Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rock Climbing in Krabi

Finally, a much needed break. We spent a weekend in Krabi, just because. For nothing. Finally, a trip that was not for work or race. A trip for no particular reason. :) Well, ok, I had 3 aims - have an entire steamed fish by myself, rock climbing, and massage.

The trip was suppose to be Sat - Mon, but the infamous Tiger Airways cancelled our flight. So we had to reschedule it to Fri - Sun, and rebook the accommodation. But all went well eventually, because we had great weather on the trip. There was a slight drizzle when we arrived on Friday, which cleared up quickly. Cool and sun-less, perfect. We had equally cool weather on Saturday for rock climbing. And then it rained the whole of Sunday when we left.

Friday -

The flight made it to Krabi, and we checked into the Phra Nang Inn in Ao Nang. It was located near the beach front, a superb location for exploring the little shops in the vicinity. We spent a lazy afternoon wondering the streets. It had been 3 years and there were many new shops and hotels. We had a light bite from the roadside hawkers. It was impressive that the lady was able to whip up so many delicious dishes while keeping her little push-cart spotlessly clean. It put some of our hawker centre stores to shame.

We walked some more to find the seafood restaurant that we patronised on the last trip. Papaya salad, glass noodle salad, fried vegetables, steamed cockles, deep fried soft shell crab, and a giant steamed white snapper! The fish was so fresh and its meat so thick, it was heavens!

I ended the day with an 1h oil massage, while Alber sat alongside an ad-hoc drink store enjoying his alcohol with an united nation of tourists. Bliss.

Saturday -

A full day of rock climbing! Yeah! We signed up for a full day event, and were picked up at 745am to catch a longtail boat to Railay island. Our climbing school was Hot Rock, and the instructor was called Nut (??) We had our own gear and off we went. He asked what level our climbing skills were, 6 or 7 (according to the French system). He thought too highly of us, we were probably at beginners Level 5 (the most basic).

There were many climbers at the rock wall. We tried 3 routes, one of which was a 6A. But we cheated and 'walked' to the starting point instead of starting in 'mid-air'. It was great fun. The walls were limestone and were relatively clean and sturdy for climbs. Most of the natural handholds were very good - big solid handholds for a very strong grip. I could even wrap around my elbow around some of them!

We stopped for a quick lunch, and continued climbing. We headed to the northern part of Railay island, where I had the chance to try out lead climbing twice. Nut refreshed my memory on what to do when I reached the anchor point (which had a metal ring) and how to secure the rope through the top ring. Nut was very familiar with the climbing route, and could give exact pointers on where to place my feet, where to move my hands, and what to grip onto. Every move was exactly like what he instructed, if he said to move my right arm higher over my shoulder, sure enough, there would be a very good handhold there for me to move on to.

It was extremely fun to be rock climbing in nature, especially limestone walls. We covered another 4 routes before calling it a day at 5pm. My fingers, arms and shoulders were aching, but it was very good to refresh my memory on how to climb! This would be the reason for re-visiting Krabi.

We headed back to the hotel for a quick wash-up and decided to have another steamed fish again. :) Chicken in coconut soup, white fungus salad, 3x steamed tiger prawns, steamed squid, and a steamed fish.

After a nice stroll back to the hotel, it was time for another massage. I chose a 90min aloe-vera massage. Cold aloe-vera gel from the fridge was mixed with some massage oil, and applied onto the skin. Oooooh cooling! For every body part, the masseur would knead to prepare the muscles, then slap on that cold mixture, and rubbed with deep, firm strokes. Then she would end off with some light kneading and patting to totally relax the muscles. All that for about S$20. Heavens.

Sunday -

The day started with a slow breakfast and then walking around the same streets again. I was getting bored by shops. It was drizzling in the morning, and luckily we did not sign up for any outdoor activities. Our flight was in the late afternoon, and we had half a day to kill. I decided to lounge in bed with a book, while Alber tried out the open bathtub in the room. Soaking in the hot tub with a chilled beer in hand, he certainly knew how to enjoy himself.

We went back to the same push-cart hawker for lunch. Green curry seafood, fried noodles, fried chicken basil + rice, a chocolate-cashew pancake and a watermelon juice.

Ahhh, I would certainly miss the lemongrass-lime-with-anything food. Looking forward to the next trip to Krabi. Perhaps I would try the island-hopping next.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

PowerBreathe Ironman Plus

About 3 weeks ago, I purchased the PowerBreathe gadget. I opted for the Ironman Plus Heavy Resistance model. There was also an Irongirl version that came in a pretty pink, but it was sold out. :(

The Ironman Plus series is targeted at serious athletes (as opposed to the medical and wellness series). Some of the beneficiary sports that caught my attention were triathlons, and high altitude training. What it does is to train our diaghram muscles and engage them for more efficient breathing.

