Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Recovery run but never recover....
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Tuesday class is minimal drills and maximum training. We did some kicking and pulling, and the real stuff began. 5x 200m at 5:30min. Last night was a comfortable 6:00min, which I cleared 5:10min on the average anyway. But tonight I could feel the tiredness. And all the swimmers in front of me were going pretty fast. I tried my best to follow. Managed to clear 2 sets in sub-5min! Yeah! Total of 25min (vs last night's 26min).
Then we did a medley of butterfly (mine looked more like caterpillar....), breaststroke, backstroke and front crawl.
And the killer sprints. 7x 100m @ 2:45min. That meant every 2:45min we start a new set. So if you were very fast, like 1:30min, you would have more than 1min of rest before the next set. On the other hand, if you were very slow like me, you would barely have a few seconds of breather before Go. Maximum I managed was 2 consecutive sets, and rested. So I completed 5 sets instead of 7.
Aching arms and shoulders. I actually felt hungry after the class!
Monday, April 27, 2009
The pool was so so so super warm. Last Friday's as well. I think those were the only times that I did not shiver while in the pool! After a few laps, we warmed up and the water felt even hotter. Geez. The cold shower after class was such a welcome relief.
Drills we did tonight:
(With pool-buoy) Kicking, 4 strokes 1 breath, 3 strokes 1 breath
Fist swim, 10 strokes and 4-6 heads up paddling
5x 200m (6min) - decent, I kept to 5min ++, total of 26min..... on target towards my 40min
a few 100m sets
sprints of 4x 100m
Coach said I was gliding more tonight, and gave me thumbs-up. Yeah!
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Still, I managed to hit 30 laps in my best timing. 41min. 1 min short of my targeted 40min. :) Quite confident I could achieve that soon. Yeah.
Friday, April 24, 2009
a. it was hot the entire day and heated the pool
b. I just returned from cold/cool Scandic and it was a far far galatic cry from ice-swimming
c. I had an extra 1kg of flotation device on my sides and behind, otherwise known as fats, to insulate me
I think all the reasons apply.
We did various drills with the pool-buoy - front kicks, front pull, side kicks, sculling. Then we swam 400m, 400m, 300m, followed by 8x 50m sprints. Loved the sprints tonight, felt fresh and ready to go. Had pretty consistent timings per lap, fastest was sub-58sec, possibly my record. Ahh.... good to be back training.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
But training was back in some order. I went to Safra after a whole day of intense brainstorming with my very delightful colleagues. Darn, the pool was crowded! It was difficult to swim in a straight line without bumping into someone. Why do some swimmers insist on splashing away in butterfly strokes in a crowded pool? Or swim breast stroke so close to you that they brush against you? I scrapped the divider rope a few times, and almost came head-on with some swimmers.
Swam 30 laps, followed by 10km MF run. Decent timing, not bad, regained 1-2min.
Came home and polished off my mum's home-cooked dinner. Ahhh.... no more bread! :)
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Completed 6 rounds in 59min, each slightly below 10min. Compared to last year where each loop averaged 11-12min. Yeah! :)
It was horrid to run in such humidity though. Pampered by the cool Scandic spring for the last 3 weeks, where legs did not feel heavy or sore even after fast runs. In contrast, my legs felt weighted even before I started the run.
Monday, April 20, 2009
My return flight from Stockholm was a SAS-operated LH flight, transiting in Frankfurt, before changing to a nice comfy SQ plane. Gosh, I hated to transit in Frankfurt (although it is the lesser evil to Paris airport). Each time I transited there, I had problems - usually because one had to get a new boarding pass at Frankfurt and customer service was not ace. The airport was also old and had capacity issue - it clearly could not sit so many people in the boarding area, lacked shopping facilities and other creature comforts. This time, I was stuck at the passport control because the guy said I did not have a ticket to go through and had to go get one from the main hall (ok, my fault, I did not print out the e-ticket). I reasoned that I had to go through to get my boarding pass. Logic failed him. A customer service lady pointed me the way to main hall, I walked but did not find it. Returned to passport control and tried my luck at a different queue. Guy flipped the pages many times and could not find the EU-entry stamp. Re-flipped pages again and finally found, stamped and waved me through. Hmmmph!
