow. Whew....

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Swim & Run

Near starvation after the imposed liquid diet. At 5pm sharp, I ate. Oh my, milk & cereals, and a tuna bun. Food never tasted so good. Haha. But had to be mindful not to eat too fast or over-gorge!

Headed to SAFRA. Managed to do a slow 20lap swim and a run around Canterbury estate. Adam said the route was about 8.5km. Quads were still a little sore, but the soreness eased shortly into the run.

Shared a steamed fish head and vegetables with Adam at dinner. Oh bliss. Food. Solid food. :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Achalasia & Dilation

I had a 'procedure' this morning at the hospital. The nice doc and nurses call it a procedure rather than surgery, maybe because it's a short sub-1hr affair. But anything that is invasive is surgical to me. *blink*

It's for a condition called Achalasia, which according to Wikipedia, affects 1 of 100,000 person per year. I need better luck to strike 4D. Haha. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achalasia)

In layman, it means:
Problem: esophagus narrowing at base that connects to stomach, giving rise to various gastro-related problems.
Solution: put a balloon to force dilate the constriction, and hope it stays open. *hope*

It was to be done much later, hard to find an appointment slot. But the nice doc was particularly sympathetic to triathletes. When he heard I had a race in late March, he penciled me on his day off so that I can recover to carbo load for the race. Awww.....

So the procedure involved a scope and a balloon, both of which had to be swallowed. Before that, the nurses hooked me to a machine to monitor my BP and pulse rate. But apparently both were so low that the machine went turned schizo and could not register anything! Haha. In the end, the doc had to manually count my pulse rate. Then came the sedation injection. The nurse poked and fiddled around one vein, could not get it right, and withdrew the needle. Ouch. Poked and fiddled a second time. Double ouch.

Some sedation, I felt drowsy. I guess the patient had to be somewhat awake and responsive as they needed me to swallow. First the scope, that was easier to swallow. Took a couple of pictures of the inside.

Then the balloon. Shoots, it was a plastic thingy, about 1" wide, 2.5-3" tall. That was terribly hard to swallow. I coughed as the doc shoved it down my throat. In my half-sedated state, I thought I would choke and die. :( Finally, it cleared. But the 'comfort' was not for long. The inflation began, and I could literally feel something expanding from within, and pressing against my ribs/ chest. People with heartburn might be familiar with that feeling. Or I suppose some pregnant ladies might feel that too, something pushing up or pressing into the lower chest walls. It was actually painful. I think I made a couple of unglam pathetic groans. The inflation lasted 3x 1min. Ouch ouch ouch. The doc said they were very small inflations, since it was the first time 'stretching' the constriction, and we did not want to risk tearing it. Oh my, culd not imagine bigger inflations! Finally it was over and retracted. Goodness! I hoped I did not have to repeat the procedure!

Now the tough part.... no food or drink for the next 6 hrs. Thereafter only liquids for the next 24hrs. I was already starving, having fasted before the ops. Oh geez, that would be harder to get over than the procedure! Food oh food......

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mt KK Climb

Joined a corporate trip over the last weekend for a climb at Mt. Kota Kinabalu. It was a fabulous trip, great weather this round relative to my previous climbs. This would be my 4th time at Mt KK. Not that I particularly loved the place. But it was the closest mountain with some decent altitude exposure, so I treated it as part of training for future climbs. We went by Mersilau and descended to Timpohon. Everyone did rather well, considering there were many first timers in our group of 27. 25 made it to the summit.

Time check for the first group, we were right in front:
Mersilau to Laban Rata - about 6h
Laban Rata to Low's Peak - 2.5h (too fast! had to wait an hour in the dark for sunrise)
Laban Rata to Timpohon - about 4h (many were not very confident in going down fast and the average pace slowed down)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Sort of recovered from jet lag, surprisingly not too tough this time. Went for KL's RPM class. Legs were fresh and could spin just fine!

Met up with Vince and KC etc tonight. Vince was back in town for a week and it was great to catch up again.

Tired though. Had to pack for KK climb, leaving tomorrow. Yawn. Just had to get over this period of massive flying around.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Slug Pool

Back from Switzerland early this morning after a long trip away. Trying to overcome jetlag and went for swim class. Bad move....... Swimming felt like slugging through a mud pool. I seriously could not cut through the water! Oh boy, such a struggle. Can't recal what sets we did, except that I was 1 lap behind the rest in my lane, as usual.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

When Travel Plans Go Totally Wrong

A most adventurous and eventful day. Let me recall the highlights of today:

Zermatt (postponed)
- Mis-read train times, so misjudged the travel time required from Lausanne to Zermatt - How on earth did I get so careless?!
- Therefore also missed the train by 1min
- Next fateful train stalled in between 2 stations, 40min into the ride
- Someone jumped in front of the oncoming train! Driver traumatised, train damaged. We were stuck for 2hr!
- Befriended a young lovely vivacious Swiss girl, only 17 years old and totally mature. She translated everything for me, and offered me her mobile in case I needed anything else later. Still waiting for a replacement train, we chatted and took silly pictures. Her eyes lit up when I said I would post them on facebook. Ahh, I felt less of a dinosaur....
- Decided not to wait for train. Hopped off train and hitchhiked our way to the next station at Sion. Hitchhiking! My first! Like a scene from the movies - 2 girls standing by the roadside, flagging a piece of paper that had our destination, arms stretched, hoping a helpful driver would pull over. 10min later, help came in the form of 3 big-sized men in a jeep, playing rock music and smoking. Gentle giants. We hopped on.

Montreux (impromptu)
- Too late to continue the 3hr journey to Zermatt, so I bought a ticket back to Lausanne
- Hopped off at Montreux, a scenic town
- Walked along lake to an old castle - Chillon Castle
- Helpful ticket seller charged me student rate instead of adult, cheaper :)
- Wonderful walking tour of the huge castle, like exploring a maze

Lausanne (unplanned)
- Wanted to see the Olympic Museum, but did not know the way nor have a map
- Had only 40min to spare before Museum closed, took a risk and blindly jumped onto the first bus that came along
- Helpful bus driver gave directions for a transfer that went direct to Museum
- Ran to the reception to buy ticket, but lady did not want to sell - 15min to spare before closing time, she said it was not worth paying to enter
- Desperately, I told her I was flying off the next day and really wanted to see the museum
- To my utter surprise, she offered me free entrance into one section instead! I chose the sports section. It was an emotional moment when I stood in the middle of the exhibits, staring at the bicycles and shoes the Olympic champions used.

I thought my day would be spoilt by the train accident. I guess being very flexible and adaptive helped to turn it into an awesome day. The 3 generous and helpful locals I met made it a beautiful day in the end. :)