30 October 2007

Hot, hot, hot !

Hot, hot, hot ! How can I train in this kind f**king weather !

Finally we landed in Singapore, yes....30c and 90% humidity - all year around. The coolest temperature is 25c but that's at night time. In light of this, the way forward is probably to either start running really early, use treadmills a lot or (most likely) a combination of both.

We stayed at the Mandarin on Orchard Rd - which is about 20 minutes walk from our apartment in Robertson Quay. However, since the current tenant will vacate the apartment on 31/10, we'll be staying in the hotel and (by the suitcases) for 12 days. We spent the first few days shopping for furnitures and electronics. Fortunately (sigh), most things are much cheaper here than in Australia, for instance, a 42 inch plasma TV by LG costs less than A$1500. However, coffees prices are pretty steep here - a cup of latte costs around A$4-6.

Running has been pretty minimal - averaging 40k in the last 3 weeks due to relocation. Probably will stay in the this range until we have fully settled here and explored the local options.

Saturday, 27/10: Recovery Run
Hate to say this but I did my first run back in Singapore on treadmill. I'd say Mandarin hotel has the worst gym among the 5* hotels on Orchard Rd. The treadmills are old and the gym was smelly (yuk !). Started at 6:00 min/km, progressing gradually to finish at 4:45 min/km at 1% grade. All up, 10k in 52:48 (5:16 min/km)

Sunday, 28/10: Easy Run
My first outdoor run in Singapore and I must admit the conditions wasn't that horrible. A, cool overcast morning certainly helped. Ran 2.5k to Singapore Botanic Gardens, then 7k within the garden itself plus another 2.5k back to hotel via Orchard Rd. The garden has a lot of nicely, surfaced bitumen paths, so it would be a great place to do tempo runs. Can picture myself doing long run here on weekends. The issue is that I couldn't find any drinking water tap there. All up, 12k in 1:01:30 (5:08 min/km)

Tuesday 30/10: Medium Pace Tempo
Have been running at easy paces for the last 1.5 weeks or so hence decided to do something a bit brisk today. All up, 8k in 36:40 (4:35 min/km) including 24 minutes @ 4:15 pace.

Wednesday 31/10: Easy Run
Didn't get a 'pass' from my wife to run outside in the rain, hence another run on the dreadmill. 12k in 1:01:33 (5:08 min/km) - with the last 3k at 4:40 pace.

Friday 2/11: Recovery Run
An easy recovery run at 2% grade before work in 30:20 (5:37 min/km).

Overall, too much treadmill running to my liking....hopefully I'll be able to do more outdoor running soon...

25 October 2007

Farewell Perth

Unfortunately, running had to take a back seat on my last days in Perth. My last few days turned out to be really, really busy. We moved out of the apartment last week and stayed in a city hotel for a week. One we arrive in Singapore, we'll again live on suitcases for 12 days until we can move-in to our apartment in Robertson. Was busy at work - a lot of job hand-overs, tidying up unfinished jobs and loose ends as well as a couple of farewell dos organized by the company.

I felt that I've gained some weight due to a combination of less running and (much) more eating. In the last three weeks I only ran about 3-4 times versus 6 times a week previously. In addition, we've embarked on a gastronomical 'pig-out' tour - visiting our favourite restaurants in Perth with an excuse as 'for the last time'. This week, I'll blog my running a bit differently, adding my 'food diary' as well:

Saturday, 20/10:
Medium Long Run: 24k in ~2 hours (5:02 min/km). A couple of ks warm up before meeting my running buddy, Rob at Bell Tower. Did 2 laps of the Bridges for 19k total. Pretty much cruising the whole run despite windy conditions. After bidding farewell to Rob, did 8 x 00:15 strides on grass before running back to the city.
Dinner: Marinated kangaroos, chilli muscles and of course, some pale ale at Little Creatures.

Sunday, 21/10:
Hill Reps: 8 x 170m hill + 3k w/u & 3k c/d. Felt like crap today probably from too much alcohol last night. The reps were done in 31-34 seconds (3:14 min/km avg.) with walk/jog recovery. Was stuffed after the 4th rep.
Dinner: Went to Freemantle for fish n chips then a basket of brownie sundae at Baskins Robbins for dessert.

Tuesday, 23/10:
Recovery Run: 35 minutes (5:28 min/km). A slow run on the grassy area on riverside.
Dinner: A tender, succulent baby goat stew with pasta at Romany in Northbridge.

Wednesday, 24/10:
Easy Run: 13.5k in ~70 minutes (5:08 min/km). Feeling really lethargic, hence had to bag my planned tempo session for my last run in Perth. Hips were pretty sore, presumably from the hill reps session on Sunday. Saw Ben Cousins running in South Perth. It was a shame I couldn't do my last run in Perth on a high note.
Dinner: A famous, cheap Japanese place on Shafto Lane called 'Taka' for lunch, several sushi plates at Jaws for dinner and finished up with a huge chunky apple pie at the 24 hour Fast Eddys.

