Category Archives: Running

The More You Know (the more confused you are)

This week, I am back in the classroom.  Or, at least, sitting on the floor of a dance studio with my notebook and pen, watching Powerpoint presentations (and LOTS of live physical demonstrations).  It’s a weird feeling – in a good way.

You see, I’m taking four days of classes with Personal Trainer/Yoga Trainer/Pilates Trainer Claire Norgate, from Australia.  [When I lived in the US, I had no idea how much fitness “stuff” came out of Australia.  Turns out, a lot!]  This particular workshop set is focused on Postural Analysis/Movement Analysis/Trigger Point and Remedial/Rehabilitation Pilates (and some other, non-Pilates exercises).  I am not a trained Pilates instructor and, to be honest, I went in fairly skeptical of Pilates, based on the smattering of group classes I’ve taken.  And although my thoughts on it are changing somewhat thanks to this course, some of the finer, Pilates-centric points of the workshop have been lost on me.

Still, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything I’ve learned (or hopefully learned!) over the last few days.  This is a good kind of overwhelmed, though – and I am very excited to start incorporating some of these techniques and approaches into my coaching programs and into my one-on-one work with clients on posture/stride/gait.  I also plan to share more details about certain topics on the blog, once I’ve had time to process, integrate, and test some of them.  But for now, I have to leave for class pretty soon – so I will leave you with a list.  [I love lists. Also, I’m considering this to be Monday’s “Coach’s Corner” post, kind of – especially since I started it at the beginning of the week.]

10 Tidbits of Learnin’
(from two Claire Norgate workshops)

1. Spending the day with other folks who are just as interested in fitness/movement as I am is pretty darn cool.  I’m a bit of an anomaly – I’m trained as a running coach, but am far less formally trained in other areas of fitness (yoga, Pilates, personal training) than many of the other participants.  There is so much that I can learn in that room – and only some of it comes from Claire.

2. Nothing beats wearing your workout gear to class.  Bonus?  I need only change my shoes to be dressed for my run when I get home!  [It’s like going to class in your PJs when you were in college – only cuter, more efficient, and socially acceptable.]

3. There is contradictory evidence about pretty much everything.  You thought that the barefoot running controversy was bad?  That is merely the TIP of the iceberg.  Should you “roll” your spine up and down (as in “From standing, drop your chin to your chest and ROLL down, one vertebrae at a time.”)?  Is it safe to squat with knees extending past toes?  What sorts of exercises are “safe” for folks with knee injuries? back injuries?  Also, this year’s recommendation may change next year.  Or in five years.  Then, it’ll probably change back.  It’s enough to make you crazy.  Instead, I use it as a reminder of the importance of respecting the differences in individuals, and encouraging everyone to listen to his/her own body.

4. I need a pack mule, or a car.  Carrying course materials, food, workout apparel, and shoes for the day (sometimes 7 AM – 7 PM) makes me not the favorite person on crowded morning buses.

Squeeeezing my yoga mat into my Timbuk2 bag, because my hands are full with my lunchbag and shoe bag...

Squeeeezing my yoga mat into my Timbuk2 bag, because my hands are full with my lunchbag and shoe bag…

5. Teaching group exercise classes well is really, really hard.  This goes hand-in-hand with observations I’m making during the Team Teaching for RPM.  In every class, there are folks of all levels and body types, with unique strengths/weaknesses.  Teaching in a way that properly directs each of them is extraordinarily challenging, and I didn’t appreciate this until very recently.

6. Other people have dorky “favorite things”, too!  I have a favorite science word (pseudopod) and a favorite piece of laboratory equipment (one of the BioRad PCR machines in the Bi lab).  Apparently, exercise/physiology folks have favorite bones (I decided yesterday that mine is the xyphoid process), and favorite muscles to look at (gastrocnemeus/soleus?).

7. We ALL have some postural and movement patterns that fall within “normal” range – and we all have some that fall outside what is considered “normal”.  The goal for those of us in the fitness industry – and the folks I/we work with – is to start moving people toward normal, to allow for safer, more pain-free, and more effective movement and exercise.

8. As the only Caucasian in a room full of Asians, I was the one who asked, “Well, who decided what “NORMAL” is, anyway?”

9. “Lamb Cupcakery” is a very strange name.  But their chocolate peanut butter cupcake is a pretty amazing way to end a day of learnin’.

If it looks like the only thing left is the wrapper....that's correct.  I forgot to take a "before" photo....

If it looks like the only thing left is the wrapper….that’s correct. I forgot to take a “before” photo….

10. I need (want?) to learn more.  And more.  And more.  It’s really fantastic to be learning things that I will actually use!!!  Take that, formalized American education system!

OK, that’s it for today, folks.  As I said – I hope to be blogging about more specific information I learned – and how I’m applying it to my coaching – over time.  But for now, keep on eye out here – the Thursday “Stretch of the Day” will be debuting in less than 24 hours!!

If you work in the health/fitness industry: What is the most useful class/course/workshop you’ve ever taken?

EVERYONE: I’m in ‘learning mode’, so teach me some interesting morsel of information!!!

“Deeply Rooted”

“You want to be purposefully rooted in the place that you live.”
-Scott Austin, Pastor at Artisan Church in Rochester, NY

Why yes I do Pastor Scott.  YES I DO.

All the way back in 2006, KMN and I were fortunate to stumble upon the young, vibrant Artisan Church community just down the street from where I lived.  Although work and travel often divided our attendance, Artisan quickly became our “church home” in Rochester.  And today, although we miss the community terrible, the wonders of modern technology and a few Apple devices deliver each sermon to our kitchen table over Sunday morning breakfast.

The quotation above was shared a few weeks ago by Scott during a sermon series entitled Gardening in Babylon.  The central passage from this series is:

“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you, and pray on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” -Jeremiah 29:7

To me, this sentence makes good, solid sense -and I don’t really think it matters what your feelings about Christianity are.  Take out the “pray” part, if you are so inclined.  No matter where you are, or what brought you there, I find it hard to imagine a situation where your well-being and that of your community wouldn’t be intricately linked.

To really, truly live somewhere means to make it your home, even if only for a few years – or months, if that’s how you roll.  That means investing – in the people, schools, local businesses, and infrastructure.  That means recognizing the community’s strengths, helping improve its weaknesses, and working consistently toward the dream of an even better place.  That means contributing, even in small ways, whether you intend to stay for a few months, a few years, or the rest of your life.  That means making the choice to help shape, guide, and grow this home into the kind of place where you (and hopefully other people) want to live.

To me, this is what being “purposefully rooted” means.  The idea of being rooted, of nurturing a relationship with a place and people, and of really digging deep into a community, strikes a chord with me.  Roots are important to me.  I grew up in one town – one community – and lived there for my entire life, until I left for college (which was less than an hour away).  In contrast, I’ve been a bit of a nomad for the past few years, moving from Rochester to Pasadena to Hollywood to Sussex County to Singapore.  Still, in all of these places – whether I lived there for 3 weeks or 13 months – I tried to be purposefully rooted.

Roots manifest in many ways – from community dinners to patronizing local businesses to volunteering down the street.  But (and you had to be expecting we’d come back to this eventually) one of my favorite ways to be rooted is to RUN.  Running is how I put down ROOTS – running lets me grab hold, take refuge, and secure myself in a new place.  This happens in one thousand different ways…

Running is what forces me to slow down enough to see the coffee shop on the corner, the yoga studio upstairs, and the sign advertising the Weekly Farmer’s Market.

Running is the first way I connect with my neighbors – the fellow runner along the canal, the woman down the street who walks her dog each morning, and the security guard at the building next door.

Running is how I make friends – from the local trail runners, to the track club, to the folks who read this blog and drop me an email.