Went to supposedly SQ counter to get boarding pass. I was early, counter was still processing TG passengers. Decided to go to the business lounge. No boarding pass, no entry. Girl guarding the entrance needed proof. Repeated story of unopened counter. No go. After much wrangling, I resorted to showing her the soft pdf copy on my netbook (thank goodness for the zippy netbook!). She let me through. Ahh.... away from the maddening crowd and nothing-to-do waiting area.
Then SQ flight delayed. By 10min. The waiting area was full of impatient passengers. Boarding officer advised me to return to the lounge and wait there instead. Flight still delayed. By 30min. Gosh. I had enough of climbing to-fro the lounge, which was closing soon. Joined the queue of restless passengers. Finally we get to board the plane. Ah what a luxury to be on board SQ. This was a newer Boeing, which featured the fully-flat bed cabin. I stop complaining and enjoy the flight service. :)
Saturday, April 18, 2009
1. I had no time
2. My hotel was located right in the heart of the shopping area, and 10min from the greenery (Imagine running through Orchard Rd to get to Botanic Gardens...)
3. It was freaking cold with the wind chill and strong winds
4. My hotel had a gym with treadmill (luckily!)
So I ran twice on the treadmill, late at nights. It was a torture to get through 60min run. I watched movies that were on TV. I did not understand the language, they dubbed the Hollywood movies into Swedish. But it did not matter since I could not hear over the treadmill anyway. Haha. A good distraction.
After the exotic alpine experiences and oh-so-white-&-silent snowscapes in Northern Finland, the regality of castles, palaces, museums and nature in Greater Copenhagen, I must say Stockholm's archipelagos and castles paled somewhat in comparison. Or perhaps I did not have the chance to venture out and far.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Comparison chart of hotels -
Scandic Continental Helsinki - A typical large business hotel. Mass rooms, so expect mass customer service too. 2 tram stations from the railway station. I chose it because it was the conference venue and cheapest of the Scandic hotels in Helsinki. Finnair shuttle bus goes directly between the airport, Scandic Continental, and the railway station. So you do not have to lug luggages all over the place. There is also a check-in for Finnair flights in the hotel. Saving grace was the restaurant in the hotel. Breakfast and dinner were the best amongst the 3 hotels. My reindeer steak experience was fabulous. The ability to be flexible and respond to customers' request.
Scandic Webers Copenhagen - A boutique-like hotel that is newly renovated. Room was the cosiest - design was no frills but thoughtful, dark wood panels and wooden flooring. Modern and contemporary. Delightful touches like a hidden panel at the bedstand concealing an ironing board. Reading lamps by the bed and working desk, large plasma TV. Centrally located 2 streets from the railway station, down the road from Tivoli Gardens, and 2 streets from the lake for a run. Breakfast was decent. No restaurant on-site, so we used the neighbouring Scandic Continental Copenhagen. An American restaurant called Napa (read: oily oily oily food). I had a steak and fries, drenched in oil....
Scandic Sergel Plaza Stockholm - Again, a mass hotel. But great location, right above the T-central metro station, which was linked by underpass to the Central railway station. Across the road from Athens City, H&M, Zara and major shopping streets. To the back a short 10-15min walk was the Royal Palace and waterfront. Room and hotel design was a bit dated (old). Restaurant food was 2nd compared to Helsinki. I had reindeer fillet, which was a little too bloody for me. This was the only hotel that checked room number for breakfast (but then again, Stockholm was the only city that checked travel passes on board bus and rail).
Monday, April 13, 2009
This one was quite worth the trip though. There was also an elaborate baroque garden on the castle ground. We had a simple but nice picnic in the garden by the waters. Egg salad mix to go with rye bread, and oranges. Then we walked around the larger garden surrounding the castle. It was always nice to be in nature, all the greens, the vast lands, and serenity. There was a tree that had branches curved and pointing towards the ground, like an umbrella. There was a little girl climbing on the tree, and so we joined in the fun. To our credit (and the tree), the branches were very sturdy and did not even sway under our weight.