The PowerBreathe has a resistance dial of 0 - 10. You should start at 0 and slowly work your way up. Each exercise involved taking 30 deep breaths (at reasonable speed and effort), twice a day (morning and night). When you feel that the exercise became easier, you turn the dial half-round and increase the breathing resistance.

It was a very interesting exercise. Over the past 3 weeks, I had gone from 0 to 3 on the dial. Initially, it was very difficult to complete 30 breaths. The first time I fixed the gadget and tried, I could only manage 6 breaths. Then I realised there was a way to inhale deeply, until there was a 'click' sound, which meant the diaphragm had 'moved'. That was when I noticed that I could get more air into my system. It was a way to build lung capacity.

I have yet to test or verify the effectiveness of the PowerBreathe training on sports performance. In general though, I could feel that each breath was fuller and that I could suck in more air if I wanted to.

To be continued.... :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ankle Weights for Extra Gravity

I repacked my backpack & strapped on the ankle weights where they belonged - on my ankles. Pack 22kg (1kg discount, big deal...). Weights 2.5kg each.

Managed to survive 10 sets with no loo-break. It was really mental especially the last 20 storeys of the last set. Joanne, Carmen etc were there, so it was good to have some company. Or at least face time occasionally since we all climbed at different timings.

9:39min, 9:26, 10:00, 10:20, 10:37, 10:18, 10:50, 10:41, 11:01, 10:38

It was very different being weighed down by the ankle weights. The idea was to simulate the heavy mountaineering boots we would wear. Each boot was about 1.2++kg. The difference between having those ankle weights on my feet instead of backpack was that they made it heavy to lift the legs up the stairs. So it stressed the muscles more, especially the big groups like quads and hamstrings. There was some stress on the back and hip gluteals too, as they needed to be engaged for balancing a heavy load with every step. It would be more difficult training in BT and I probably would have a lighter pack too.

Joanne suggested reducing the load slightly and going for speed next time. Or to do alternate trainings each time. Sort of like a long run vs interval. Hmmm ok, will try that next week.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Laps and Laps

Swim class:

200m: 5:07min, 4:53

6x 100m @ 2:30min - 2:13, 2:23, 2:33, 2:26, 2:26, 2:21 - basically it meant non-stop

6x 50m - 59s, 1:09, 1:05, 1:07, 1:04, 1:08

4x 200 @ 5:30min - 5:08, 5:08, 5:09, 5:08

8x 50m - 1:04, 1:15, 1:11, 1:15, 1:15, 1:14, 1:14, 1:03

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Stairs on a Sunday

Plans to train at BT were washed away by the torrential downpour. :( I was already on the road and driving towards BT, when the drizzle became another washout. So I decided to change plans and head to TB for indoor stairs instead. The rain continued for another hour or so, bringing a respite from the haze.

The first 5 sets went well, and then downhill:
9:17min, 9:07, 9:30, 9:06, 10:07
9:54, 10:10, 9:44, 10:53!!, 9:31

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Shivering Ride

We got caught in a tremendous downpour just after the Mandai loop. It started with thunder and a light drizzle, and we decided to cut short our ride and head home. Less than 1km later, the rain pelted down, in an orchestrated washout. Visibility dropped, the roads started to swell with water, and we were getting splashed by passing vehicles.

We decided to stop at a bus stop and wait out the rain. We had started the ride in bright sunshine and did not have our lights on the bikes. Drivers would not be able to see us on the roads. There was not much of a shelter at the bus stop because the rain was simply too heavy. The wind blew the rain in, and every passing vehicle created a fountain in our way. We were drenched a few times even as we sat on the bench, waiting. It started to get cold too. Hailing a cab was not an option despite the many empty ones that drove past. No drivers would want to stop in the torrential rain to pick up 2 wet cyclists, with or without our bikes. "Lame sitting ducks" sprang to mind, that aptly described us at the bus stop - cold, wet, miserable. I started to shiver. Brrrr.....

After about 30min, the rain seemed to have lightened up (but still heavy nonetheless). We decided to just brave the rain and cycle home. It was cold, and stressful. I was literally shivering at one traffic junction when we stopped for the lights. Hands and legs involuntarily shaking. Had to try all means to generate some body heat for myself. We went very slowly and carefully. Thankfully, traffic was slow as well, as drivers battled the rain and wet roads. They gave us enough berth. At one stretch, the left lane was flooded with muddy waters, and we had to filter with the cars to the other remaining lane. Harrowing. The rain was pelting into my eyes, I had to force them open and rub them frequently. We were not wearing shades as they were too dark in the rain.