Running is how I make a place home.  And I know that I’m home…

…when I can’t quite decide which group to join for a weekend run.
…when I learn the quickest traffic lights, the uneven spots on the pavement, and the undulations on my favorite trails.
…when I know where I want to go for a post-run snack.
…when I know the local races, their pros and cons, and the best spectating spot for each.
…when I can introduce my local clients to running spots they’ve never seen before.
…when I can step out the door, lace up my sneakers, breathe deeply, and feel…

…at home
…at peace
deeply and purposefully rooted.

Are you “deeply rooted” in your community?  How do you establish roots in a new place?  How do you deepen those roots after you’ve lived somewhere for some time?

[This blog will likely never dwell on my relationship with religion in general, or Christianity specifically.  But for anyone who is intensely curious…don’t be.  My position is unusual, but not especially interesting. I’ll only caution you against drawing any conclusions without really knowing the whole story.]

Weekly Workout Round-Up (Oct. 14-20)

I had to look at the calendar – twice – to remind myself that last week was really just the second week after my 50K.  My legs felt…awesome.  I was doing much more cross-training than running, but BodyPump and RPM (indoor cycling) aren’t exactly gentle on the legs.  Here’s what happened:

Monday: RPM

Also, I had too many heavy things to buy at the grocery store (yogurt, milk, juice, hard cider), so I broke out the “Auntie Cart” for a walk:

Holly, listening to ChinesePod, and rockin' the Auntie Cart.  Awesomeness.

Holly, listening to ChinesePod, and rockin’ the Auntie Cart. Awesomeness.

Tuesday: Yin & Roll, BodyAttack/GRIT combo, Yoga on the Bridge,

This was a holiday (Hari Raya Haji) in Singapore, so there were special gym classes.  I started off the morning with “Yin & Roll”, a yoga class with one of my favorite yoga instructors.  We spent 75 minutes rolling sore muscles (mostly in our butts & hips) on tennis balls, then holding extended stretches for those same areas.  This was painful, but good.  I was also reminded of how spoiled I am by my foam roller – wiggling your IT band on a tennis ball requires much more core and arm strength/control than it does on a foam roller!

I took a break to do some computer work for an hour, then headed into an intense cardio/strength/HIIT workout.  This was a special combo class, and super intense – but fun.  In the evening, I joined the Lululemon crew for another night of free Tuesdays by the River Community Yoga.  [There are 2 more weeks left, by the way!  I should be there next week – come join me!]  Yes, there was more staring and maybe a few photos (as I described in last week’s Workout Round-Up), but I was prepared and determined not to be fussed by any of it.  Success.  By the time I rolled home around 9:30, I was ex-haust-ed.

But really, how better to spend a public holiday than tiring out your muscles with excellent workouts all day long?  🙂

Also?  This.  Steamed rice, salmon sashimi, seaweed, sprouts, and black fungus...as inspired by a FB chat with GCA.

Also? This. Steamed rice, salmon sashimi, seaweed, sprouts, and black fungus…as inspired by a FB chat with GCA.

Wednesday: RPM & lots of stretching!

Just like running, spinning can do a number on your quads, hip flexors, and litttttle tiny hip muscles – and the five minutes allotted for leg stretching in class just isn’t quite enough.  I always try to hit the mat for another 10-15 minutes of stretching on my own, whenever possible.  And of course, I’ve tried to keep up with my bedtime rolling routine.

Thursday: RPM & BodyPump

This was my first morning (7:20 AM) RPM class in awhile – and from the stage, I could see that most of the class was definitely still waking up.  In fact, my team-teaching instructor told me that he tries to keep the music a bit more mild for this class, since everyone is still in their morning lull.  I chuckled, thinking of friends in the US who are pumping out intense workouts on their spin bikes at 6 AM…  The gyms here definitely don’t believe in (aka, there’s no demand for) super early morning classes.  So interesting…

The (blurry) detritus of good hydration habits....

The (blurry) detritus of good hydration habits….

I was able to sneak out to the gym again in the evening for some Pump.  I was…pumped! (har, har)

And there was veggie stir fry for dinner!

And there was homemade stir fry for dinner!

Friday: Run (4.1 mi)

My first run of the week – and the one I wrote about in yesterday’s post (I don’t care if my legs tremble during Warrior poses. I need to run.)  Friday was kind-of my rest day for the week.

Saturday: RPM & Run (7 mi)

As a participant in a spin class, I don’t much care what my fellow class members are doing/feeling/giving – I’m there to do my own workout, with the instructor.  However, as an instructor, I’ve quickly realized how different classes have a different “feel” or character.  As I mentioned above, early morning classes are a bit more mellow – but the Saturday afternoon class is considerably more energetic and intense.  This is not a better/worse characterization – just an observation.  And I’m rather amused that I didn’t really notice/care much about this as a participant – but it’s so obvious now that I’m on stage.

KMN procrastinated his long run until Saturday evening – which was, surprisingly, OK for me.  I don’t usually enjoy evening runs, but since this one was purely “for fun” for me – I had no pace goal – I headed out with him around 6:30 PM.  We did one loop of McRitchie Reservoir together, before I headed home and he continued on for another 6 miles in the park (it was too dark for another trail loop without headlamps).  I was excited that my knee felt great, despite the uneven, technical terrain.  He came back, we were both ravenous, and we went out for Indian food for dinner.  Palak paneer, I love you.

Sunday: BodyPump

KMN, GCA, and I all headed in to an afternoon Pump class.  Although the class time is a bit disruptive (3 PM), some afternoon lifting was a great way to end the weekend, and complement the previous day’s cardio.

All in all, I’m happy with the week.  I will be doing quite a lot of RPM in the coming weeks, so I was glad to get in four classes this week.  And although I didn’t do much running, Friday’s jaunt was a good reminder that I need to keep lacing up my sneakers – especially now that 50K recovery is complete.  My goal for the last 8 months has been base building – now that I have the base, I definitely don’t want to lose it!  So definitely look for some more running, starting next week.

The week’s run mileage was just 11.1 miles (although it would be considerably higher if the indoor spin bikes had odometers!), but my Total Workout Time was 12 hours, 2 minutes.

Early morning gym classes: Yay or Nay?

Is “early morning” 6 AM, 7 AM, or 8 AM?

When you have lots of miscellaneous stuff in the fridge, what do you turn it into, and what is your carb of choice?
[Interesting cultural difference: My inclination is to mix it up with some canned diced tomatoes and go “Italian style”, serving over pasta.  But my husband’s first thought is to make a fried rice type dish.]

I don’t care if my legs tremble during Warrior poses. I need to run.

I have to tell you about my run on Friday.  Don’t worry, this isn’t an “I ran 28 miles on Friday morning, how crazy is that?” kind of story.  Rather, this is something of a love story, or maybe a “We renewed our vows” story.  Let me start by setting the scene:

Last week was my second week post-50K, and I planned to do some running – easy, casually, and as I felt inclined.  Then, I got bowled over by cross-training:

1. Tuesday was a public holiday, and so there were special classes at the gym. I opted for yoga and an extended cardio/strength combo class.  Both awesome, but involved nothing more than a few quick laps around the cardio studio.

2. Run With Holly will be leading some group runs from the newly opened Lululemon East Coast Showroom, so I spent a day or two meeting and doing a bit of yoga with the lovely ladies who own and manage the shop.

3. I’m in the final phase of RPM instructor training: Team-Teaching.  I spent a lot of time last week on the spin bike – shadowing, practicing, and teaching.

I'm loving this view more and more.  But preferably when my legs are spinning!

I’m loving this view more and more. But preferably when my legs are spinning!

Still, when Thursday rolled around, I said to KMN, “Wow.  Despite all the spinning and everything that I’ve been doing, my legs feel AWESOME.  I can squat so much weight in BodyPump, and my legs have been feeling really fresh on the bike, too!”

As the words were coming out of my mouth, I had my ‘DUH’ moment: That’s what happens when I’m running 15-20 miles per week, rather than 40+ miles per week, on top of all that other stuff.  Right.

And so I started thinking.  “Hmm…maybe I could get used to this.  I love how fresh my legs feel for other activities.  I’m getting plenty of exercise, both strength & cardio.  Maybe it’s time to *gasp* dial back the running a tad.”

