Good Mornings for a Wednesday (April 16)

The blogging hiatus has to end – I miss you folks! And as much as I enjoy other social media outlets (I think my blog-lag began when I joined Twitter), I’ve missed blogging, big time. And like I tell my athletes: If it matters to you, you’ll make time for it.

So it’s time to make time!

Plus (just wrote ‘pus’ – that would be a gross way to get back into things!), I have race reports, training logs, funny photos, and stretches to share. (Thankfully, no pus.)  But let’s start with a nice gentle re-entry: a “Good Morning” post!

[These are basically a way for my non-Instagramming self to photo dump on you, and share little anecdotes/funnies/musings/Singapore sights, without being my usual wordy self.  But if you're a new reader, feel free to check out this Welcome! post a quick orientation and some background info.]

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I made falafel for dinner last night.

My recipe is all kinds of delicious, but without being bitter at all.
It’s easy and soooo tasty.
Fried is tastier than baked, so I use a bit of olive oil and call it ‘healthy fats’!

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Love notes from my boss…

As a running coach, I use just my big voice to yell to my groups.
But in the cycling room, with music pumping, a mic is necessary.
Mics are finicky. They get broken, sweaty, and bent.
And my bosses are always reminding us of this (with good reason).
Consequence: An unacceptably high percentage of
mic photos vs cute baby photos in my text messages lately.
Those of you with cute babies, please help me fix this. STAT.

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Pearl Izumi tank!

At least, that’s what I was trying to show off.
Instead, I discovered embarrassing grown out fuzzies on the back of my neck.
‘Out of sight, Out of mind.’  Quite literally.
Do I trust my husband with a razor to tidy things up until my next trim?
He shaves his face, so I have to assume he knows what he’s doing, right?

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My Wednesday lunch. Every week.

I’m spoiled for choice for lunch options downtown.
But this one is reliable, convenient, and fuels me through my evening classes.
The veggie quesadilla has a spicy sweet mustard sauce that is magical.
And yes, I eat a cupcake like that.  Every week.
And proud of it.

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Call it self-absorbed, but I enjoy selfies.
And bubble tea.

Bubble tea is on every corner here,
But this was my first taste of Artease tea.
I opted for the Cinnamon Milk Tea – delicious!
But the bubbles were a bit soft & chewy for my liking.

 

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I’ll bet your day is better than his….

I step on that very spot sometimes when I go to the kopi (coffee shop).
Selfishly, I’m glad the cave-in didn’t send my leg through the pavers.
Still…I felt bad for the owner.
[But not so bad that I didn't snap a photo...]
I wanted to stick around to see how he got out, but had to zip to work.
This spot is now roped off with CAUTION tape…

What are you “making time for” this week?

It’s been awhile, so tell me something random about you, your day, or your week!

Venus Run Cheer Squad 2014: JOIN ME!

In March of last year, I ran my first 5K race in Singapore: Venus Run 2013.  This women’s-only race had all of the hallmarks of a standard 5K: It was fast, flat (until a pretty serious climb into the Finish Line), and painful.  One thing noticeably absent, though, was any sort of cheering.  Even as I ran through the finishing chute, right among the Top 10 Finishers (I think I was 11th), no one seemed to be paying any attention, except the announcer.

I realized by then that this was quite normal for races in Singapore.  The volunteers provided directions and water, but not much enthusiasm/cheering/motivation.  [Note: Most race volunteers in Singapore are teenagers completing mandatory or extra-credit volunteer service.  They are plentiful, but most aren't runners and don't know how/what/when to encourage runners.  This isn't their fault, it's just a fact.]  The spectators were few and far between.  And even other runners kept to themselves after finishing the race.  All of this was a far-cry from the amazing running community that I left behind in Rochester, NY (*waves furiously* HI GUYS!!!!).

So right then and there, after catching my breath, stabilizing my legs, and downing some water, I decided it was time for a change.  I knew that I couldn’t just stand at the top quietly, watching so many people struggling up the slope to the finish.  The field size (~2,000 participants – small, for Singapore) and the location (wide, steep slope to the finish) were perfect for what I had in mind.  So I walked about halfway down the slope and started cheering, clapping, whooping, and just making a general ruckus – the way I learned in Rochester.

And it mattered – I could see a little push, an extra spring, a small smile coming from these ladies in the final meters of a race.  None of these women were “my” athletes – but these are the moments that a coach lives for.  This is why I coach. Why I teach. Why I learn ferociously about the body, how it works, and how to help it work better.  I live for that fire, that glint, and the pride and confidence that burst out when someone tackles a challenge – and crosses the finish line: SUCCESS!

But let’s not get too poetic.  The bottom line is, I stopped caring that “No one in Singapore really cheers,”* and started getting myself out there to cheer.  A crazy white girl yelling non-stop encouragement on a deserted section of a half-marathon course at 6 AM (or 11 PM) certainly garners her fair share of strange looks (and apparently, a bit of gossip as well) – but I don’t care.  I love watching people run, I love sharing their endorphins, and if I can make just one person’s race a little better - fantastic!

I’ve made half-hearted attempts to get other folks out to join me in the past, but nothing really stuck.  But I think the time is right. I think there are other folks – mostly runners – who want to share this experience, and be a part of helping improve someone else’s race experience.  So that (finally) brings me to the details:

Venus Run Cheer Squad 2014!

