I’m going to Run this Year

Being a European, raised predominantly after the advent of metrification, I have no concept of miles. Whereas I have a pretty good feel for pace if someone tells me that they run a 6min kilometer, I am clueless about whether this is faster or slower than an 8min mile. I mean I could figure it out I guess but I haven’t got an automatic feel for miles.

However, thanks to the Run This Year website, I now know that I ran 150.84 miles in January.

Run This Year is ‘an online community focused on a year-long challenge to run a lot of miles’. I’m all for moral support and encouragement, and am a big fan of tangible goals, so I signed up to run 2014 miles in 2014. That’s an average of 168 miles a month so I’m already behind but hey it’s early days. Logically, as long as I stay healthy, I expect to get stronger and clock up more miles per week as the year progresses. To be honest, I was only initially aiming for 2014 kilometers this year but now I think, what the heck, why not change the goal to miles instead. It will mean making my week day runs longer but given my need for endurance training, I should be doing this anyway. And of course, there’s that planned mid-year move to Australia to think about. Having a mileage goal while in transition when I don’t expect to be able to sign up for any races will be very important.

Run This Year is organised by a lady in the US called Tiffany Henness who goes by the pseudonym Hutch, or @RunningHutch. She invites runners to log their mileage (or kilometerage), which she very kindly collates, with the intention of publishing a monthly mileage report. The monthly report for January has just been uploaded here.

It’s not too late to join. And there is no pressure to clock up 2014 kilometres or miles this year. Just set a goal that works for you and, excuse the pun, run with it.

When an LSD turns into a PB

Smothering with a head cold, and cursing the loss of my MacBook Pro which simply went to sleep last night and couldn’t be awoken this morning, it seems like the best thing to do between vicious sneezes and nose blowing is dwell on the past. The immediate past that is. Before my nose started to run, I had my best long run ever. Perhaps the two are connected. One was certainly more fun than the other.

laptopYesterday I ran 21km, for the first time since Dec 1, with only a brief stop at 7- Eleven to buy Gatorade, on a very hilly route, in just under 1:52. Yep my LSD was faster than any of the three half marathons I’ve run despite the route being much hillier than each of the race routes. So, why?!

Firstly, my husband ran with me for the first 10 km. At 6’4”, he’s just a bit taller than me, and his legs are at least a foot longer than mine, so he can run faster without having run more than a few kilometres in the past few weeks. It’s not fair I know, but it was helpful for keeping me paced around the dodgy 7-10km mark when there is still a LONG way to go.

The temperature was only a chilly  22˚C, the humidity a mere 88%, so the weather probably had a positive effect on performance.

I didn’t feel nauseous, nor did my stomach lurch as if a small animal had just awoken from hibernation in my stomach. This is excellent news as anyone who has spoken to me about running in the past few weeks has heard ad nauseum how mid-race nausea/stomach upset is my biggest concern.

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I had a cup of coffee and a few glasses of water, and munched on three thin gingersnap cookies before running. I ran with two 8oz bottles of Accelerade, slightly more diluted than manufacturer’s instructions, in a fuel belt, then refilled the bottles with Gatorade at 15.5km. I know the fuel stop of 2-3 minutes did allow some recovery but I couldn’t risk continuing another 6km without anything to drink. It may only have been 22˚C when I started running at 7:30am, but the temperature and sun were certainly edging up by 9:00am.

As it was Chinese New Year there was very little traffic and I did not have to stop at any road junctions; this is extremely rare and offered a great endurance training opportunity. I had a run-free day on Friday so my legs were rested. I guess this helped.

I ate two large pasta meals on Friday as it was a holiday so we ate out for lunch which I rarely do. I’m a lazy cook so lunch is often a bagel with peanut butter or if I’m feeling very culinary, I microwave two poached eggs and stick them between some toast. I’m sure Friday’s carb-rich combined with fish protein meals helped me on Saturday morning.

I drank no water during the run. I think this may be important as often I drink out of fear of getting dehydrated. I think though that too much water in the digestive system can be bad news.

What’s more, until this stinking head cold hit last night, I felt great for the rest of the day. I sprinted the last 500m of the run which means there was still something left in  my legs. All in all, yesterday’s LnotsoSD was a great confidence booster, and a worry queller, that I will dredge up from memory the next time I try race a Half Marathon (on March 16th if all goes to plan) to convince myself that yes, I can in fact do it – as long as my husband runs with me, I carry three bottles of Accelerade and Gatorade, drink no water at all, the weather is cooler than at any other time in the previous 50 years, I stuff my face with carbs, shrimp and spinach the day before, and run not too fast, on rested legs, after eating three cookies and a strong coffee for breakfast.