For a few hours, that actually sounded like a reasonable idea (nevermind the fact that I just spent the last 8 months building my base up to 40+ miles per week).   I didn’t make any firm decisions, but I was toying with taking a little running reduction to focus on some other activities for awhile.

So that was my state of mind on Friday morning.  Now we can cut to the actual story:

On Friday morning, a felt like I might want to go for a run.  I didn’t have plans to spin that day, so I figured it would be a good day to test out my knee with a short run.  So I rolled out of bed and put on my running clothes.  But life got in the way, and I tended to emails, phone calls, chores, etc…and before I knew it, the clock said 4 PM.  I was substantially less enthused about the idea of running at 4 PM than I had been early that morning.  But I had evening plans, and 4 PM was my “now or never” moment of truth.

So I pretended that it wasn’t the hottest part of the day.  I put on my sunglasses, threw on my sneakers, grabbed my house key and headed out the door.  And do you know what happened next?

I didn’t care that it was hot.  I didn’t care that the sun was beating down.  I didn’t care about the traffic.  I didn’t care that I opted to forgo a shirt, and was making a slight spectacle of myself by running in just shorts and a bra top (pretty uncommon in Singapore).

I just ran.
I felt the breeze on my face (and stomach)!
I felt like I could really breathe – my lungs felt enormous and open.
I felt grounded, as my feet connected and pushed off the pavement.
I felt open, and free, and ready to fly.
I felt relaxed.
I felt release.
I felt endorphins.
I felt alive.
I felt freaking awesome.

And I was reminded – for the millionth time – why I run.  [Incidentally, why are we humans so forgetful, that we still need reminders of really obvious things?]  And just like that, my plans to dial back my running were dismissed.  I wondered how I could even contemplate such craziness!

So what if I have to hold my Warrior poses with trembling legs?  So what if my legs burn a little extra as I lead my class through a hill track?  So what if my alarm clock goes off at 5 AM for 10 miles?  So what if I have to sneak in hot afternoon miles on the days I ignore the alarm clock?  I don’t even care.  I just don’t care.  Let me run.  I want to need to run.

Of course, there is a time and place for everything.  There are seasons of my life when I run more, and some when I run less.  If I am genuinely and truly burnt out, I do turn away for awhile.  But I always find myself drawn back.  I can’t help it.  I can’t resist it.  My sneakers, my Garmin, “my” trails…they call my name.  They draw me in, they send me outside, and they give back to me ten times more than what I give them.

 

PS Last week, I said I finished my  Stretch of the Week Intro post thanks to some self-bribery.  Gummy Bear Mama asked what that bribe was, and I promised a photo.  Here you go:

Chocolate chip cookie dough!  Made safely (egg-free) from this recipe.  Not exactly a healthy fanatic's dream, but a little indulgence is fine once in awhile.  I used peanut butter instead of yogurt, so I had peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate chip cookie dough! Made safely (egg-free) from this recipe. Not exactly a healthy fanatic’s dream, but a little indulgence once in awhile is totally fine. I used peanut butter instead of yogurt, so I had peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.  This tasted terrible, so I had to eat it all myself….

“Real” raw cookie dough, “Safe” raw cookie dough, pre-processed cookie dough nibs, or “Bake my cookies please”?

Runners: When was your last “jump up and down screaming ‘I love running!'” (on the inside, or the outside) moment? 

What’s calling your name today?
[Coffee, blogging, the spin studio, and possibly BodyAttack.]

On “bad bloggers” and “not runners”

As I was checking how my Weekly Workout Round-Up for last week post looked on email and on my phone, I was a little surprised to see a phrase that snuck into the post: “…but I’m a bad blogger…”  I caught my breath.  Crap.  How did that get in there?  I often see this phrase in other blogger’s posts – and it always bothers me.  Yet here it was, staring back at me, typed from my very own keyboard.

Why did I write this?  Why did I spend time and wordage to announce to you all that I’m a “bad” blogger?  What horrible, non-blogger, evict-me-from-the-club (which is as free-form and self-directed as any club could possibly be) thing did I do?  You might want to sit down.  Brace yourselves, because…I went for a run with friends, and didn’t take a picture.

Just stop for a minute, and let that sink in.  I didn’t take a picture.

[Oh, the horror!!]

[First world problems, anyone?]

But I am not alone.  Failure to Photograph (food, workouts, friends, clothes, etc.) seems to be a common reason to call oneself a “bad blogger”.  Other reasons include:

“Had guests visit, failed to post for three days, bad blogger.”
“Chose random, rambling post topic(s) = Bad blogger.”
“Devoted an entire post to cute photos of kiddos…bad blogger.”
“Didn’t Reply to every Comment. Bad blogger.”
“Wore sweatpants instead of cute outfit: bad blogger.”
“Doesn’t care about hits/clicks/visits/SEO/etc.  Bad blogger!”

I’d dig up specific examples, but honestly – they’re too numerous (and I’m tired).  If you’ve been hanging out in the blog world for awhile, then you know what I’m talking about.  In fact, Olive To Run provides a great summary of some in her post Confession: I am really not a good blogger, if you’re interested.  [Please note that I’m not criticizing Olive, by any means – I quite enjoy her blog and her thoughts.  And admittedly, she used “not good” rather than “bad”.  But I was struck by how someone who is so unapologetically herself, so “tell it like it is”, and whose blog is so clearly popular – could still proclaim that she’s “not a good blogger”.  I mean, if she’s not a good blogger, then what am I!?!]

So I paused for a moment and considered what I really, truly think would constitute a “bad” blogger (where “bad” means, you know, “not good”).  Yes, this is subjective, but I see no way around that.  I gave myself sixty seconds, and here is the list I generated:

A “bad blogger” is someone who….
1. Never posts (in which case he/she would hardly be a “blogger”, really, right?)
2. Writes false, malicious, or nasty things about people/places/things
3. Plagarizes
4. Provides positive reviews in exchange for free products/services
5. Embeds links to malicious or pay-per-click sites, camouflaged as useful, interesting sites

I re-read my list.  Yup, all of those things seem like they should qualify someone for “bad blogger” status.  But gosh, wouldn’t you know it – “Didn’t take a picture” just wasn’t on there. Nowhere.  Not anywhere on the list.  And I checked.  Twice.  [Call me Santa.]

This little chit-chat with myself was starting to feel like a conversation I have so often it makes me want to scream.  I’m going to use “X” here, but do note that “X” is almost always a female.

X: Well, I do jog.  But I’m not a real runner.
Me: Hm.  What do you mean?
X: Well, I’m not like you. I’m not a real runner.
Me: Well, do you run?
X: Well, kind of.  I jog.
Me: OK, I think random pace distinctions are stupid.  All joggers are runners, in my book.  How often do you run?
X: A few times a week, maybe 3?
Me: Ah.  And, how long/far?
X: Not long.  Just about thirty minutes or so.
Me: You run for about 30 minutes, three times per week?  Yup, it sounds to me like you’re a runner!  So stop selling yourself short, and own the description: runner.  Runner!

In some way/shape/form, most of us do this – likely, more than we realize.  Broadly speaking, women are especially good at it, as are Asians in general.  Under the guise of “modesty” or “not bragging”, we imply/suggest/joke/or outright state the we aren’t good, or aren’t good enough, or are actually downright bad.  Somehow, this has become a socially acceptable, amusing, and often admirable, habit.  But truth be told, I find nothing funny or attractive about it.  Instead, I find it annoying at best, and depressing at worst.

Of course, I’m not suggesting we all start bragging about everything we can do.  But maybe, just maybe, we should stop selling ourselves short and counting ourselves out of things that we are doing – and are doing well.

So I’m putting my foot down.  There shall be no more “bad” blogger, or pseudo-“bad” blogger talk from this space any more.  I’m a blogger.  I might even be a good blogger.  And if you find this blog’s content informative, interesting, and/or somewhat amusing, please do stick around.  And if you don’t? Well, you probably weren’t reading this post in the first place.  And that’s just fine.