The rain got heavier as we neared home. Crumbs... Finally, made it back. Whew! I had never cycled in such a heavy rain before. And it was not a pleasant experience.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Recovery Run

The haze was back in Singapore and the air smelt burnt. I did a loop around my favourite recovery grounds at Canterbury. Very slowly, and took an hour. Then I spent another hour with the trigger ball and stretches in the gym. Leg still felt tight. But my mind was relaxed, there was no pressure to run. No races until next year. :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stairs Upped

Pack weight increased to 23kg tonight (from 21kg). I must be nuts. I could barely stand up if I put on the pack sitting on my car boot. There is a certain height of the 'pack launch pad' where one put on a pack, that ranged from 'Impossible to get up' to 'Already standing'. My boot was somewhere in the middle of the scale. Any lower and I would be see-sawing on my butt trying to stand, but counter-balanced by the pack. I think this would be my max weight, or I would really roll backwards!

And then there was the haze. The air was so bad, I could hardly see beyond the next road from the top floor of the flat. Being stuck in a stairwell with foul air and a heavy pack had me drenched in no time. Not from any effort, yet.

My first set was a bit of a shock, I had to get used to the weight. Then it got better. Nobody was at the stairs tonight, until Thiam Huat came along after my 5th set. I was glad for some company. We did different directions/ stairwell, but met at the top floor and took the lift down. Any familiar face or company was much welcomed.

I managed to survive 10 sets at a relatively consistent timing:
9:53min, 9:35, 9:57, 9:50, 10:08 - toilet break
9:34 (must be because the hydration bag got lighter), 9:38, 9:28, 10:13, 10:02

Whew... Not sure I could up the pace or sets next time. Or perhaps I should use those ankle weights that are currently in my pack.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Jabbed Arms Bad for Swim

Silly me decided to take a couple of travel vaccines in the afternoon. 3 to be exact - 2 on one arm, 1 on the other. Needless to say, my biceps were like rock-tired by the evening and pulling through laps in the pool was far from the best solution.

6-7x 200m:
4:31 (merged?), 4:44, 4:44, 4:44, 4:45, 4:48, 6:09 (250m)

8x 100m:
2:23, 2:27, 2:31, 2:31, 2:29, 2:33, 2:28, 2:19 (merged)

2:34, 2:37, 2:38, 2:41, .... suppose to do 7 sets but bailed out early.

Jelly arms were falling off my shoulders. Totally unable to pull properly.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

BT Trail Again

After a week's break in Seoul, I was back on BT with my pack today. My hydration tube was leaking, after my smart-alec mistake last week before TNF where I sort of broke it. Today, I had jelly legs and my timings were so-so.

Summit - 2x: 3:10min, 3:27
Rengas - 4x: 6:17, 6:51, 7:05, 6:57
Jungle Fall - 3x: 6:26, 6:16, 6:32

Then I met my boss on the way down the steep BT slope. In my utterly sweaty and unglam state, it was uncoolness at its best. Argh... Yikes!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

TNF 100km Duo Win

This was the real race, the one that I was looking forward too, and praying very hard that my legs would hold up well and the injuries did not flare up. The annual The North Face trail run. I teamed up with Lai Chee for the 100km Women's Duo - each to run 50km concurrently and the times totalled would be the team's timing.

We reached MR at 6:30am and readied ourselves for the run. It felt like it would be a hot day. Lai Chee and I made our way near the start of the funnel. My role was very straight forward - just finish the run, as fast as I could, and do not drop out of the race. It was a very real possibility a few weeks ago, when I could barely go on for an hour pain-free. I opted to wear my normal road Asics GTs today instead of the hardier trail shoes, in part a worry that the stiffer shoes would trigger my injury. But then I would have to suffer the pain of stones and blisters hitting those softer shoes.

The race flag-off was at 7am. The fast runners ahead sped off while most others took their time to find their pace and rhythm. Afterall, it was a long long race. Some of the guys from the back overtook me, some fell behind. I focused on spotting the female runners. I think there were a couple of them ahead of me at the flag-off. If they were very fast, there was no way that I could catch up. If they were not, I could try to close the gap. My strategy was to keep a lookout and not let any female runners in my race category cut me. That was a wee bit tough, because soon after, Khina whizzed past me along Rifle Range road. So I had to make sure that her partner did not do likewise.