When: Saturday, March 8 (tomorrow) @ 4:45 PM
Where: Marina Barrage Building, at the bottom of the downslope closest to Gardens by the Bay [It's a little annoying to get there - directions are here, or if you're up for a 1.5-2K walk, you can walk from Bayfront MRT.  Look for the tall white woman in the Run With Holly shirt!]
Who: Anyone & everyone.  Family, friends, adults, kids, runners, non-runners…

What To Bring: Enthusiasm, Hydration (for yourself), Noisemakers (cowbell, clappers, etc.)

No experience necessary! We’ll rally up, and I’ll have some signs and a few pointers/suggestions for cheering newbies.  Depending on how many people we have, we’ll divide up and spread out along the latter half of the course.  The route is slightly different this year, but there are still some great cheer spots.  The race is 5K, so everyone should be finished in about an hour (of course, you can leave whenever necessary!).

I hope to see some of you there! =)

[And if you're racing, feel free to come join us after you cross the Finish Line!]

Ever gone out to cheer for a race before?  Any notable cheering experiences?

Have you ever witnessed really spectacular cheering (either in general at a race, or by a group/individual in particular)?  Tell me about it!

 

*Yellow Ribbon Run and Standard Charter Marathon are two notable exceptions.  I have cheered at neither, but seen – and seen evidence of – plenty of folks cheering at these two events.

39 + 1 Answers

Hello, hello!  Photo op from Chinatown during Chinese New Year.  [Year of the Horse, see?]

Hello, hello!
Photo op from Chinatown during Chinese New Year. Year of the Horse!

Readers old & new – welcome!  We’ll get around to some more formal introductions soon enough.  But for now, it’s time to end the blogging hiatus.  And what better way to do that than with an old-school email-style things-about-you (me) survey.

I found this one on Olive To Run‘s blog last week, and it seemed like the perfect way to break the ice.  A little bit of personal info, a little bit of fun, and nothing too serious (yet).  We’ll get there – but for now:

39 + 1 Questions
(because Who Stops At 39?)

1. Were you named after anyone? Nope. My parents could agree on the name “Holly”, and that was that.  I love it because it’s not totally weird, but also not terribly common.  Plus, “Holly.  Like, Hollywood,” makes it very easy to communicate my name, without any spelling or shenanigans.

2. When was the last time you cried? Funny, because I almost mentioned something about this to my husband this morning.  I cried a lot when I did research science.  Nowadays, I hardly cry at all.  Seems I handle stress better when I adore my job and feel very passionately about what I do!  I have no idea of the last time I cried.  Truly.

3. Do you like your handwriting? Nope.  But KMN has very nice writing, when necessary.  I just ask him to write important things.  Or I use the label maker ask him to make a label for me.  [It's fine.  He loooooves the label maker.]

Not exactly pretty, but it works for me.

Not exactly pretty, but it works for me.
Also, there are 5 Attacks.

4. What is your favorite lunch meat? Kinda over most lunch meat, so let’s just say…cheese!  I could go for a thick, savory slice of provolone right about now…

5. Do you have kids? I have composting worms, and we’re growing tomato plants.  Also, I will totally play with other peoples’ babies until the poop or cry.

Baby tomato plants!   And those are the varieties, not their names, folks.

Baby tomato plants!
And those are the varieties, not their names, folks.

6. If you were another person, would you be friends with you? This is a most bizarre question.  But…I guess so?

7. Do you use sarcasm a lot? Not too often in writing.  I’m paranoid about being mis-understood.

8. Do you still have your tonsils? Yes, despite umpteen bouts of strep throat as a kid.  When the doctor threatened, “If you get strep once more this year, we’ll have to take those out,” I promptly ceased getting strep.  Apparently, my tonsils are easily intimidated.

9. Would you bungee jump? I’d rather zipline.  I generally don’t do gimmicky races but am seriously, SERIOUSLY considering the Mount Imbiah Challenge, if only for the final zip line!

10 What is your favorite cereal? Granola.  I know granola is only supposed to be a garnish, but I could pour myself a whole big bowl and gobble it down. Especially the Quaker kind in bags, from Costco.  Unfortunately, choices are somewhat more limited in Singapore.

11. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? Yes – in the elevator on the way up to our floor.  It’s hilarious when our neighbors are waiting for the elevator, and the doors open, revealing me, all bent over and untying my shoes.  Then, I tromp off, laces dragging behind me.  Although honestly, the only time I wear laced shoes is to workout.

12. Do you think you are strong? Not a doubt in my mind.

13. What is your favorite ice cream? Orange chocolate bitters (dark Belgian chocolate + Triple Sec) from Udders.

14. What is the first thing you notice about other people? Depends on how/where I’m seeing them – face-to-face, I probably notice height or glasses first.  At a distance/from the side/in the gym, I first notice how they move.  Occupational hazard.

15. Red or pink? RED!!!

16. What is your least favorite thing about yourself? That the 6 years I spent getting a PhD taught me how to doubt myself and my abilities.  And not in a humble way, but in a gross, fearful, second-guessing kind of way.  But I’m working on getting over that bit.

17. Any tattoos? Nooooo.  But I’ve wanted one – I already know what and where – for about 10 years now.  Just haven’t had the guts to actually go for it.  [Dad, you are not reading this.]

18. Do you have any hobbies?
 Baking?  Cooking?  <— Hobbies or necessities?  I’ve tried to knit, but never stuck with anything…and that hobby is kinda superfluous in Singapore.  I sing (off-key but enthusiastically).  I Sudoku sometimes.  Does any of that count? Maybe?

19. What color shoes are you wearing? Black Adidas nubbly slippers – my “inside shoes”.

Because there are not enough pictures of my feet on the internet already.

Because there are not enough pictures of my feet on the internet already.