So here’s my message for you today: Embrace who you are.  Be real, be honest, be active, and be genuine.  And please, whatever you do, don’t waste time and energy selling yourself short.

Let’s be warm and fuzzy for a moment.  Finish this sentence:
“I (meaning you) am an AWESOME blogger because _________.”

Any blogosphere pet peeves?  Come on, get ’em off your chest!

Weekly Workout Round-Up (Oct. 7-13)

Last week was characterized by two things:

1. Not much running.
2. A return to yang yoga.

Both of these were good things.  As I’ve said before, I tend to use the post-long-race week as both a physical and mental break from training.  I take a step back from my intense Sunday afternoon workout scheduling session, and just do whatever workouts I feel like – or don’t feel like – doing.  I put zero pressure on myself to do anything, and if I want to lounge around and read a book instead, or sleep in for an extra hour, I let myself.  So after last weekend’s 50K, my workout week looked like this:

Monday: Yin yoga.

Basically, I fell asleep in a candle lit room while ostensibly stretching my hips.  Glorious.

Tuesday: Yoga by the River

I also used a hair dryer on Tuesday.  I did not, however, carry a flower pot on my head...

I also used a hair dryer on Tuesday. I did not, however, carry a flower pot on my head…

A new East Coast Lululemon showroom opened last week in Singapore.  In preparation/celebration, the owners organized a series of free Tuesdays by the River Community Yoga classes during September and October.  This was my first time in attendance.  There were over 100 of us – probably closer to 200 (?) with our yoga mats spread out on a pedestrian bridge at Clarke Quay.  The guest instructor demonstrated and led from the broad concrete railing.

This was an interesting experience, and I’ll admit that I left with conflicting emotions.  First of all, doing open air yoga with like-minded folks after sunset was REALLY COOL.  But Clarke Quay is a pretty popular evening hang-out for expats, professional locals, and tourists.  Our group occupied most of the bridge (leaving just a narrow space for people to pass by), so we were impossible to miss.  As my mat was located next to this walkway, I heard lots of comments as people went by – and a fair share of them were from groups of men, to the effect of, “Whoa, it’s our lucky day!”  Then, they pulled out their phones and started snapping pictures.

A week later, and I’m still not sure what I think about this.  On one hand, we are opting to practice yoga in tight clothing in a very public setting.  And there were plenty of groups, women, and couples staring (and photographing) too.  I mean, we were quite a sight:

Yoga on the BridgeOn the other hand, such blatant discussion and admission of oogling makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable.  But, I think I’m filing this one under “Live and Let Live,” though – and I’ll probably go back this week.  [Tonight, actually – locals, come join us – BYOM (bring your own mat)!]

Plus, this yoga session reminded me of how much I’ve abandoned my “other” yogas (Hatha, Flow, Vinyasa) in lieu of Yin.  Although Yin is great for stretching and relaxing, I do enjoy the challenge and strength required by yang yogas, and want to ensure I fit in a class or two each week in the coming months.

Wednesday's dinner: Dahl and homemade Naan.  Maybe not much to look at, but soooo good!

Wednesday’s dinner: Dahl and homemade Naan. Maybe not much to look at, but soooo good!

Wednesday: RPM

I have lots of team-teaching to do in the next two months, so you’ll be seeing a lot of spinning going on.  This was just a little test/warm-up.  While I didn’t kill myself with resistance, I was quite pleased with how good my legs felt – generally quite strong, just a touch of residual fatigue when I pushed the hills or sprints hard.  Three cheers for speedy recoveries!

Thursday: Short run/walk & Yoga

This was the Grand Opening of the Lululemon store I mentioned above.  The owners and managers of this store are an energetic, passionate bunch, eager to share their love of fitness.  In fact, I’m working with them to dream up some joint Lulu-RWH programming, so locals, stay tuned!

Anyway, they invited me out for the opening, so I joined an excited, chatty group of 30-40 athletes for a 2-3K run/walk to and through some of East Coast Park.  There, we enjoyed half an hour of waterfront yoga.  Delicious!

Our instructor kept saying, "Reach to the ceiling/mirror/back wall," then catching herself when we all laughed.  I think she needs to lead MORE waterfront yoga!

Our instructor kept saying, “Reach to the ceiling/mirror/back wall,” then catching herself when we all laughed. I think she needs to lead MORE waterfront yoga!

Next, we headed out for a ride around the East Coast area and tour of some local yoga and pilates studios…on a Hippo tour bus (don’t ask me why it’s called a Hippo bus; it doesn’t look like a Hippo):

Hippo BusMy job rocks.  I spent the morning working out, then sitting on the sunshiny, breezy upper deck while riding around Singapore (and ducking the occasional low-hanging branch), talking to yogis and runners, people for whom fitness is a passion – and in many cases, a profession.  The morning ended with mini cupcakes and Chinese treats back at the showroom.  Overall, a very fun morning.  Good luck with this new adventure, ladies!

I also left with my very first Lulu apparel to "test drive" - the blue & white striped tank.  We'll see how it fares after a few weeks with me!

I also left with my very first Lulu apparel to “test drive” – the blue & white striped tank. We’ll see how it fares after a few weeks with me!

Friday: Good intentions, zero execution

Saturday: Communication Fail

I was supposed to shadow an RPM class on this afternoon; but some miscommunication meant that I got to the gym…but didn’t end up shadowing.  Unfortunately, I was wearing my flip flops, and carrying my cycling shoes, but was absolutely without sneakers – so an alternative workout would’ve been hard.  I did some stretching, then came home and finished up my book (Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell – total brain candy).

Sunday: Long Run (9 mi)

GCA has been hankering to try out a new park connector, so I met her, and another of her friends (A), for an early morning run from Buona Vista MRT out to Pandan Reservoir.  This was super fun for me – Pandan Reservoir is near to my in-law’s place, so this is where KMN and I used to run when we would come to Singapore to visit.  This run was made possible by the construction of a new, shiny, loopy bridge over the AYE (freeway) that just opened.  The bridge is really quite impressive; I should have taken a picture – but I’m a bad blogger, and failed to take ANY photos of this group adventure.

We took the pace nice and easy, and the miles passed quickly with company.  My knee did just fine until about Mile 8, when it started to twinge a bit.  After a few twinges, I dialed back to a walk to the finish.  Walking, bending, squatting, and all other activities were fine for the rest of the day.  For now, I’ll continue to treat with rest (or at least, stick to short runs), and add in a bit of quad/hamstring strengthening.  The beauty of being post-key-race is that I have the time and freedom to let this run its course, without being anxious about training that I’m missing.

Anyway – I thoroughly enjoyed getting out for miles with friends – and meeting a potential new running partner *A*ahem*A*!  AND, the run ended with a trip to Ghim Moh market, where I was reunited with my first (and still favorite) tau huay (soybean pudding):

There's nothing like your first time.  Especially when it's as good as this one: smooth, creamy, just the right amount sweet...

There’s nothing like your first time. Especially when it’s as good as this one: smooth, creamy, just the right amount sweet…

I only wish I had thought to bring another five containers home, to eat this week.  Instead, I’m just going to need another excuse to go join GCA for a run in her neighborhood. 🙂

And that, my friends, brings us to the end of post-ultra-week.  Total Workout Time (including stretching & rolling): 6 hr, 19 min.

Coming up this week?  Lots of spinning, and some more non-yin yoga (and, who am I kidding, some yin yoga, too!), and probably some short runs.

Public group yoga: Awesome, or uncomfortable?

Beach yoga: Yay or Nay?
[I hate getting sand everywhere, but have to admit that the views were spectacular!]

TNF100: Final Thoughts on a 50K (Race Report Part 3?)