So that’s the post-mortem on the best run evva.

I’m hoping that a visit to a Mac store tomorrow will enable an equally essential post-mortem and file retrieval on the MacBook. I had just discovered some hilarious videos the kids had made while we lived in Norway, and was in the process of organising them to back them up, when the grim reaper from Apple heaven struck. I’ll be very upset if I’ve lost them. At least I had backed up my novel-in-progress though it was sobering to discover that in the past year, I added a mere 10,000 words to the draft. Yes, I’ve been 80% (and now 90%) finished the first draft for the past 12 months. Yikes! I blame this running lark for making me care much less about this fact than I should. Or maybe it’s the damn head cold that’s dulling my senses. Let’s see how I feel tomorrow.

P.S. In the very unlikely event that anyone from Accelerade or Gatorade’s distributor in Malaysia is reading, please don’t feel obliged to send me any freebies or testers. No, there’s no obligation at all. However, it is my birthday next month. Just sayin’. 

UPDATE Feb3: The mother board on my laptop is dead which means that effectively my MacBook Pro has gone to Apple Heaven after 5.5 years of service. The hard disk is however thankfully intact so I should be able to transfer its contents to another computer which I will fastidiously back up. I still have a wretched cold.

Gong Xi Fa Cai

 

A rare sight in KL, a cloudless sky (no filter). The dead tree is probably less rare!
A rare sight in KL, a cloudless sky (no filter). The dead tree is probably less rare!

There has been much talk of it being the coldest Chinese New Year in Kuala Lumpur in decades. There’s no denying that the weather is unusually balmy, and for the past couple of days we’ve had clear blue skies and noticeably lower humidity, topped off by a light breeze. Apparently this ‘cold’ weather is being sent over from China. Well thank you China. Let’s just hope that you’re not sending anything else with the wind. Yesterday, the thermometer in my car never went above 26 °C which is really, really unusual. So it’s perfect running weather. Which is why I haven’t run today. Too much wine last night – it was Chinese New Year’s Eve – makes today seem like an ideal rest day. Tomorrow I’ll do my LSD and properly welcome in the Year of the Horse. Let’s hope this ‘chilly’ weather sent from China holds 🙂

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Happy New Year!

An art installation in Publika shopping centre to mark the start of the Year of the Horse.
An art installation in Publika shopping centre to mark the start of the Year of the Horse.

Chinatown

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I don’t often tread the tourist path in KL, but my parents are in town, so a trip to Chinatown was in order. I hadn’t been in a couple of years and as this was the first time since I started running, it was the first time I noticed all the running gear for sale. Now, I’d personally never risk my arches nor my ankles with counterfeit running shoes, even if there were fake Brooks on offer which I don’t think there was, but I thought I’d share photos of the apparel on display for which presumably there is some sort of market. ( I have on occasion risked my shoulder with a Mulberry tote but shh don’t tell anyone I’m carrying a genuine fake).

Every time I’ve wandered along the streets of stalls hawking genuine fake handbags, soccer strips and beats by Dr. Dre headphones, I’ve been struck by how friendly the sellers are. Sure they try and lure you into their little stall to show the latest in top quality genuine fake handbags, and they insist then on putting a cigarette lighter flame to the surface of their wares to ‘prove’ that what they are selling is ‘real leather’ – and saying ‘no thank you’ ten times in 20 seconds gets a bit tedious – but these guys and gals are good-natured about polite refusals. As the daughter of a shopkeeper I know this is a tough way to make a living. If you’re in KL, head to Chinatown before 11.00, bargain hard and take all claims of authenticity with a boulder of salt. And if you’re a runner, don’t risk the running shoes. I really don’t think it could be worth it. The handbags on the other hand, well be my guest.

Mr Tng sells an array of sports caps, every colour, every brand.
Mr Tng sells an array of sports caps, every colour, every brand.

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MWM Training Session 4

I must be getting used to this early morning running lark. Today, I woke at 4:30AM, twenty minutes before my alarm. Only a special occasion will get me out of bed that insanely early and today’s event was the Malaysia Women Marathon training clinic at Universiti Malaya.