We ran into the BT mountain biking trail. I had only hiked there once, but it was a nice stretch of trail, real trail. My first 10km was relatively fast, but little would I know that the timing would deteoriate swiftly towards the end. After many twists and turns, we finally got to the infamous Lor Asmara and Hill 265. This year, runners had to go through a longer stretch within this section, and that proved to be the killer. It was part of the army training ground, and was hardly considered 'trail' (think lush greens, trees, soft mud....). This was rocky, stony, full of steep slopes up and down, a debris-ed route for tanks to roll and troops to march on. I spent an inordinate amount of time walking through Lor Asmara, as did many other runners. The slopes were so steep that it made no sense to further expend energy running up them. My legs were starting to feel crampy, so I did not dare to run down the long slopes either. Serene ran by and soldiered on very strongly over the terrain. Oops, I was really slowing down and others were catching up very soon.

The area was totally exposed to the harsh heat, it was morale defeating. I trotted along with Ansley for a short distance, and when suddenly he told me we could stop running. For looming before us was Hill 265 - literally a red-soil hill. Last year, it was a culture shock to me. This year, I was mentally prepared for it. In fact, the steep gradient was very good for stretching out my cramped calves and hamstrings!

I took a banana along the way, stuffed the banana skin into the side pocket of my hydration pack and wondered if the monkeys would attack me. We finally wound our way out of Lor Asmara. 30km down, 20km more to go. I refilled my hydration bag, went to the toilet, had a gel and ploughed on. Wayne offered some cold Ribena which tasted really good. Winnie was also there by the roadside with her solo support vehicle-station, ready with an iced Milo for me! Whew! Then across the road, Shirley, Eddy and Jimmy's girlfriend were there with their little support station of drinks and fruits. Thanks everyone!

But the next 20km proved to be the killer for me. My legs were really crampy, and every step threatened to seize up the entire leg. I had muscle cream but it was not very effective. My run became trots and shuffles that were on par with those who were walking. One other lady overtook me, but I think she was in the Mixed category. I hobbled for what seemed like an eternity between Mandai back to Zhenghua, and was devastated to see the signage recording only 5km. :( I took almost 2h to clear that 10km, and was way behind my target.

Freddy and Hee Shen were stationed at Zhenghua. Hee Shen was the photographer, and Freddy dished out nutrition. I took another banana and iced Milo, while Freddy sprayed my legs with muscle spray. It seemed to work, because I could run! I tried to make up for lost time and ran the entire section from Zhenghua to Rifle Range Road. I was still trying to hit a sub-7h, and the window was closing fast. But the effects of the spray wore out at Rifle Range, and I was forced to hobble again. Grrr....

There were more runners now, we had merged with those from the 50k Duo. Entering the trails again, Sok Hwa shouted 'Jia-You' to me and sped off. Then Aileen shot past me too. Arrgh.... but there was nothing much I could do, my legs were out of my control and sometimes I could not feel them when I landed. Alternating between jogs and walks, I pushed as hard as I could and painfully made my way back. I was now totally off-target, way past the 7h mark. My arms felt like needles and pins - it was a first sensation! - and I started to worry if I was getting dehydrated or heat exhaustion or something. I bumped into Eliza, Genevieve, and several others who shouted encouragement, but I was too dead to respond coherently. Going in a straight line was a challenge, and I felt a little disoriented running on the Northern Trail in the reverse direction, with no sense of the distance or markers.

Finally, there was light! Literally. The sunlight. We were back out in the open along the reservoir banks, and everyone was immensely happy to see the sun again. I tried to shuffle as fast as I could, all the while thinking that Lai Chee would have been waiting for such a long time. I finally cleared reached finishing line at 7:29h. The beep from the race timing bib was sweetness to my ears. I walked around in a zig-zag manner - legs were still cramped - and located Lai Chee. She had come in first amongst the female runners at 5:45h. Power! We certainly stood a chance for podium because, for what it was worth, no other teams overtook me. True enough, the organizers called soon, informing us that we won the category! It was my virgin First!

Final tally, our Mt Faber Safra runners did very well at the race. We took the:
50k Men's Duo 3rd
50k Women's Duo 2nd
100k Women's Duo 1st, and
100k Women's Duo 3rd
Well done!

On a personal level, I was rather disappointed that I was 50min(!!) slower than last year. That was a whole lot slower, totally not conditioned and not in form. But I consoled myself to be thankful for being able to run and complete the distance, when even 1 month ago, everything looked bleak and my shoes stared at me. (Mental note to self, to thank my physios.)