Later in the afternoon, SG and I ventured to another 'blotch of green' on the map. Between the two girls, we figured out the limited maps we had (since all the tourist info services were closed for Easter). Part of the fun was in exploring and not quite knowing what might pop up.
We made an impromptu decision to take the train one stop away to check out Lake Esrum, one of the largest lakes in Denmark. We had no maps. The royal summer palace was also situated near the lake, so we simply followed the road signs to the location. The palace was closed, but the surrounding gardens still opened to the public. Good thing for long days where the sun only set around 830pm. So we had time to wander around the garden.
A fashionably dressed female runner sprinted past us, up a slope. A black puppy followed excitedly. Wow, she was quite fast, and had a good figure. An elderly couple strolling nearby excitedly told us that she was the royal princess! Ahh.... the serendipity of travel. One never knew what we would get. :)
We returned to Copenhagen around 8pm. There was still time to squeeze in a run. I managed about 50min-1hr around the lakes. But bummer... I missed the restaurant opening hours and had to forego my dining vouchers. Oh well, happy for the run though.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Then we took the train to Roskilde, wanting to see fjords. The view was quite lovely, and we wanedered around the town.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Visited an insane number of castles, museums and cathedrals over the long Easter weekend. Definitely suffering from castles fatigue now. The Europeans, in general, curate their exhibits very well, and encourage people (including children) to view and appreciate the works. Visitors are usually well-behaved (read: no children wildly running around).
I saw the changing of guards outside Amalienborg, then entered the castle (one of the best ones!). I went across the road to the Marble Church, paid and climbed up the dome to get a bird's eye view of the city. Then on to the Rosenborg, Christian borg and National Museum.
Went for a run. There was a 5-section lake near my hotel. It was quite short. About 15min from one end to the other. I did 7-8 rounds of the last and largest lake section. Then headed back. Total time almost 2hr. Not the most scenic or inspiring route for long runs.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Wed - was in Estonia, no run. Eat, eat, eat.... Only brief exercise was walking around the Medieval Old Town, and walking 2-3hrs out to a park.
Thurs - returned late to Helsinki. Ferry was delayed. Shared 3 slices of very good (very sinful) crumbles and cakes with colleague. Had to run after all the food and cakes. Cham.... Checked in hotel and dashed out. Already 830pm and getting dark. Only had time for 4 loops. :( It was getting late. Bought myself a nice reindeer roast. The restaurant kindly agreed to my request for a half-sized portion at half-price!
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
I ran round the lake, about 2+ km per loop. And I did it 7 times. Well, original plan was to do 5 rounds. But then there was still sunlight, and I desperately needed to burn off lots of excess calories. So I ran the 6th. And the time said 1:19h, so I wanted to clock 1:30h, a nice number. So I ran the 7th. There was a short but steep upslope, which meant I ran that 7 times as well. Bummer....
Returned to my hotel and decided to check out the sauna and swimming pool. The pool was unheated, but not terribly cold. It was very short though, maybe 15m. Every few strokes and I would reach the wall. So I tried sprinting to push up my heart rate. After 15min of going back and fro, I gave up and retreated to the sauna - Finnish national past-time.
It was not very hot, only 70degC. I liked the smoke sauna that I tried last week, where it was almost 100degC, full of steam and the pores really opened up. Here, I had to keep splashing water onto the coal. But the design of the sauna door was such that it did not air seal the sauna. Hence cool air from the changing room entered and kept bringing down the sauna temperature and amount of steam. :(
Back to my room to make a sandwich dinner and continue working.....
Saturday, April 4, 2009
There was a section of the ride that through snow dunes, which looked really beautiful in the moonlight. We continued the ride to a traditional wooden hut, where we made a fire and roasted sausages and sandwiches and had hot tea. I pulled a reindeer rug onto a wooden chair and made myself comfortable. Oooh…. The reindeer skin was so snug and warm. Soon it was time to go. Surprisingly, it was brighter outside with the moonlight, than it was inside the hut with candlelights. We rode the short distance back to Saariselka. It was time to end the adventure.