20. What was the last thing you ate? A ginger cookie.  Om-nom-nom.  Stay tuned for the recipe, because DANG they are good!!!

OK, so there wasn't any chocolate milk today. Or a fancy napkin. But there were cookies!

OK, so there wasn’t any chocolate milk today. Or a fancy napkin. But there were cookies!

21. What are you listening to right now? The fan on the computer, my typing-tapping, and someone practicing the piano somewhere upstairs.

22. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? A deep, strong, rich RED.  Or a bright cheery YELLOW.  Or I guess I could be ORANGE, and have the best of both worlds. ;-)

23. Favorite smells? Whatever brand of cologne KMN wore when we started dating, lilacs, cooking apples, and crispy line-dried sheets.  Not all at once, please.

24. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone? Talked to KMN on the phone last night, while we were trying to find each other at the airport. But seriously.  Who uses the phone anymore??

25. Mountain hideaway or beach house? Mountains!  And please let there be some running trails snaking through them?  [Not to be confused with actual snakes.  I don't need no snakes, thankyouverymuch.]

26. Favorite sport to watch? Not too keen on watching anything these days, really.  I do enjoy watching swimming competitions, though.  Team sports?  Basketball, maybe – but only professional.

27. Hair color? Short.  Oh, sorry – brown.

28. Eye colors? Depends on who you ask.  My license says grey.  KMN says green.  Or sometimes blue. ?

29. Do you wear contacts? Nope.  Proud owner of 2 awesome eyes right here!!!

30. Scary movies or happy endings? How about police procedurals/thrillers on audiobook? Not really a movie person.

31. Last movie you watched? Frozen.  So does that mean the answer above is ‘happy ending’?  Not sure.

32. What color shirt are you wearing? Purple.  But I’ve already worn a white shirt and a blue tank top today.  Again, occupational hazard.

33. Summer or winter? I live in the tropics now, which gets rather…sweaty, sometimes.  But I haven’t had to dig my car out in two years, and after living in upstate NY for the previous SIX years, this is a beautiful thing.

34. Hugs or kisses? Hugs.

35. Computer or television? Computer.  And this must be an old survey, ’cause aren’t all the cool kids watching TV on their computers these days?

36. What book are you reading right now? Palisades Park (Alan Brennert)

37. What’s on your mouse pad? Who needs a mouse pad?  My mouse works just fine on my desk.   We don’t spoil our mice in this household.

38. What color is your house? Errr…apartment?  The outside is white, brown, and pinkish.  I think?  *runs to check*

39. What color is your car? BWAHAHAHA. As I Tweetered earlier today: #carfreeisthewaytobe.  Yay public transportation!

Olive To Run added:
Why isn’t there a number 40? I hate odd numbers so I’m going to make one up.

40. What you go back to school for if money wasn’t an issue? Physical therapy.

Your turn: Answer the question that is the date (day) of your birthday!

Let me know which, if any, of these answers left you curious/wanting to know more.

[Note: The first time you Comment, you will go into review for my approval. After that, all of your comments should post immediately.  Pesky anti-spam measure, sorry!]

———-
Can’t get enough of Run With Holly?
Facebook: Run With Holly
Twitter: Coach_Holly
Email: runwithholly [at] gmail [dot] com

Stretch of the Week: C-Curves (Sides #1/Back #1)

*Yes, it’s well after Thursday.  But I wrote most of this on Thursday.  Does that count? :)

After spending a few weeks on Hip Stretches (and then a few weeks without any stretches), let’s spend a week on something slightly less intense.  Many of the stretches I have already shared use extended holds to really lengthen the target muscles.  The one I’ll share today is a bit different, and instead linked to breathing.  Rather than genuinely lengthening muscles (which is best done under extended holds), the goal of this stretch is to bring your attention to the tension lurking in your back/shoulders, and help you release and relax it.  The whole sequence can be done in less than 90 seconds, so “I don’t have time” isn’t a valid excuse for this one!  So let’s get to it!

But first, a quick safety note: Check out the Stretch of the Week: Start Here! if you haven’t already – and remember, some stretches aren’t right for some people.  If you are in pain, or something feels wrong, just stop.  There will be another stretch next week.  If you don’t feel anything, that’s fine.  You don’t need the stretch.  Move right along, and have a good day.  If you love it - bookmark it!  If you bookmark your favorites, then in 6 months, you’ll generate enough stretches to easily assemble a post-workout stretching routine (or two!).

Background: As mentioned above, this isn’t really a “lengthening muscles” stretch – it’s more of a prompt for relaxation.  Any of my runners reading this will tell you that we use this sequence to start our post-run stretching routine.  Runners tend to accumulate and hold a lot of tension in their shoulders while running, and this sequences seems to help many of us mindfully release.  I hope it does the same for you!

Contraindications: If you’re having an acute back issue right now, and in particular have been diagnosed with a slipped disc that is causing pain, you should skip this stretch.

Set-Up:

Stand tall and straight
Ground your feet firmly, from your toes to your heels
[Feet can be hip distance apart (more stable), together (more stretch), or somewhere in between.]
Stack your spine tall
Pull your shoulders back (in toward spine) and down
Stack your head evenly over your shoulders

Stretch:

Turn palms out
Inhale: Stretch arms as long as possible, and slowly reach them overhead in a wide arc
Press palms together at the top (or interlace fingers for more stability)
IMPORTANT: Reach hands UP, but keep your shoulders DOWN.

Exhale: Lean back very slightly, then curve your body to the left
Arms and shoulders drop to left; hips may shift to the right of your mid-line
IMPORTANT: Keep your body aligned in the frontal plane
[ie, Pretend you are a piece of toast in a toaster, and cannot lean forward or back.]