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The plan was to run and discuss pace management under the guidance of Race Director Karen Loh  and guest speaker, Ironman Richard Tang. The plan was to run two 5 km loops, one as a warm-up and one as a time trial. As often happens, we deviated from the plan. I wasn’t going to do the time trial as I’d already put in a lot of miles this week and my legs certainly felt it. My body was saying ‘no’, so I replied ‘That’s ok, I’m exhausted too. You’ve done the warm-up so why don’t you sit your weary self down on the kerb and watch everyone else running their asses off’.
After the 5 km loop in the dark, which I and two others stretched to 6 km by getting lost, Richard and MWM mentor Lorna Wong, led some interval training work on a hill. The hill, which had featured in the 5 (6!) km loop, was over 1 km long with a gradient that went as high as 15 %. I think most runners did three intervals up and down. On the final interval, Richard allowed the slower runners to start off up the hill first, then the faster paced, and he followed behind. The idea, he explained, was that all should reach the top at the same time as they maximized their efforts to try to catch up on the person in front of them.
Now Race Director Karen always sports very pretty running skirts and the Full Marathon finishers at MWM will receive a finisher skirt, so the skirt has become an emblem of the MWM event. We bet Richard that if he didn’t make it to the top of the hill with or before Lorna Wong, the second last runner to head up, he had to wear a skirt. Here is Richard being very sporting and rather fetching in said skirt. (He’s the one with the Ironman tattoo on his left leg in case you can’t tell).
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I met several new runners today. The first question from one was ‘How old are you?’ I will never get used to such direct questions no matter how long I live in Asia! Since turning 40, I haven’t got used to the answer either; I feel like I’m speaking about someone else when I say ‘almost 43’. Another lady asked me if I was The Expat Runner. That’s the kind of direct question I’d love to hear more of. Lisa, you made my day.
Participants at the third MWM Training Clinic
Participants at the third MWM Training Clinic
ImageFinally, as unexpectedly I didn’t get lost on the way to Universiti Malaya this morning – I did get lost going home though – I turned up early enough to receive this lovely MWM notebook, which Karen offered to first arrivals at the clinic. They say the early bird catches the worm; this morning I didn’t see any worms (nor snakes nor monkeys thankfully), but I did what I am now calling a ‘lazy girl’s recovery run’, I encouraged a man to wear a skirt AND I got a notebook 😉
The next MWM clinic is scheduled to take place at Stadium Universiti Malaya. However, the venue has been booked for another event, so MWM will run the training clinic at an alternative location, yet to be decided.
All photos courtesy of Karen Loh.

The Beach – on the tourist treadmill in Thailand

Back in 2000, Leonardo Di Caprio starred in ‘The Beach’, a movie based on the book of the same name by Alex Garland. Much of the movie was filmed on Maya Beach, Ko Phi Phi Lee Island.
This is the ‘The Beach’ today, or more accurately, this was it yesterday. I haven’t seen a stretch of sand this crowded since a trip to the Canary Islands in 2007 when Norwegians lay jowl to jowl, saddle bag to saddle bag, soaking up the winter sun.
But there was no sun bathing on Maya Beach yesterday.

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We landed on the strand, our boat parking alongside at least 30 more tourist-laden vessels, as part of an island tour. We were like tourists on a treadmill, with water and cola included in the deal, except of course there was no actual running done because on Maya Beach there was barely space to walk. The sand was silken, and if you could photoshop the boats and people out of the experience as easily as a newspaper can for a photo, it would certainly feel like paradise. But yesterday, paradise was reduced to a photo bombing opportunity. I envisage hundreds of Facebook profile photos updated last night with images of tourists against a backdrop of, well, hundreds of other tourists taking new Facebook profile shots.

Years from now, anthropologists viewing these scenes, will be able to examine the aspirations and behaviour of middle-class travellers in 2014. Today, ecologists must be crying. Yesterday, I almost was.

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A Tourist in Thailand

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They say only mad dogs and Englishman brave the midday sun, but today, I joined them. Having grown bored of my usual routes in KL, this trip to Thailand has after only one run left me feeling rejuvenated and exhilarated. There’s nothing like only having a vague idea of where you are heading, based on a cursory glance at Google Maps, to fill you with a sense of adventure. As you can see from the photos, the road I chose was wide with some spectacular cliffs visible in the distance. I’m sure every car and bike that passed thought me a crazy white woman running in the midday heat, but as my husband pointed out, I need to do such training to get prepared for my 21km leg of the Half Ironman we’ve signed up for in April. Thankfully, a Gatorade bought at 9km sustained me back to the hotel and though I spotted many an Englishman, there were no mad dogs chasing my heels today.