The differences between Nordic ski and the normal Alpine downhill ski was the technique and sticks. The Alpine ski that I tried in Switzerland last month was mostly downhill and involved rigid plastic boots, and the base area of the skis was larger and wider. The Nordic ski was akin to walking, the boots soft and the skis skinnier. Nordic ski was not as fast, but involved a good walkout of the whole body. You needed the arms to work the ski poles, and the legs to move-walk. There was a marked trail, essentially 2 lines of ski tracks in which you placed your skis and glided along.
I chose the easiest and shortest trail. It started with a downslope! I fumbled and skidded. Then an elderly gentleman very kindly held my pole to prevent me from flying and guided me down the slope. He even took some time to teach me the ski basics and we did a couple of exercises along a flat stretch of the trail! I was so thankful.
I explored the trail on my own. Soon I reached the destination point Laanila, 2,8km away. The adventurous side of me decided to explore other longer trails. Some sections were challenging. I fell twice into the soft snow. The down slopes were long and steep. Others had steep upslopes where one had to really trudge your way up. On a few occasions, I removed my skis and just walked the sections up/ down.
A phone call came to inform me that the snow mobile outing tonight was confirmed because there were other people interested. Great! Now I just had to find my way back to Saariselka in time. The stretches of snow were long, and white, and silent, with almost nobody in sight. I was getting a little desperate to get back, although I knew it would still be bright until 9pm. I moved along, starting to feel tired of tackling the slopes.
Finally, the colourful entrance of Saariselka appeared ahead, at the top of a long upslope. I happily made my way up and returned to my hotel. It was a good experience, and I would try it again tomorrow.
We went up to our dogs and sledges. They were already yelping very excitedly, eager to run off. I had the sledge to myself while the rest paired up. I mistakenly started off with my foot on the brake all the time, and one of the dogs kept turning round with a puzzled look. Then the guide told me not to step on the brake, and it dwelled upon me that the sledge was suppose to just glide on the snow when the dogs pulled it. I timidly lifted my foot from the brake, and hey! found my balance! I was the first sledge and my dogs could go fast because they only had to pull me along.
At one point on a downhill turn, I lost my balance and flipped on my left. The guide had to chase after the runaway dogs and sledge in his snow mobile. Oops. The ride went on smoothly thereafter, except for the last section. We were nearing home (the husky farm) and the dogs went really fast, down a bumpy section, and I forgot to step on the brake to slow the sledge. I hung on tightly and tried a few times to find the brake. It was really lucky that I did not fly off the sledge! We returned the dogs to their individual ‘houses’, and went for a snack by the fireplace. I really enjoyed the ride with the dogs.
Friday, April 3, 2009
The highlight of the morning was a trip to Santa Claus Village and the post-office. Rovaniemi was located on the Arctic Circle, and the Finns laid claim to Santa. He works everyday, sitting in the photo gallery taking pictures with visitors. There were pictures of Santa with all sorts of celebrities and delegations, including the Beijing Olympics host characters and Mickey and Minnie Mouse! I wonder what Santa had to say to the Disney duo… Yours truly took a shot and succumbed to the touristy thing of buying the picture. Anything sent from the arctic post office would receive a special stamp mark. You could even choose to have the item sent on the next Christmas Day. The tourism angle was very well planned and executed.
I hopped onto the bus for another 4h ride to Saariselka. It was a small village, 15min from one end to the other. Every single shop was featured in the newspaper, targeted at visitors. I was lucky to have missed the earlier winter crowds. The weather in the day was rather nice, with sunshine. My room had a big thermometer right outside the window, and it registered a nice 4 degC. I went around the safari shops asking if there was anything to join in for the evening. I settled for a reindeer safari ride.