Inhale: Lift up again, hands reaching high overhead and shoulders down.

Exhale: Lean back very slightly, then curve your body to the right

The whole sequence should look something like this:

[Click for larger pictures.]

Inhale: Lift up again, hands reaching high overhead and shoulders down.
Interlace fingers, palms facing down.

Curl shoulders in, round upper back.

Curl shoulders forward, round upper back.

Exhale: Keep fingers interlaced and arms extended.
Slowly drop hands forward, until they are at shoulder height
Drop chin to chest
Curl shoulders forward and round upper back
Feel the stretch across your upper back.

Continue to push hands forward
For a greater stretch, maintain interlocked fingers, but gently activate arm muscles as though you are trying to pull your hands apart.

Stay in this position for several breaths.
When you are ready:

Inhale: Lift head and raise arms overhead, hands reaching high and shoulders down

Exhale: Release arms down slowly, in a wide arc, until they rest at your sides.

Length of Hold: This one flows with your breath, so there aren’t any extended holds.  However, I do stay in the upper back stretch position for several breaths before standing.  I repeat this sequence several times, or a few more if I need to calm myself, or feel very tight.

AVOID: Be careful not to collapse yourself forward when leaning to the side.  You may not be able to lean very far at first, and that’s OK.  [Compared with folks who have a very high range of motion in this posture, I don't curve much myself.]  But keep your body in the same frontal plane, and avoid letting your “top” arm/shoulder fall forward.  This will prevent you from achieving a robust side stretch, and may prevent your breath from flowing smoothly.  Practice in front of a mirror, and try not to look like this:

 

AVOID twisting torso and dropping shoulder.  See how my left shoulder is coming forward, and my chest is no longer in an open position?  Try to avoid this!

AVOID twisting torso and dropping shoulder. See how my left shoulder is coming forward, and my chest is no longer in an open position? Instead, I should rotate my left shoulder up to open my chest.

Believe it or not, this stretch takes some practice and may feel awkward at first.  Your arms may tire easily, your compressed side may feel uncomfortable, and you may feel frustrated trying to link the breathing with the movement.  But flow through the sequence (Up/Right/Up/Left/Up/Forward) several times, and you will find your movements getting smoother and the connection to breath getting easier.

Remember, this is designed to be a low-commitment, low-stress stretch: Use it any time you have 60-90 seconds and need to relax and refresh yourself.  Enjoy!

How did the stretch feel while you were doing it?  How did your shoulders and upper back feel afterward?

Any questions, problems, or concerns with it?

Take it, or leave it?
[This is for my own data gathering purposes.  I won't be offended if you don't like it.]

Like this one? Check out more Stretch of the Week posts:
Feet
Hips
Twists

A Day in the Life: Chinese New Year 2014, Day 1

My blog was a mere baby during last year’s Lunar New Year festivities.  Still, I wrote a few in-depth posts about some of the traditions, the food, and the visiting that goes on during the holiday.  Read the first one at Chinese New Year, Days 1 and 2 (obviously titled before I realized the importance of using years – did I think my blog would only last one year?).  If you weren’t a regular reader then (I think there were only about two of you – Hi Mom & Dad!), I’d urge you to click back and read that one first.

I didn’t want to repeat all that info again this year – that would be boring for all of us – but I still want to give you a glimpse into what it’s like to celebrate the Lunar New Year in Singapore.  So this year, I decided to make a photo diary of our activities on the first day of the new year, thus combining two very popular post types: cultural posts and “Day in the Life of” posts.  This is guaranteed to be a winner – so read on!!

Before we get started, I should note: I have only celebrated three Lunar New Years in Singapore, but this one was quite similar to the last two (and, KMN assures me, is representative of *every* one).

6:30 AM: I wake up to an eerily quiet street.  All the shops, restaurants, and corner kopis (coffee shops) are closed.  There are few cars and zero pedestrians out and about.  This was just as I’d remembered from last year – almost spooky!  Singapore bustles through basically every other holiday (our first year here, I was shocked at how few establishments stopped/closed business for Christmas!) – but from the afternoon of the Lunar New Year’s Eve through the second day of the Lunar New Year, this bustling, commercial city slows, stops, and turns its attention to family.  Now, let’s turn our attention to the photos:

[For those of you reading on phones that don't format captions, the relevant text for each photo is posted as a caption, and thus will appear under the photo.]

7AM: I sneak in an hour of work before the madness begins.  I start with a call to a client in the US, then do some scheduling and planning.

7AM: I sneak in an hour of work before the madness begins. I start with a call to a client in the US, then do some scheduling and planning.

8 AM: Stealing some 'alone time', sharing the trails at McRitchie with a surprising number of other runners/hikers.  7.5 miles of trails isn't a bad way to start a holiday!

8 AM: KMN and I steal some ‘alone time’, sharing the trails at McRitchie with a surprising number of other runners/hikers. 7.5 miles of trails isn’t a bad way to start a holiday!

10 AM (we were still running at 9 AM): Rehydrating, breakfast, quick social media check-in.

10 AM (we were still running at 9 AM): I rehydrate, grab a quick breakfast, and schedule a few social media posts.

11 AM: In the subway station, heading out to our first family visit.

11 AM: We head out for our first visit of the new year!  [It's rather ridiculous how often my selfies are taken on subway escalators.  Because, you know, what ELSE would I do for those 15 seconds?]