50K Race Report, Part 1
50K Race Report, Part 2

The Aftermath

When I left you at the end of Part 2, I had just crossed the Finish Line.  There was a reasonably nice spread of Finish Line goodies: water, sherbet pops, Subway sandwiches…and probably a few other items.  Unfortunately, after 4 miles on over-crowded trails, I was having trouble handling the crush of people at the food tables (mostly 13K finishers).  I grabbed a water and sherbet pop of some brightly colored, but mostly just “sweet” flavor, that I would never even consider eating in real life (ultras apparently mess with your brain), then spent a few minutes chatting with one of my clients, who ran the 25K.  Finally, I escaped to a quiet(er) patch of grass, and tried to call KMN.

He told me that he’d just arrived and was watching the Finish Line – he must have missed me by just a minute or two!  I made my way over to where he was (a quiet spot!!!!), and we spent about half an hour watching more runners coming into the finish.  The deluge of 13K runners had ebbed by this point, and the slow stream of finishers were a mixture of 25, 50, and 100K runners.  We watched, cheered, chatted, and ate watermelon.

[*Awesome husband (def.): He ran to the 31K Aid Station to cheer for me, then ran home (14 mile workout for him), then cut up watermelon, packed it on ice, and hauled watermelon + two changes of clothes down to the finish line for me.]

This is not supposed to be a bonus feature of the XA Comp...

This is not supposed to be a bonus feature of the XA Comp… [Edited to Note: Those are my fingers, not my toes.]

And then…it was time to stand up.  This went more smoothly than expected, actually.  After a few shakes, my clicky ankle loosened up (this is normal for me), and although I was pretty stiff, my knee was my only really sore part.  I rinsed my shoes at some outdoor taps – the early morning rainstorm and subsequent puddle sloshing, combined with my ripped sneakers, resulted in a LOT of debris in my shoes and socks.  Having returned most of the park back to the park, it was time to head home.  I suggested we splurge for the bus (“only a mile” seemed a lot shorter before I ran 30 miles!).

I suppose I need new trail running sneakers.  But I adore these, so much...and by now, we've been through a LOT together!

I suppose I need new trail running sneakers. But I adore these, so much…and by now, we’ve been through a LOT together!

In Singapore, it’s a common water-saving measure for us to turn off the shower while lathering/soaping/shaving.  But on this particular day, I let the water run.  As I said to KMN afterward, “Some days, you NEED that running water to get all the grime off!”  The chafing was moderate, but not awful: My capris got me on the backs of my knees and at the waistband, my hydration pack rubbed my shoulders a bit, and of course, there was the requisite crotch chafing – all I’ll say is that I need some kind of new solution to deal with that situation.

We got some lunch (I can’t even remember where – I’m not usually that into food immediately following a super long workout), I did some stretching/rolling, and took a nap.  My biggest accomplishment for the remainder of the day?  I joined some friends at a BBQ, and we stayed out until at least 11 PM!  [By which time I was threatening to crawl onto the chaise and sleep, but whatever.]

Of course, the next day revealed more sore spots:
Hamstrings (weird for me)
Calves (expected)
Back (need to add some supermans to my plank routine, I suppose!)
One spot on my abdomen (I momentarily panicked it was my appendix, but realized race-soreness was more likely), and – strangest of all –
Both my brachialis muscles (A little muscle in the upper arm – below the deltoid, and between the bicep and tricep).  I have no idea what I was doing with my arms during the race that caused this strange soreness.  But now I need to go figure out how to strengthen them, so they don’t cause me any future problems!

My knee was sore for a few days, but feeling much better by mid-week.  I didn’t do much running this past week, though – we’ll see what happens in the coming week.  But I’m hoping it was just a weird pull/positioning/tweak, and will sort itself out for good very soon.

By Wednesday, I was feeling back to normal for “every day life”, and even took an RPM spin class.  I know my muscles still need time for deeper recovery, but overall, I am thrilled with how easily I’ve recovered and gotten back to feeling normal.  Although trail running may include more elevation change, and definitely includes obstacles like chain fences and mud pits, I am certain that covering most of the distance on softer ground was less taxing than on pavement, and most definitely resulted in a faster recovery.

Personal Race Reflections

For my first 50K, I’m pleased.  [Final time 5:22:03, ranked 6/134 women in the 50K.]  There is very little I would change about my execution of the race: I probably would have only stopped once to refill my hydration pack (but better safe than sorry), and I wish I had kicked myself through the “low points” a bit sooner/better.  Other than that, the race really was a good one for me.  In addition, we were blessed with a terrific day: The weather was agreeable, and the rain and clouds helped keep the temperature manageable.  The mud was awesome, and caters to the kind of running I love to do!  Thanks, McRitchie!

This is one I'll probably be hanging on to...

This is one I’ll probably be hanging on to…

Final Race Review

Overall, The North Face crew did a great job, even when the weather took a turn for the worse.  The rain started right after the 50K flagged off, meaning that the volunteers had to handle stormy conditions for the subsequent 25K and 13K flag-offs.

With just one – one – exception, the course was marked beautifully.  This is no small feat (signs have been stolen and moved along the course in previous years).  When I came through, all Aid Stations were well-stocked with whatever supplies had been promised for that station.  I heard a few murmurs that one or two stations ran out of nutrition supplies later in the race; but the race organizers made it quite clear that this was a “self-supported” race (although electrolyte beverages, bananas, and Gu were provided at select Aid Stations), and I consider anything more than plain water to be a bonus when something is described as “self-supported”.  The fact that the crew managed to get and keep the water cold was welcome, and amazing.

The route was challenging, but fun – and almost exclusively on trails (maybe 3-4 miles on pavement/road), which is quite an accomplishment in Singapore.  The volunteers were generally helpful and polite, and a few even cheered.  Extra thanks to the non-volunteers, who simply came out to cheer, support, and offer random bits of food (potatoes, candy, etc.) along the way.  You guys rocks!

My biggest complaint is definitely the way that the 50K merged with the middle/back of the 13K.   I believe that the weather resulted in a slight delay in the start of the 13K.  I’m not convinced that the route would have been significantly clearer if the 13K had started on time (about 15 minutes earlier), but it’s possible.  Managing a race with staggered starts and overlapping routes makes traffic flow a challenge – but it would certainly do the 25K, 50K, and 100K folks a favor to run the 13K as far away (spatially and temporally) as possible.

Along similar lines, I think that the Perth Marathon spoiled me with its separate marathon finisher’s tent.  I definitely would have appreciated a separate line/tent for 50K & 100K post-race refreshments.  Pushing through the 13K folks just to get a bottle of water at the Finish Line was simply no fun – and I felt even worse for the 100K finishers!  But, this is a small matter.  The on-course execution was solid, in my opinion.

I’ve heard some complaints about the price point for the race: $96 SGD ($77 USD).  This certainly isn’t cheap (and I know that some aspects don’t scale proportionately), but considering that I’m willing to pay $30 SGD for a 5K (you don’t find them much cheaper than that in Singapore), I did some math:

$30/5K = $6/kilometer
$96/49K = $1.96/kilometer

A 50K starts to look like a bargain!  And, as I’ve noted in the past, I am wiling to pay for high quality race execution.

So that’s about it, guys.  After a week of rest, I’m formulating my new running plans and goals.  But for the next few weeks, look out for lots of RPM, a bit more BodyPump, and maybe some non-yin yoga.  Stay tuned. 🙂

Anyone wear boy shorts under their chafing compression gear?
[I don’t love boy shorts, but am thinking of giving this a shot to help with the chafing situation.]

50K: Is there anything else you are thinking about/wondering/want to ask, about mine specifically, or about the distance/training/preparation in general?

Weekly Workout Round-Up (Sept. 30 – Oct. 6)

So much for posting this stinker on…uhhh…Sunday?  Ah, well, there was too much 50King to discuss this week to be overly concerned about Workout Round-Ups.  Most of you know what a taper looks like, anyway.  But I’m a sucker for completeness, so here’s a quick rundown of my workout week leading up to the North Face 50K.  Mostly, it’s a super-taper (aka, more taper than I usually do), with a lot of yoga.  My hip was feeling extra tight the week before the race, so I wanted to do whatever I could to stretch that out before race day.