Will be flying to Singapore later this afternoon, so my next run will be done in Singapore. We'll definitely miss Perth - also thanks to all my running friends here, Rob, Epi, Jon, and Homo. I hope I'll come back and do some races here again !

Singapore...here I come !!

19 October 2007

Ten More Things About Me

1) I am havin' a mid-life crisis...haven't broken any substantial running PBs for a long time...

2) I love racing various distances, week-in week-out, all year around. I think this is why I have become a CRAP racer !! Probably I can race much better with periodization and focus.

3) I loathe running in heavy-cushion shoes (urrghhh !). I normally use racing shoes for tempo/intervals workouts and light-weight trainers (Asics DS Trainer, Nike Free) for my long and general training runs.

4) I don't use HR monitor to dictate my running pace, bur rather as a data recorder .....

5) I love doing short-hill sprints, especially after tempo/intervals.

6) Due to the heat/humidity and lack of running areas in Singapore, unfortunately I need to resort to a 'dreadmill' more often than not. But....unfortunately I can't run at fast pace on a dreadmill....'coz I get a feeling that I might slip and fall off...

7) I am quiter...once I know that I can't rach my goals, I prefer to slack off or even DNF the race (Any advice for building mental toughness??)

8 ) I am a massive holly-cow sweater. I normally wear a headband.

9) I will try to do pool-running on my recovery days or as a second workout (it's nice to have a pool just outside my apartment).

10) I don't like running with underwear (the in-built undies are enough !)

15 October 2007

Move Me, Shake Me, Break Me

Counting my last days in Perth. Sold my car Accord Euro on Tuesday for a cheap-skate price. Our packing was scheduled on Friday and to our surprise, only one packer came to our apartment. He was so efficient that the whole packing process took 4 hours to complete (single handedly). A total of 34 boxes were shipped. Afterwards, the feeling began to sink in. The apartment is virtually empty except for furnitures and a couple of large suitcases that we'll carry into our flights. All of my shoes were shipped except for my Nike Free and Asics DS Trainer. But most of all, I will miss running in Perth with its mild weather, clean air, parks & jogging paths, and fantastic running ambience. We are scheduled to vacate the apartment on 22 Oct and leave for Singapore on 25 Oct.

Running wise, my recovery from Melbourne Marathon (DNFed at 37k in 2:52) went really well. Took a couple of rest days and did a a couple of short slow runs on Wednesday and Thursday. Muscles were so good that they didn't need any massaging or icing. The key workouts for the week were:

Sat 13/10: Threshold Tempo Run + Hill Reps

Summer is coming!! A pretty warm day for Perth morning standard at 22c. After 2.2k slow warm up, I did 5k tempo run in 20:04 (av. pace 4:01 min/km). Felt really strong for the first couple of ks (sub 4 pace) before starting to feel the rise in lactate and HR in the second half of the run and had to fight a bit to keep the pace in check. Av. HR for the 5k run was 174bpm or 89-90% MaxHR (bingo) - however it touched 186 bpm at the end of the run or 95% MaxHR -- Yikes !! I think I would struggle big time if I run at the same effort in Singapore where av. temperature is around 30c.

After the tempo run, I did 5 x ~120m hill charges in 25, 24, 25, 25, 25 seconds with walk/jog recovery, followed by 2.3k of slow jog to cool down. All up, 11k in 52:46 (av. 4:48)

Sun 14/10: Aerobic Medium Long Run

Ran the first 14k on rolling hills of Kings Park, averaging 5:05 min/km. Then ran the last 4k at 4:27 min/km pace on flat-ish terrain. Ran non-stops without water or rest break. Was feeling a bit sluggish in the first 10-15 minutes but felt stronger as the run went on. Total 18k in 1:28:50 (av 4:56)

Tue 16/10: CV intervals

After a slow 10:00 warm up, I did 5 x 1000m at ~10k pace with 1:45 very slow jog between the intervals. Splits: 3:54/168 bpm, 3:58/171, 3:56/172, 3:54/175, 3:54/175 bpm. Felt pretty comfortable throughout and was totally in control. Not sure whether this is due to endurance effect from my 'long run aka DNF'ed marathon' 9 days ago or just simply because the recovery duration between the intervals was too lengthy. Was short on time, hence I didn't manage to do any short reps or hill sprints or long cool down afterwards. Finished with 3 x 00:20 strides. All up, 10k in 47:54 (4:48).

All in all, none of these workouts were earth shaking or earth breaking !!!