Markku, our local Sami guide, brought us to the reindeer farm where he outfitted us in warm space-suits (they were called husky suits), thick snow boots and a Sami pullover. We climbed into the wooden sleighs/ sledges, and off we went. The reindeers obediently trotted along behind Markku’s sleigh. It was still bright, the sun only set around 9pm. I took in the sights. Except for the sleigh, it was total silence. After an hour, we stopped at a tent-hut where Markku started a fire and we roasted sausages and had tea. The smell of the tea reminded me of Nepal, where we always sat around the fire stove warming our hands. All too soon, it was time to return. We got back into the sleighs and before we knew it, we were back at the house where we took off the warm clothing. I started to feel cold in the van. Returning to my hotel room, I realized that the weather had plunged to a blistering -15degC. Oooooh….. I put my carton of fresh milk and pack of ham outside the window to be chilled.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
I showered and headed to the restaurant cabin. It was a cosy place with amber lights and old fashioned wooden tables. There were many passengers having dinners and drinks. I found a small table, munched my sandwich and read a book as the train trudged past towns and vast empty spaces.
Two hours later, I headed back to my cabin. Sleeping in the berth was a great experience. The gentle rocking of the train as it sped along the tracks soon lulled me to dreamland.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
In between, Leena brought me to a place called Villa Angelica for lunch. It was a very quaint small villa, with furniture belonging to another era long ago. The menu comprised only a selection of tea, coffee, quiche, and cakes, but served in a hearty portion. We each ordered the mushroom & spinach quiche - generous portion for 10Eur. Mixed rose flower tea was unlimited servings at 4Eur. You could choose to have jam in your tea (apparently that was the Russian way, instead of sugar).
After the meetings ended, we drove to a sauna place that offered different types of sauna and ice swimming. The temperature read: Outside air 4degC, Lake 0degC. We changed into bathing suits and went into the smoke sauna (which was mixed sexes). I did not have slippers and hobbled barefoot in ice-snow for 30m to the sauna. Ouch! Feet went numb. We were the only 2 ladies in a room of 10 oversized men! It was super hot, much hotter than the normal sauna rooms. I was glad I remembered to remove my necklace - the metal would burn my skin. Even my long ponytail heated up so much that it burnt my back!
Now the adventure began. After we felt hot enough, we walked 10m out to the lake. I held on tightly to the railings and lowered myself into the icy cold water. Foot touched water. Yelps! The other foot. Thighs. Waist. Body. Up to neck. Eeeks! Shots of pain through my body. It was the kind of pain that stung if you held an ice box with bare hands for too long. Heartbeat racing. I remembered to regulate my breathing. I heard Leena calling out not to submerge my head. I jumped out of the water. Total submersion time 3sec. I recall reading an article about ice swimming and how the body transited through shock, pain, increased heart rate, before settling into equilibrim. I could totally identify now!
Surprisingly, I was not cold after I left the water. We sat on the open deck while the blood flushed through our skins. You could literally see red blotches on the skin as the increased blood circulation kept us warm. The men were from the ice swimming club (IceBears) and came prepared with crates of beer! When it turned cold, we went back to the smoke sauna to 'cook' ourselves.
Pity I left my camera in the locker. Luckily there was a journalist on shore with a professional camera. He was covering a story about the IceBears. How wonderful! I asked Leena to get his help to take some shots and email to me. Yeah.
Then we went into the normal sauna. That was when I spotted a rectangular lake-pool, about 20m in length. I was intrigued. The challenge called out to me. Could I endure the swim across the length? I warmed up and headed out. I waded in. Ice cold, yes. I breast stroked. The pain came, then my body warmed up a little. 10m across and the pain returned. All imaginable parts, even your most private parts. The strokes slowed in order to sync with the regulated breathing. You want to be careful not to overtax the heart that was already beating very hard. Focused on getting to the opposite ladder. I made it! Awesome... Now my thighs were really red, flushed by the blood.
I went back to the sauna and greedily eyed the pool again. Could I do it again? Hmmm.... The challenge got the better of me. I just had to try it a second time. So I went out. It was colder the second time, minus the adrenalin rush of a first trial. I knew my limits, I would not be able to turn around and swim back another lap. But it was enough. I experienced ice swimming and it was incredible! We went to the cafe for a hot drink to complete the outing. :)