12 PM: We are at the first (of 4) of KMN's great-aunt's houses.  Her children and grandchildren are also there.  We enjoy a traditional Peranakan dish of chicken and potatoes in a savory gravy.  This is officially lunch - but there is much more eating to be done, so we pace ourselves!  The table can't accomodate everyone at once, so we eat in shifts, and people filter in and out, as everyone has visiting to do today.  [If you're interested, you can read more about Peranakan culture in this post: I Married Into a Matriarchy.]

12 PM: We are at the first (of five) of KMN’s great-aunt’s houses. Some of her children and grandchildren are also there, and people flow in and out constantly. We don’t know them all, but greet them anyway, and wish everyone a Happy New Year. We enjoy a traditional Peranakan dish of chicken and potatoes in a savory gravy, served with spicy red peppers for zing and crusty bread for dipping in the gravy. This is officially lunch – but there is much more eating to be done today, so we pace ourselves!
[If you're curious, you can read more about Peranakan culture in this post: I Married Into a Matriarchy.]

1 PM: Our second stop is literally next door to our first (another of KMN's great-aunts); but after some more snacks - this time, kuey pie tee - we pile into the car for Visit #3.  Normally, KMN and I travel easily by public transport. But on this particular day, we do save quite a lot of time and energy by hopping a ride with his parents.

1 PM: Our second visit is literally just next door (another of KMN’s great-aunts); and after some more Peranakan food and chit-chat, we pile into the car for Visit #3. Normally, KMN and I travel easily around Singapore by public transport. But on this particular day, we do save quite a lot of time and energy by hopping a ride with my in-laws.

2 PM: Pretty much all households in Singapore are no-shoes-indoors.  As you can see, there were lots of other visitors at our Visit #3 stop (yes, another great-aunt).

2 PM: Pretty much all households in Singapore are no-shoes-indoors. As you can see, we are not the only folks at Visit #3 (yes, another great-aunt).

3 PM: We make a quick stop at one of the Chinese temples, where the ashes of several of my Mum's (Mum = my mother-in-law) relatives are kept.  Cremation is common in Singapore, as land is very scarce - but relatives would never take a family member's ashes back to their own home (bad luck!).  Instead, ashes are usually kept in an urn at a temple, where relatives can visit and leave offerings.  Visiting deceased family members and leaving them some small offerings is very commonly done on the first two days of the new year, and the temple was, as usual, quite crowded.

3 PM: We make a quick stop at one of the Chinese temples, where the ashes of several of my Mum’s (Mum = my mother-in-law) relatives are kept. Cremation is common in Singapore, as land is very scarce – but relatives would never take a family member’s ashes back to their own home (bad luck!). Instead, ashes are usually kept in an urn at a temple, where relatives can visit and leave offerings – something that is often done during on the first two days of the new year. The temple is, as usual, quite crowded.

4 PM: At yet another great-aunt's house - this makes Visit #5 for the day.  If you can ignore the highway and cargo ships, she really does have a lovely ocean view out her front window!

4 PM: At yet another great-aunt’s house – this makes Visit #5 for the day. If you can ignore the highway and cargo ships, she really does have a lovely ocean view out her front window!

5 PM: Leaving Visit #6, laden with clothespins and clean, folded plastic bags - a very practice gift from one of KMN's uncles.  [Seriously - we need the plastic bags for garbage bags, as we use cloth bags for our groceries!]

5 PM: We leave Visit #6, laden with clothespins and clean, folded plastic bags – a very practical gift from one of KMN’s uncles. He ‘patrols’ his HDB (apartment) estate for orphaned clothespins that fall from the upper stories (people hang clothes out the windows), disbelieving that they don’t run downstairs to fetch a single fallen pin. [Truly, though, the gift is useful - Mum uses the pins, and we all need the plastic bags for garbage bags, because we use cloth bags for our groceries!]

6 PM: What would Chinese New Year be without a stop at McDonald's?  Kidding.  It was one of the very few places that was open, where we could sit and wait for the fifth great-aunt to return home.  [That's one problem with so much visiting by so many people - sometimes the person you want to visit is...still out visiting!]

6 PM: What would Chinese New Year be without a stop at McDonald’s? Kidding. It was one of the very few places that was open, where we could sit and wait for the fifth great-aunt to return home. [That's one problem with so much visiting by so many people - sometimes the person you want to visit is...still out visiting!]

7 PM: Visit #7.  One of KMN's great-aunts keeps a gorgeous garden around her home - completely with lots of orchids.  Her property feels like an oasis in the middle of a bustling city.  Also, she gave me red worms for vermicomposting.  More on this in another post.  SOON.

7 PM: Visit #7. One of KMN’s great-aunts keeps a gorgeous garden around her home – completely with lots of orchids. Here, KMN and his Dad admire part of this oasis in the middle of a bustling city. Also, she gave me red worms for vermicomposting (!!!!). More on this in another post. SOON.

8 PM: Our eighth, and final, visit of the day - dinner with some of Pa's (my father-in-law) family.  Here we are in parking garage #Idon'tevenknow for the day. I am SO THANKFUL that Pa chauffeured us around all day!

8 PM: We head in to our eighth, and final, visit of the day – dinner with some of Pa’s (my father-in-law) family. Here we are in parking garage #Idon’tevenknow for the day. I am SO THANKFUL that Pa chauffeured us around!

9 PM: I conned a few family members into a group photo.  Cue mad group selfie skill on my part, and good-natured compliance on theirs.

9 PM: I conned a few family members into a group photo. Cue mad group selfie skill on my part, and good-natured compliance on theirs.

10 PM: Empty glasses, mostly-eaten dessert, and a dirty napkin...the night is drawing to a close, folks.

10 PM: Empty glasses, mostly-eaten dessert, and some Mandarin orange seeds – See? We don’t just gift them – we eat them, too!