14 October 2007

The Birth of Sling Runner

I'm starting this blog because I'm entering a new chapter in my running life. After three years of hard work, pain, gain, and lessons learnt in beautiful Perth, Western Australia, I am now back in the tropical Singapore. With an average temperature of 25-30c and humidity upwards of 75% throughout the year, training and improving my personal bests will be very, really, extremely, super-duper challenging.

To start off, I'm no great, natural talent. I was a couch-potato until my early 30s and was lucky if I could run one kilometre non-stop. When I was younger, I played a bit of tennis and basketball here and there, but I sucked at them. Between the age of 20 and 30, I was so much into partying and drinking. While I wasn't overweight, I was virtually unfit and I had a belly beer as a bling. I could still vividly remember when I was studying my masters in the US, I went shopping in a supermarket with my flatmate (a girl). On our way home, it started to rain, and she suggested we ran to our apartment - which was a measly one kilometer away. I said yes and we started running. After less than one minute, I was huffing and puffing already and I had to stop. She said why ?? We just barely started !! That pretty much summed it up !

In my early 30s, I had a job posting in China. I was single and blessed with cash. I developed a passion for adventure and travel. I scuba dived in exotic locations, did white-water rafting on Zambezi river in Zambia, skydived from 9000ft in New Zealand, did white-water kayaking including a vertical 30m drop waterfall, and climbed the 4000m Mt. Kinabalu in Borneo (the highest mountain in SE Asia). Whilst looking for another adventure to be accomplished, I asked myself: why not running a half marathon? It is a kind of adventure in itself since it is physically and mentally challenging.

After undertaking about one month of light training, I did my first race - Beijing Half Marathon in October 2003. Due to my low fitness level, I had to stop and walk several times in the race but was still able to complete the HM in just under 2 hours. I had difficulty walking for the next few days but I was happy. Later I improved my HM time 1:50 in Hong Kong (Feb 2004). I then came accross a quote by the great emil Zatopek: 'if you want to win something, run 100m. If you want to experience another life, run a marathon'. There was a marathon in Xiamen in March, about 6 weeks after my last HM. Despite limited training (my longest run prior to this was 21k aka the HM and I then 'gallowalked' a couple of 30k training runs), I duly completed the Xiamen Marathon in 3:50. Mission accomplished !

After the marathon, I discontinued running for a few months. In October 2004, I had a new job posting in Perth, Australia. The place was virtually a running paradise. Clean air, excellent running community, lots of parks and bike/jogging paths all over the city !!! I even have the beautiful, gigantic Kings Park, a few steps away from my apartment. I began to run religiously since then and the year of 2005 AD turned out to be my best ever running chapter. Did 22 races in total and I got 22 PBs. By the end of the year, I slashed my 10k times from 50 minutes to under 40 minutes, my HM times from 1:50 to 1:31, and my marathon times from 3:50 to 3:17. And that was only after one year of consistent training !!

In 2006, I had big hopes given the rate of improvement that I had in the previous year. Started the year with a bang, 39:23 10k and then a 1:29 HM followed by a 1:27 HM. However, after that, my world came crashing down. My performance went sideways and I consistently had a number of bad races. The harder I trained and the more mileage I ran, the worse my race performances were. I was sick of running and took a few weeks off in order to re-group. At the end of the year, I changed my focus into short races and the decision began to yield positive results including a 5k in 18:45.

And now, 2007....Grrrr...this is probably my worst period of running. Had some decent results early in the year including several sub-19 5ks and sub-40 10ks, but I was aiming much higher than that (sub 18:30 5ks and sub 39 10ks). Overall my race performances continued their downward spirals. Got married in May and went on a long honeymoon. Upon returning to Perth, I set my goal to run a PB in Melbourne Marathon. After marriage, I found that finding time to run was a bit of challenge. I couldn't run as much as I wanted to because I had to balance family life. I also had a training slump in the critical period and only did one long run in the last 6 weeks. During the judgement day, I set myself a goal to finish the marathon in under 3:15, however, the lack of long runs and training proved to be my downfall as I got cramp and tight muscles near the end. I eventually pulled out of the marathon at 37k mark in 2:52. I began to wonder: have I reached my genetic potential even after only 3 years of training?

In October 2007, I am now back in Singapore (lived here in 2001). I realize that I have to work harder and train smarter in order to achieve a breakthrough in my running. I've been running poorly in the last year or so. The heat/humidity as well as the lack of running places will become the major obstacles that I need to overcome. I estimate that my 5k-10k running times from Australia will be at least a couple of minutes slower if I run them in Singapore.

I aim to re-start my running life from scratch again. This will be a new beginning....

I have worked hard at improving my running. And I will work even harder to become a better runner. Who knows where this will lead?