The menagerie was anxious for KMN's return.  They even sent a delegate to wait at the door for him.

The menagerie was so anxious for KMN’s return that they waited at the door for him.

Monday: Run (4 mi) & Yin Yoga

KMN worked a last-minute deal from Saturday through Tuesday, so he spent maaaaaaaany hours at the office early in the week.  “Maaaaaaaaany hours” as in, “It’s a good thing he has a toothbrush and changes of clothes there”.  So I worked, cooked (although failed to take many photos), ran/yoga-ed, and hung out with the Stuffed Menagerie.

Tuesday: Run (4.7 mi)

I took my trail shoes out for a little pre-race tooling around at McRitchie.  Nothing too intense, just a short jaunt on some of the trails we’d be covering before dawn on race morning.  Besides a little hip tightness, things felt pretty good.  I foam roller-ed afterward like it was my JOB.

I also put the breadmaker to good use.  Carb-loading, and all that.  [This loaf wasn't finished cooking yet, thus the slightly pale appearance.]

I also put the breadmaker to good use. Carb-loading, and all that. [This loaf wasn’t finished cooking yet, thus the slightly pale appearance.]

Wednesday: Rest

KMN and I planned to meet for RPM spin class, but we were both running late.  Ultimately, he could have sneaked into class, but I was about 5 minutes too late.  He was a gentleman (or was looking to avoid his workout!), and skipped class too.  Instead, we went out for chicken rice dinner, and came home to do work.

Oh, I did sneak in a sprint around the apartment in the morning, slamming windows shut, when I glanced out the back and realized that this was happening:

"Fogging" This is how Singapore manages its mosquito problem.  I don't like it, but it's better than Dengue...

“Fogging” = Spraying some kind of pesticide. This is how Singapore manages its mosquito problem. I don’t like it, but it’s better than Dengue…

Thursday: Yoga

Since my return from Perth, I’d been skipping many of my “usual” classes at the gym, sneaking in spin when I could, and grabbing whatever yoga classes were convenient.  Thankfully, on Thursday, I got myself over to the gym for one of my favorite yoga classes for the first time in many weeks: Sherlin’s Thursday night yoga.  It didn’t disappoint, my hip flexors were leeeeeeeeeeeengthened, and some very good business connections coincidentally came out of the evening.

Early AM shake-out run.

Early AM shake-out run.

Friday: Run (3.6 mi) & Yin Yoga

An early morning shake-out run, then some final tune-up stretching with Joyce before race day!  I also did lots of extra stretching on my own, throughout the afternoon and evening.  The extra hours of desk-sitting brought on by taper were productive – but probably contributed to the tightness in my legs.  Thankfully, some extra stretching helped work the kinks out.

I also treated myself to this:

The heel of the loaf, but it looks amazingly like a toasted buttered roll, right NJ folks? [Apparently, toasted buttered rolls are "a New Jersey thing", although I have no idea why they haven't caught on elsewhere, seeing as how they are delicious.]

The heel of the loaf, but it looks amazingly like a toasted buttered roll, right NJ folks? [Apparently, toasted buttered rolls are “a New Jersey thing”, although I have no idea why they haven’t caught on elsewhere, seeing as how they are delicious.]

Saturday: TNF 50K!!!! [Race Report Part 1 and Race Report Part 2]

Sunday: Walking & (very gentle) Stretching

Yes, walking was a workout.  And stretching sore, achy muscles took a lot of mental fortitude – but I felt better and better each time I did it.

Total Workout Time for the week: 13 hours exactly – although more than 5 of those came from the 50K.  Now, looking forward to a week of rest, recovery, and “doing whatever I feel like doing” workouts!

“Toasted, buttered roll”: New Jersey thing, or not?

And since we’re well beyond last week already, how about you tell me the most FUN workout you’ve done so far this week?

TNF100: The North Face 50K (2013): Race Report (Part 2)

In case you slept through Monday, you should actually start reading this race report from the beginning, which is here – TNF100: The North Face 50K (2013): Race Report (Part 1).  Read it first.  I’ll wait.

OK.  Now that we are all at the Aid Station at 31K (~19 mi), here’s the reasonably good photo captured by KMN’s excellent photography skills:

This is between my telling him, "Babe, my FEET are tired." and "I still have a LONG way to go."

This is between my telling him, “Babe, my FEET are tired.” and “I still have a LONG way to go.”

He’s a great crew, though – he didn’t pay my complaints too much mind.  He just patted me on the head (figuratively), gave me a kiss (literally), told me I could do this, and sent me back onto the trail.  What a guy.  He knows when to take my complaints seriously, and when to give a bemused smile and just shoo me back to work.  And with that, I was off and rolling again.

I spent the next mile wondering how I was going to run 10 more miles on legs that were already feeling tired.  I had a hot spot on the arch of one foot (this happens occasionally in my Salomon XA Comps, which are amazing in every other possible way).  The other foot was tired.  The area around my knees (up into my quads & down into my calves) was burning-tired.  One of my knees was feeling suspiciously weird, in a “new to me” way that I didn’t particularly like.  And did I mention I still had 10 miles to go?   Then, out of nowhere, some words of wisdom came to me, courtesy of Green Girl Running – from the race report of her redemption marathon:

“During SR marathon I let my mind take over without even realizing it, and it took me on a downward spiral to negative town. This time I felt totally in control. I hit a few rough patches, but knew without a doubt they would pass… and they did!”

So although I didn’t actually assign her a mile, I just kept telling myself that the tough patches would pass.  I just had to have faith.  “You might feel bad now, but you won’t feel bad the whole rest of the way.”

[Spoiler: This was true, but at that moment, unbeknownst to me, I was going to sink a lot further down before things started looking up again.  Still, it’s good advice.]

I tried to distract myself.  As I now ran the “back” portion of the out-and-back, I cheered on the steady stream of oncoming “out” runners.  Thankfully, the trail was wide enough to accommodate everyone.  At this point, Sherri blew past me, and I realized that I had quite a significant lead on the next female.  I had no idea if I had the pep to catch anyone in front of me, but figured that time would tell.  I hung on for a mile, and was grateful that I’d assigned Mile 21 to Debbie.

Mile 21: Debbie (Rochester friend, speedster, and our first visitor from the US who came exclusive to see us and explore Singapore).  This woman’s infectious smile, quick laugh, and positive attitude would jolt anyone out of a slump.  Oh, and her feet are pretty speedy, too!

Deb & Holly

No, we’re actually not related. But I’d happily adopt Deb as my “running sister” pretty much any day.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t such a happy camper for Debbie.  I told her I was tired.  She told me funny stories from work.  I told her my knee was feeling funny.  She told me about the new cupcake shop in Rochester.  I told her I was feeling blue.  She told me that was better than green (both envy and nausea are bad).  She also told me to eat some Sports Beans.  She was, as usual, on point with all of her suggestions.   Debbie, you were great company – I’m only sorry that I couldn’t reciprocate.  [PS We saw zero – ZERO – monitor lizards.]

Together, we are smarter than this hydration pack, right Mark?

Together, we are smarter than this hydration pack, right Mark?

Mile 22: Mark (friend & teammate from Rochester).  I first met Mark when I was accepted to run with the Fleet Feet Endurance Team in Rochester.  I was a trail newbie, and Mark was one of the people who showed me the ropes.  He’s also a scientist, and shares my anal-retentive analytical thought processes.  I guess you could say he’s my “Running Dad”.

Mark isn’t quite as smiley and rainbows as Debbie is – but he does tell it like it is.  And he told me, “Yup.  It’s hard.  This is the hardest part.  You’re far enough in to be really tired, but not close enough to the finish that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel yet.  You just have to keep running.”  I should note that I have no idea if this is Mark’s actual opinion.  But it’s what he said in my head.  And I knew he was correct.  He led the way and I stuck to his shoulder.