11+ PM: KMN's parents drop us off at our place.  Exhausted, but happy, we head upstairs for showers, a nightcap, and bed!

11+ PM: KMN’s parents drop us off at our place. I feel so grateful for how easy it is to visit extended family, when everyone lives on the same small island. However, our introvert selves are utterly exhausted, so we head inside for showers, half a glass of wine, and BED.

The second day of the new year is also a popular day for visiting – but we only do a very small bit of visiting that day, so our Day #2 was considerably less hectic. But, that’s another story for another post.  For now, I hope you enjoyed traveling with us through our Day 1 visits!  Please do come back for Day 2. :)

Any questions?

Does this match or conflict with anything you’ve seen or read about Lunar New Year celebrations?

Is there anything here you’d like to read more about, that I can elaborate on in a future post?

Chinese New Year 2014, Day -1

Well folks, I’ve been a little MIA in the blog world lately (although slowly working my way through my back-logged Feedly, see constant updates on Twitter!).  I’ve been teaching a lot, developing some new RWH programming, and – of course – preparing for what is easily the most important and widely celebrated holiday in Singapore: Chinese New Year.

Today (Thursday, Jan. 30) is the eve of the New Year in the Lunar Calendar.  So, in addition to the usual weekly activities, the last few days have been filled with…

1. Washing ALL THE RED THINGS:

In Chinese culture, RED is associated with good fortune.  Good fortune is pursued vigorously during the New Year celebrations, as you'll see over the next few days.

In Chinese culture, RED is associated with good fortune. Good fortune is pursued vigorously during the New Year celebrations, as you’ll see over the next few days.

2. Filling ang bao packets:

'Ang bao' (literally, 'red packets') are filled with money and given to younger relatives, single relatives, retired relatives, and parents...or some combination of those folks, depending on exactly who you ask. Basically, Chinese New Year is an expensive time to be a young, married, working adult.

‘Ang bao’ (literally, ‘red packets’) are filled with money and given to younger relatives, single relatives, retired relatives, and parents…or some combination of those folks, depending on exactly who you ask. Basically, Chinese New Year is an expensive time to be a young, married, working adult.

3. Acquiring plenty of Mandarin Oranges:

Just a small part of our collection.  We spend the Lunar New Year season giving and accepting Mandarin Oranges - passing someone two Mandarins symbolizes wishing them prosperity and good fortune for the new year.

Just a small part of our collection. We spend the Lunar New Year season giving and accepting Mandarin Oranges – passing someone two Mandarins symbolizes wishing them prosperity and good fortune for the new year.

I don’t want to repeat things that I’ve already shared, so if you want to know a bit more about  other preparations (including the pre-new-year cleaning), check out my Chinese New Year Preparations! post from last year.

With all of that, and our last bits of work for the Year of the Snake, completed, KMN and I got cleaned up and headed over to his parents’ house:

CNYEve2014

Don’t ask me why he isn’t wearing red…

There, we met with some of his close family for Reunion Dinner.  We started off with the tradition Yusheng (my first of the Lunar New Year season!):

Yusheng is a special good-luck salad eaten during the Lunar New Year celebrations.

Yusheng is a special good-luck salad eaten during the Lunar New Year celebrations.

You can read all about the components and symbolism of Yusheng in my Chinese New Year Day -1 post from last year.

After Yusheng, we enjoyed a tasty dinner before heading back home.  And now, it’s time to get some sleep – Lunar New Year celebrations extend for about two weeks, but the first day is definitely the busiest.  We have lots of family to visit tomorrow!!  So for now, I’ll leave you all with a very hearty:

Gong Xi Fa Cai!!!

What’s on your schedule for today?
[This is such a festive, celebratory period that it's hard for me to remember that it's still business as usual for you folks in the West! So remind me!!!]

Any pressing questions about Chinese New Year?

Good Mornings for a Wednesday (January 22, 2014)

I have four “unclaimed” hours between classes this afternoon, and I intend to spend them holed up, catching up on all of your blog posts from the past 10 days.  In the meantime, what better way to slide myself back into blog-land than with a Good Mornings post?

Lake Effect Shirt

USA, I’m with you in spirit!

We’re having a cold front in Singapore, too.
It’s hardly broken 85°F this week…

Lasagna in a Loaf Pan

Which of course makes for….perfect lasagna weather!

My new trick: Use a loaf pan to make lasagna for two.
I resurrected my Mom’s spinach-mushroom lasagna recipe.
A year apart from that deliciousness was far too long…

Basik!It’s…basik!  basik855, that is…

Socially responsible bags made from traditional Cambodian ikat fabric.
I helped fund a Kickstarter campaign for some new prints,
And my backer reward arrived in the mail last week!
[This is the first 'clutch' that I've ever owned, folks.]

Odd Bean OutI found a stowaway in my can of garbanzos!

Caption contest winner, Jenny T:
“It’s living its dream of being turned into hummus.
‘They said I could be anything, so I became a garbanzo bean…’ ”
[And she gets bonus points for a double-correct usage of it's/its.]

Spinning with CompressionCoach Holly: Bringing compression to indoor cycling.

I’ve been subbing to cover a lot of RPM classes.
Add them to my running,
and the result is some very knotty calves.
This look is odd enough that folks can’t take their eyes off me during class.
^Every instructor’s dream.

Libby's Pumpkin PricingThat’s $6 USD for the big can of pureed pumpkin.