Race Photographers

Photos from the MPIB 2014  Race taken various by photographers and posted on Facebook
Photos from the MPIB 2014 Race taken by various  photographers (listed below) and posted on Facebook.  

When I recently asked a friend why he thought the number of women signing up for marathons in Malaysia was so low compared to men, he joked that it was because women didn’t want to mess up their hair and makeup. I’m sure the true reason is far more complex, but he was alluding to a very valid point. In running, certainly in this hot and humid climate, there is little place for vanity. Here there is really only one look irrespective of the season and that’s the wet (and sweaty look). Every day is a bad hair day!

How ironic it is then that I’ve never had my photo taken so much as I have since I started running here. I got less attention from photographers at my wedding than I do at a race! The presence of photographers at races, along the route as well as at the start and finish lines, gives one a taste of (make-up free) celebrity life surrounded by the Paparazzi.

After races, these camera guys and gals post albums of thousands of race photos on Facebook, sharing their work for free, encouraging people to tag themselves and their friends. They rise in the dark to lug equipment around after runners, to capture moments of joy and sometimes suffering, shouting encouragement during races and then providing what are essentially free gifts afterwards. The images gifted don’t always tally with the images in one’s memory: how often have I thought I was running with the grace of a gazelle (ok not that often) to have a photo reveal someone with the gait of a hippo. Conversely, a recent set of shots near the finish line of the MPIB 12km shows no hint of the rising tide of nausea I was feeling, but a face grim with determination to cross the line (before dry heaving). Sometimes, you see, a photo can in fact lie.

With the help of a very humble photographer, who doesn’t want the beam of attention shone his way, I have collated a list of local race photographers and links to their Albums on Facebook. Most have posted hundreds of shots of the recent MPIB 2014 run. Be sure to show your appreciation by liking their work, and as they same themselves, feel free to tag your friends 🙂

Victor Chon Hze Hau (Victor & Elaine)

Running Malaysia Magazine (Chris Gan)

Chan Wk

Barefoot Ahfook (Jason Thai)

ET Tey

Runwitme/Celebrunner

Louis Ong

Tristupe

Tristupe’s MPIB Race Report

Leon You

Kahwai Low

Speed Vs Aerobic Endurance

An article from the Competitor Running website showed up in my Facebook feed today and I thought I’d share it as it’s something that resonated more than the other 50 running things I’ve glanced at today. I’ve mentioned in the past that I have a problem with endurance. I find 21 km races very challenging and am a long way from attempting a marathon. Yet, since I returned from injury in October I’ve been doing weekly speed workouts with the F1 Running Club and I’m faster than I thought. I’m fast for very short distances. My 12 km race last weekend went well and I ran at my best race pace yet, though for the last 2 km I felt nauseous, though I was only maintaining my pace not increasing it. In previous long races I’ve blamed the nausea at 10km onwards on gels, but I’ve given up gels so what caused the nausea on Sunday? Well, after reading this article, my latest theory is that the nausea is an indication of my poor aerobic endurance. The solution I think is to do more frequent and longer tempo runs. I think. I have until mid-March until I attempt another half marathon so I’m going to work hard in the next two months on pushing up my aerobic endurance. Tonight though, I’m off to my running club to do 5 x 1km. Yep, that can make me feel nauseous too. If only I could run without my belly!

Here’s the link to the Competitor Running article: Speed Vs Aerobic Endurance

MPIB 12km 2014

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For once, everything went right, nothing went wrong, and I had a good race! Hilly and hot, and 500m longer than last year’s route, I shaved over a minute off my time and clinched 4th place. Training aside, I was mentally stronger this year. Whenever I felt like slowing down, I repeated the mantra ‘I love to run’ in time with my cadence. It still wasn’t easy to keep going but despite nausea on the final 2 km, I did it. I had no clue where I was placed until I received the 4 th place tag at the finish line. What a nice surprise! I wandered around dehydrated but too nauseous to eat while waiting for the prize-giving ceremony, wearing that tag with tremendous pride, meeting old friends and new. All in all, MPIB 2014 was a blast. Take that Posterior Tibialis Tendonitis (PTT), your ass just got kicked!