Thank you legs. :)

Split Timing:
10km - 1:05h
20km - 1:23h
30km - 1:31h
---- 4h ------
40km - 1:48h
50km - 1:39h
---- 7:29h ---

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Feeling Good Training

Lovely article about feeling one's run and training. ie. focus on a feel-good session. Not by lounging or slacking. But by being fitter and less fatigue. And the way to the get there is by hard work. Yes, the paradoxical simultaneous existence of pleasure and pain.

"Your mind receives a million times more relevant information about how your body is doing than some silly gadget like a heart rate monitor."

"the most enjoyable runs you experience are not easy runs but very challenging ones that happen to fall on days when your body feels up to the challenge. In running, you can experience pleasure and suffering simultaneously."

I totally identify with that. On reflection, all the runs and races that were memorable were those that were tough but enjoyable.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Trudging up the stairs

Blk 21 again. I completed 2 sets before Carmen arrived. Backpack unchanged, 21kg. Today, the body felt lethargic and slow. My timings were so far off the mark vs last week. Whereas an average set would be 8min-ish, today, my very first set was 9min+. Better brace myself for a tough night ahead.

Ploughed through 10 sets. In a better state, I would finish another 2 sets with Carmen. But rationality prevailed....

9:09, 8:59, 8:59, 8:47, 8:59, 9:19, 9:27, 9:22, 9:27, 9:08

I must try to complete 12 sets next time.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Why am I swimming?

Post-desaru and we were back at swim class on Monday. Coach was lenient, gave chance tonight. I was late, because the crappy Tiger Airways sent me an email at 630pm that my flight was cancelled, and I had to spend some time sorting that out. For the record, that would be the last time I would fly with Tiger.

5x 200m @ 5:30min -
but why were the front swimmers pulling so fast??! all the laps were sub-5!
4:48min, 4:48, 4:46, 4:49, 4:47

Repeat 5x 200m @ 5:30min -
4:50, 5:06, 5:06, 5:05, 5:01

6x 100m @ 2:30min - oh boy, it was a mad crawl and messy splash. Merged and merged, forget about the timings...

Goodnight. Ahhh sweet words to the ears.

I was already wondering why I was there swimming more than the desaru race distance, so soon after the race.

Shuffle Shorter Strides

I've been experimenting with a new running form and technique. Well, not entirely new, just that I have not been consciously taking note of my posture and landing.

The articles below are similar to what Gino taught me - a 'falling' run.

Our knees and joints will thank us for those shorter stride lengths, higher stride rate (ie. cadence).

Shuffle along, shuffle. :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Desaru Long-dist Triathlon 2010

It was time for our annual pilgrimage to Desaru, more for the mega social gathering & feasting with friends than for the race. Uncle Chan said that it might be the last time he was organizing the race in Desaru. Oh no, it was such a convenient place for Singaporeans to get our annual fix of a tough race, and be amply rewarded with seafood!

I was going to be conservative for the race. Very, very conservative. My real race was coming up the next weekend, and I needed to test my legs. I had to check if I could run properly, and if I could last 7hours.

The race began at 10am this year. So unlike other races where one had to wake up at some ungodly hour, Desaru was always a sleep-in luxury.

Swim - the sea was so much clearer and calmer this year compared to the washing-machine-tumble of the past 2 races. And the distance was more accurate. I must have drifted off, because I took 67min to finish the swim! Arrghh...

Bike - I started on the bike leg and 10km into the ride, I was wondering how I could possibly finish 3 loops of 30km. My legs were not awake yet and pedalling was tough. There was the same short ultra-killer slope, and then a long killer slope. In between, there were many many rolling hills. I took it easy, not pushing. Then I realised why my right abductors were always so tight after a ride. I had the bad habit of letting the bike free-wheel while bending my right knee to stretch my left leg. I then compared with the reverse combination, and realised that my right knee was not in a relaxed position. If I bent my left knee, my pedals would be in a 12 - 6 o'clock position. If I bent my right knee, the pedals resembled a 2 - 8 o'clock setting, thus straining my right quads unnecessarily. Aha! Anyway, the bike was only 82-83km instead of 90km. Perhaps to compensate for the slopes. 3:13h for the ride.

Run - it was super super hot during the run. So many people were walking and looking in agony. I jogged along. Oh no, cramp on my left abductor. I kept bending over to elbow the cramped spot to massage out the knots. I reminded myself to use Gino's running method. It must have worked, because after the race, my legs were not as stiff as in my other races. I walked-jogged, and spot Alber. Many friends were in the opposite direction and we called out to one another. Alber was walking so we walked a distance together. And somehow managed to prod each other on to the finishing line, and for once, we went through the ending point together. :) Run time: 2:30h?

Total race time: 7:10h