And that, my friends, is why I microwave & puree local pumpkins to make pie.
Yes, Thanksgiving was two months ago.
But we’re having friends over to celebrate again this weekend.
I love cooking Thanksgiving food, so why the heck not?

This post has two Drew University references in it.  Anyone?

Do you puree your own pumpkin?  Or eat pumpkin pie after December?

Continuing the “random” theme: What made you laugh today?

Help Wanted: Do You Have Any Answers? (Jan. 2014)

I get asked a LOT of running questions:
From arches to shins to hips to shoulders, and all the body parts in between.
From treadmills to tracks to trails, and any surface in between.
From blisters to chafing to PMS, and all the “personal” running issues in between.
From GPS to pedometers to heart rate monitors, and the many tech gadgets in between.

The truth is, I have a lot of answers.  It’s kind of my job to have a lot of answers.
But then, sometimes, I don’t.  Or my answers don’t work.
*enter the coolest part*
And then – AND THEN – I have something much more powerful than myself.
I have an entire running blogosphere of smart, helpful folks.

Lately, I’ve been stumped by a few questions.  So, that’s where you all come in:
IT’S TIME TO CROWD-SOURCE!

Question #1: I have a client who works long hours and is often on-call.  She lives in the northeast, and right now, it gets dark ridiculously early.  She lives in a city where she’s not comfortable running at night – and her schedule precludes her from joining many of the local groups.  So in the winter, she does most of her running on the treadmill.  But unfortunately, despite the TV, the towel-cover-the-time trick, and pace/elevation games….she still finds the treadmill incredibly boring.  So what am I missing?  How can she liven up her treadmill time?

Question #2: A friend just got gorgeous new headphones for Christmas, and wants to try listening to some podcasts during her runs.  I used to (like, 4 years ago) listen to podcasts regularly while running. But even then, my tastes took a turn toward the science-y.  And nowadays, I listen to audiobooks or learn my indoor cycling music/choreography while running.  So for those of you who podcast, what are your favorite podcasts – especially those with a running focus?

Question #3: As you’ve all probably heard (and are tired of) by now: Run With Holly just entered the Twitter world (@Coach_Holly).  I’m just dipping my toe in right now, seeing how this new-to-me piece of social media works.  Some folks have already generously offered some “Getting Started” tips for me (huge shout out to Happy Running Mama!).  But now I want to know: If someone told you that you could keep just THREE Twitter feeds, what would they be?  Who are your “must-follow” folks?

That should be quite enough for today.  As all of these are, well, questions – I don’t think I need to close with any additional questions today.  Thanks in advance for your advice – I’ll be compiling answers back into another post, once everyone has weighed in.  So please, speak up!!

You help me, then I'll tell you all about our hiking trip to Hong Kong.  Deal?  Deal!!!

You help me, then I’ll tell you all about our hiking trip to Hong Kong. Deal? Deal!!!

Year in Pictures: 2013 in Review

I’ve now looked back on 2013 as a Year of Running and as a Year of Blogging.  For my final 2013 wrap-up, I’m taking a look at the year in pictures.  One picture + caption per month, and that’s it.  Compiling this post was complicated by some recent computer issues, but I didn’t obsess over the selection of each photo – I just went with my gut.

January: The Green Corridor Run was our first-ever race in Singapore!

January: The Green Corridor Run was our first-ever race in Singapore!

February: My first Chinese New Year living in Singapore.  Read a bit about CNY here, or wait another month - CNY starts this year on January 31!

February: My first Chinese New Year living in Singapore. Read a bit about how we celebrate CNY here, or wait another month – CNY starts this year on January 31!

March: I brief bout of plantar fasciitis leaves me with new sympathy (and a few tricks) for those who suffer from PF regularly!

March: A brief bout of plantar fasciitis leaves me with new sympathy (and a few tricks) for those who suffer from PF regularly!

April: Mostly spent with my Mom in Florida, doing some tough, but really important, family stuff.  I am reminded how lucky I am, that my job allows me to travel to help my family when necessary.

April: Mostly spent with my Mom in Florida, doing some tough, but really important, family stuff. I am reminded how lucky I am, that my job allows me to travel to help my family when necessary.

May: My cousin and her sister-in-law visit.  I take my first cable car ride to Sentosa, and we visit the aquarium, the Malaysian Food Hall, and the Crane Dance.

May: My cousin and her sister-in-law visit. I take my first cable car ride to Sentosa, and we visit the aquarium, the Malaysian Food Hall, and the Crane Dance.

June: My sister gets married.  She looks gorgeous. They are happy. Everyone celebrates. YAY!

June: My sister gets married. She looks gorgeous. They are happy. Everyone celebrates. YAY!

July: While back in the US for wedding-goodness, I have my very first BLOGGER MEET UP with Allie from Griselda Mood.

July: While back in the US for wedding-goodness, I have my very first BLOGGER MEET UP with Allie from Griselda Mood.

August: Four-day-weekend = five-day-trip to London.  Note: That is the TOWER Bridge in the background, not the LONDON Bridge!

August: Four-day-weekend = five-day-trip to London. Note: That is the TOWER Bridge in the background, not the LONDON Bridge!

September: My sweet friend DEB comes to visit. We run, we go to the Zoo/Bird Park/Night Safari, and we RACE!

September: My sweet friend Deb comes to visit. We run, we go to the Zoo/Bird Park/Night Safari, and we RACE!

October: I run my first 50K.  This race didn't make it into the Year of Running round-up, so I had to work it in here.  50K/31 miles/5:21.  Not too shabby for a first-timer!

October: I run my first 50K. This race didn’t make it into the Year of Running round-up, so I had to work it in here. 50K/31 miles/5:21. Not too shabby for a first-timer!