Somewhere around here, we left the “back” section and headed out on some new trails. But these trails were quite similar: Broad enough for comfortable running, well-shaded by trees, and lightly rolling.  And although I was feeling pretty crappy at this point, I was together enough to realize that this really was a great area to run – and I’ll be heading back in the future!  The only annoyance was the cyclists – these are multi-use trails, and every so often I had to move out of the way of some cyclists.  Mixed feelings on this, during a race, but thankfully the course wasn’t congested and we were all able to share the trail.  I only yelled at them when they came flying around blind corners too quickly.

Anyway, Mark was – as usual – a rock.  I was relieved for his company in this section, where I saw few of my fellow runners.  Occasionally we overtook a 100K participant, but I didn’t see any other 50K runners in this section.  I wasn’t much fun, and he didn’t try to talk me out of my funk, but instead told me more or less to OWN IT, then move on.  The advice was good.  My execution of it was mediocre.  But when our mile was over, and Mark deposited my whiny, deflating self to Kathy, with an ominous, “Good luck.”  [Note: He said that to her. Whoops.]

Mile 23: Kathy (my “Running Mom“)  Kathy is gentle, but honest: “Look Holly, you’re going to get to the Finish Line.  You can stop and whimper about how you feel, but it’s only delaying the inevitable.  So while you whimper, let’s keep running.”

My mile with Kathy represented the lowest one in my race (absolutely NO fault of hers – and she’s the reason I made it through!), and it was a slog.  I now had fewer than 10 miles left, but 8 miles still sounded like a lot.  I was tired.  My legs were sore.  My knee was moving from “discomfort” toward “ouch”.  [Somewhere between miles 20 and 23, I realized that I probably twisted/wrenched it when I sunk into the mud pit back on the Green Corridor.]   I never doubted that I could finish the race…but at that moment, finishing just didn’t sound like much fun.  This low point had some physical aspects, but it was mostly mental.  I was tired, on unfamiliar trails, and with over an hour of running still ahead of me.

Outside of the situation – when I’m rested, fed, and have perspective – it’s almost impossible for me to describe how low these low points can feel.  But I’ll give it a whirl.  Come with me….a tiny part of my brain knows that perspective is necessary.  But at the same time, all of my feelings (soreness, tiredness, discouragement, frustration) are narrowing into focus in this one moment, until they are all I can see, and they come perilously close to toppling me over and crushing me.  The only weapon I have against them is faith – the faith that they won’t last – but there’s no proof that, either.  Any waivers in this faith threaten to send me spiraling to the bottom, crushed by my own self-doubts.  [Or something like this.]

But Kathy was great:  She warned me not to actually CRY, because that would result in snot, a stuffed up nose, and a headache.  She’s smart, so I listened.  We ran.  Not fast, but still – we were running.  She told me about the lowest points during some of her ultras, and promised that things would get better before the finish.  She reminded me to keep drinking.  She assured me that, no matter what I felt now, I would feel great at the finish line.  That single thought – of the finish line – kept me moving.  Kathy, THANK YOU.  I don’t know what I would have done without you.

By the time she left me, I felt ready to face Mile 24 on my own.  At this point, the 50K route merged back with the 25K route.  The 25K started one hour after the 50K, so the folks we were running into now were at the back of the 25K pack.  Still, there was plenty of room for everyone, and any passing I wanted to do was not a problem.

I knew this mile would drop me out on Rifle Range Road, but I didn’t know what the trail looked like.  Well, after plodding along for about half a mile, I exited the woods and saw this:

Oh, YAY!  Remember the downhill I ran with Jeano in Mile 16?  This is the first part of its revenge.  [Photo Credit: Rosemary]

Oh, YAY! Remember the downhill I ran with Jeano in Mile 16? The first part of its revenge is up ahead, in the distance. [Photo Credit: Rosemary]

Upon cresting that hill, two more similar climbs appeared.  The footing was good and there weren’t any mudpits, but when I got to the steepest parts, I totally walked.  While this certainly slowed my progress, the walk breaks felt so good.  But, once I got to the top, I picked up the pace to a jog once again (the faster you go, the faster you finish!).  Two or three climbs later, I emerged on Rifle Range Road.  I was back in known territory, and Jenny was there waiting for me.

Splits for Mandai and Zhenghua PCN
Mile 20: 10:45 min/mi
Mile 21: 10:30
Mile 22: 10:50
Mile 23: 11:37 (the lowest point)
Mile 24: 11:33 (cliiiiiiiimbing)

Mile 25: Jenny (a friend from my undergrad days).  Jenny is a pretty amazing woman.  She’s just getting back into running, but more importantly, she has an indomitable spirit. We ran over fairly easy terrain: paved road with some gentle hills.

This mile with Jenny really snapped me out of my funk.  She has been through some tough stuff this year, and finally, real perspective splashed me with a dose of cold, hard reality: I was doing this race “for fun”.  And any low points I was feeling…were nothing, in the grand scheme of life.  Jenny’s presence was a great reminder of that, even though she never breathed a word of it.  But she did tell me softly, “Look, Holly.  The most important thing I learned this year is, when the going gets tough, you just have to keep going.”  True in running, true in life.  Thank you, Jenny.

Mile 26: GCA.  Since she and I had a Perth Marathon adventure together earlier this year, she was the obvious choice for the 26 (and 0.2) mile section.  Honestly, this was pretty uneventful.  I had recovered from my funk, was back in familiar territory, and ready to finish this.  We finished up the Rifle Range Road section, and she reminded me not to trip on the chain (Hilary must have called her to tell her to remind me!).  We stopped for a quick drink, but didn’t spend much time at the Aid Station.

I did a rapid knee assessment: My right knee was hurting a bit in the lower outside quadrant, and felt a bit puffy (although no swelling was visible).  It had gotten slightly worse over the last 10K, but I wasn’t altering my gait, as far as I could tell.  With just 10K to go, I decided to gamble on it: This was my peak race for the season, and I was 80% finished with it.  I was quite sure I wasn’t doing irreparable damage (it simply didn’t hurt that much).  And if, in the end, I had to take a few weeks off for knee-recovery, I would accept that as the price I paid for finishing.

We set off on the Rifle Range Link, which was now better lit (daylight), but still super slippery with clay.  In fact, we watched one gentleman (25K? 50K? Not sure.) careen past us (yes, “careen” is the best word here) before totally wiping out in slippery mud just 20-30 meters ahead.  Two other runners hauled him up by his hydration pack.  We were careful with our footing, and managed to stay upright.  This was easy for me, since running downhill seemed to be my knee’s least favorite activity.

We turned back toward the McRitchie Reservoir loop, and…introvert disaster struck.  [Especially for an introvert who is 26 miles into a 31 mile trail race.] Our race merged with the 13K race route – somewhere in the mid/back of the 13K field.  These folks were virtually all walking.  The Rifle Range to McRitchie connector trail is actually very narrow, so I spent about half a mile walk/passing as politely as I could.

After so many miles with so few people around, I had gotten used to the solitude.  The sudden appearance of so many other people was…jarring.  I’ll admit that I was also frustrated.  I don’t like to feel that way about other runners/walkers, who are doing their best to enjoy their own race, but there were a few moments when I wanted to scream, “I’ve been out here running since 5:30 AM.  I am 5 miles from the finish.  Please don’t get in my way or make me walk now…PLEASE!!!!”

Funny – for how wonderful walking felt on the hills earlier, suddenly ALL I wanted to do was run.  The Finish Line was drawing closer, I could almost taste it.  And here I was, dodging people like I’d started at the back of an over-crowded race.  Frustration reigned, then eased a bit as we entered the McRitchie Reservoir loop, where the trail widened and I had some space to run.  GCA traded places with my Mom.  [PS: GCA, we hit the 26.2 mile mark in sub-5. :)]

Rifle Range Road/Link
Mile 25: 11:24 min/mi
Mile 26: 13:41 (people dodging)

Mile 27 + 0.5: Mom. When I first put up my request for company, my Mom wrote: “I’ll take mile 27. Figure it will be tough by then, so I want to be sure you feel my love.”  Of course, no one knew how the race would turn out, or that my lowest point would be at Mile 23.  But somehow, the stars aligned, because Mile 27 turned out to be a whole different kind of challenge.