November: Cheap tickets and lots of RWH plans for 2014 = Turkey Time Trip To NJ.

November: Cheap tickets and lots of RWH plans for 2014 = Turkey Time Trip To NJ.

Quality time with one of my favorite littles!  My college roommate has the most adorable kids (yes, I'm biased) - check them out over at Gummy Bear Mama.

December: Quality time with one of my favorite littles! My college roommate has the most adorable kids (yes, I’m biased) – check them out over at Gummy Bear Mama.

And there you have it.  Twelve photos, twelve months.

Funny thing is that KMN and I recently “debriefed” about our year, and we characterized 2013 as our year of “settling in to living together and making a home”.  After living apart for so long, this was completely true.  But it’s not reflected in the photos (of travel, of friends, of races) at all!  So I guess our year was mostly characterized by quiet, building moments – with some exciting (and photograph-worthy) moments thrown in here and there.

So many thanks to all the friends and family who visited (not all shown in photos here), and to everyone (near and far) who supported us as we began building a life together in Singapore.  I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings – and I’m so glad you’re along for the ride!

[And if you want even more RWH goodness, we are now ON TWITTER: Run With Holly @Coach_Holly.  Check it out!]

If you did a ‘Year in Pictures’ review, would your pictures accurately reflect your year?

First posting by email, then Twitter, now WordPress on my phone (just installed it!). I feel too modern to be myself. What was your biggest technology leap of 2013?</strong>

Year in Blogging: 2013 Review [PLUS TWITTER!!]

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear blo-og,
Happy Birthday to you!

How does a blog celebrate its birthday?
BY JOINING TWITTER, of course!

Come twit tweep twerp eh, whatever: Run With Holly@Coach_Holly !!

The blogging leg of this adventure started one year ago, right here:  Take Your Mark, and….GO!  Since my parents were really my only readers back then, you might want to click back and check it out.  [Oh, and by the way - Dad, if you're reading this (IF?!?!  Who am I kidding.  Dad is my biggest fan.  Love you, Dad!), is there any chance I could offer you a TimTam bribe to get you to dig that photo from Ms. Rose's ballet class out of the photo album and scan it to me?]

And since I’m seeing an influx of new readers lately (for a variety of reasons, but especially SEE BELOW!), let’s quickly review: If you’re feeling curious, check out the About Me section, and/or a more casual collection of Holly Fun Facts.  And here’s a bit about the guy who’s often photo bombing joining me in my pictures.  Finally, the Race Reports category includes reports of all the races (except one!) that I ran this year, mostly in Singapore.

Awesome.  Now, let’s get on with the Year of Blogging recap, shall we?  The inadvertently excellent thing about starting a blog on January 8th is that your blog’s birthday almost exactly corresponds with the New Year – and WordPress’s publication of “Your 2013 Year in Blogging”.  Thus, in honor of the blog birthday/new year, and inspired by Fit, Feminist, and (Almost) Fifty‘s example, Part II of my year-end wrap-up will be blog-specific.  [Click to read the first wrap-up, Year of Running: 2013 in Review.]

According to WordPress, this blog was viewed by others approximately 31,000 times this year.  I don’t publish this number to brag or compare – but just to say, HOLY WOW.  And THANK YOU.  Yes, YOU.  :)  That might be considered peanuts in the realm of blogging, but heck – for this tiny little corner of the internet, I’m pretty happy with that number.  My most popular posts were:

Venus Run (2013): Race Report
Stretch Those Calves!
How To Make A Really Delicious Roast Chicken
Female Endurance Athletes Are Just Like Other Women (Only Not Really)
Yellow Ribbon Run (2013): Race Report

I’ll admit that the roast chicken one makes me giggle – I had no idea it would be such a popular post.  But it is, indeed, one of the most frequent searches that lands people on my site these days.  Unfortunately, I have subsequently realized that the use of local chickens contributes to my chicken-roasting success.  Our local chickens are small, properly proportioned, and TASTY.  They aren’t certified organic/free-range/pesticide-free, but all I have to do is look at one to see that it looks…well, it looks like a chicken should.  I was really surprised the last time I was back in the US, and saw the enormous, strangely proportioned thing my Dad was roasting as a chicken.  But I digress.  [Although you should come visit, and I'll roast you a HIGHLY delicious chicken.  I promise!]

*ahem* FOCUS, Holly.

Also – a big shout-out to fellow bloggers who discovered me, adopted me, and encouraged me when I was just starting out at the start of the year.  There are plenty of you, but WordPress reports that my Top 3 commenters this year were Amy (Run Write Hike), Meagan (Turkey Runner), and Jeano (Jogging Jeano).  Thanks, chicas!

Anyway, Fit, Feminist, and (Almost) 50 also added a cool twist, by listing the posts that she thinks were under-appreciated, and should have gotten a bit more attention.  Here are a few of my other favorites from this year:

Why Getting Started Is The Hardest Part (and what the dishwasher has to do with it)
Stop the Comparisons, and Start the Celebrations
And the entire repository of Stretches I’m starting to build

So there you have it, folks.  A summary of my blog year. You can see the  whole report for the Run With Holly blog here.  It’s big on cute graphics, and only modest in actual data – but still, it will be an interesting look back on your year.  If you have a WordPress blog, I’d suggest that you have a look at your own!

I know sometimes when I read a blog post that really hits home for me, it sticks with me for awhile.  Was there anything I wrote this year that has stuck in your mind?

Should I make birthday brownies or chocolate chip cookies for the blog?

Anyone have a #1 Twitter Tip for me?