Mile 27 was the start of a 1.5 mile out-and-back (¾ mile each way) off the main trail.  I turned onto the section, and started to flat-out, hard-to-breath, close-my-eyes panic.  I was part of a rush of people (mostly 13K walkers/slow runners and a few 25K walkers – not another 50/100K in sight) on the “out” half – but there was an even heavier stream of people coming “back”.  Worse, the “out” section was uphill, so the returning runners seemed to be careening downhill towards us.  These folks were not all well versed in trail running etiquette (or perhaps, general running etiquette), and they were crossing WELL over the imaginary mid-line of the trail.  One runner hurtling irresponsible down ran directly into a woman in front of me, who was knocked backward almost into me.

I don’t love crowded conditions to begin with.  Singapore has immunized me to some degree, but sometimes, when we’re out and about, I’ll still have a moment of panic, and just have to close my eyes, to escape from the crush of people for a moment.  In this race, the shock of being thrown back into such chaos and crowds was too much for me to bear.  ALL I wanted to do was get out, get away, be free, find quiet.  I wanted to run off the side of the trail, curl up, and cry.  I was having trouble catching my breath.  If this is 1/10 of what a panic attack feels like….I have new sympathy for those who suffer panic attacks.

My Mom was the only thing that got me through.  I heard her – in all honesty, more clearly than I heard anyone else (makes sense – I’ve been listening to her voice for over 31 years) on my whole run.  “Holly, BREATHE.  You have to keep running.  Pretend your body isn’t here.  Don’t pay attention to everyone else.  BREATHE.  No, no – deep breaths.  BREATHE.  Keep running.  You can do this.  I have no doubt you can do this.”  [This is the same voice she uses to talk me out of these strange, wheezy, can’t-breathe-in coughing fits I have sometimes.]

She kept that monologue going the whole way up to the turn-around, where I whipped around, skipped the water table completely, and headed back down.  I just wanted to get out of this section.  Heading downhill helped a bit – I no longer felt like everyone was flying directly at me.  I weaved, dodged, and passed as carefully as I could, Mom’s voice in my head the whole time.  I had no one scheduled for Mile 28, so Mom brought me about halfway through, then handed off to the Mile 29 folks a bit early.

Miles 28.5 + 29: Sarah’s Clan (my roommate from college, aka Gummy Bear Mama, and her adorable family).

Park Clan

Sorry, folks – they take the “Cutest Cheerleaders” award, hands down.

I could go on and on about this amazing woman, but let’s start here: She used her “Mom-voice” on me to keep me calm for the rest of the two-way descent.  She said most of the same things that my Mom said.  All that I can say is: Thank goodness for Moms!

*whew* The crowded descent over, I headed into Mile 29 in earnest.  I was back on the McRitchie loop, and I thought about the photo above.  Sarah posted it after I started the race, but KMN showed it to me on his phone at the 31K mark – sneaky!

Sarah and her husband are two people who genuinely live to love.  Sarah herself taught me so much during our college days – including the power of an encouraging note (see above!).  I adore their kiddos, and thoughts of the whole family made me grin like a maniac, and kept me pleasantly distracted, as I ran the plank bridge and through the golf course section of Mile 29.   My two brilliant conclusions during this time?

1. Sarah & her husband are raising up the kind of citizens I want to see in this world.
2. When can I buy a plane ticket to visit?  Those baby cheeks require pinching!!!!

As my Garmin clicked to Mile 29, I realized that I had 3 more people to run “with” (Mile 30, Mile 31, and “Any Bonus Mileage”), but that the route  would likely come in under 31 miles.  So I did some approximate, late-race math (although my brain never got quite as race stupid as it did during the marathon), and divided the rest of the race up.

First half of Mile 30: Doug (another running friend from Rochester).  I’ve been in the position to help Doug out several times when he’s gotten into trouble on the trails – and today, he got to return the favor (thankfully, I didn’t crack any ribs, though).  We smoked through this section – there was one very technical climb (lots of rocks and roots) and descent.  He pointed out any tricky obstacles, and forged the way around the walking 13K folks.  I followed, and before long, he led me out onto the last section of trail (wide and pretty flat) before the finish.

Second half of Mile 30: Dad.  My Dad is not a runner, but he is a mathematician, and so he loves to talk running with me: paces, splits, finishes, etc.  He is interested in running because I run, but he loves the gory details because he’s a math geek.  “If I want to cut X time off my finish, that means running every mile Y seconds faster, except there’s a big hill at Mile Z, so spreading those seconds out over the other miles means….”  You get the idea.

He also never missed a single competition I was in (mostly swimming and Mock Trial!) when I was in high school.  Unfortunately (for him), I didn’t really take to serious running until I’d already moved away.  I know he’d love to be at every Finish Line, if he could – and even briefly discussed buying a ticket to Perth to come watch the marathon.

So I knew – knew – he was waiting at the Finish Line, rooting for me, counting how many 50K female finishers came in before me (not because he cared, but because he knew that I cared!), and just waiting to cheer.  I envisioned popping out of the woods to his cheers, and coming around the corner to the Finish.

This kept me running, running, running.  I tried to encourage anyone nearby who was managing anything close to a run: “Let’s go, come on, steady to the finish”, but lots of them were totally wiped.  One 13K runner came past me, “Passing on your other left!” (my right).  We had a friendly banter, and he kept me laughing.  We ran together briefly, before he dropped back to wait for a friend.

Of course every part of me was tired, but the end was coming.  Less than a mile to go…I could do this!  One major treat was that the Finish Line was about half a mile before my usual long run finishing spot.  So while I generally muscle my way through ¾ of mile of beating sun into the finish – the Finish Line was less than a quarter mile from the end of the trail.

The End: Dad & Logan (who blogs at Mountains and Miles).  Logan ran her first 50K this spring, except hers had a few “bonus miles” at the end.  She volunteered to join me for whatever bonus miles this race offered.  But it was now clear to me that the race was going to come up shy of 31 miles, so I invited Logan to join Dad & I for the last bit into the finish.  She’s a good sport, and was happy to join the party.  She ran with me, while Dad cheered us in.  Honestly, this part of the race was almost effortless –  one advantage to running on your “home turf” is that you know where you are in relation to the Finish Line!

We emerged from the trail and into the sun.  [Huh?  It’s sunny?  When did that happen?]  We summoned a finishing kick, waved to (my) Dad, and plowed right through the Finish Line.

McRitchie Loop and Sime Track Out ‘n Back
Mile 27: 11:39 min/mi
Mile 28: 10:43
Mile 29: 12:15
Mile 30: 10:31
Last 0.16: 8:20 (YEAH FINISH LINE!)

Total Distance: 30.16 miles
Net Time: 5:23:03

There was little pomp and circumstance, as I actually finished among a sea of 13K runners.  I was handed a medal, finally remembered to stop my Garmin, and exited the Finishing chute.

That was it.  Over.  Done.  Finished.

I stood there, slightly dazed, for a few moments, while the chaos of the Finish Line and refreshment tables swirled around me…

And I’ll leave me there for now, feeling slightly dazed and amazed that it’s over.  Come back tomorrow to rescue me, and to hear some post-run reflections and an overall TNF100 race review!

How do you describe the lowest low-point you reach during a race?

I showed you mine, now you show me yours: Tell me about YOUR Running Mom or Running Dad!

TNF100: The North Face 50K (2013): Race Report (Part 1)

I know you’ve all been on the edge of your seats waiting for this.  After Saturday’s race I rested, then spent all of Sunday catching up on things I didn’t do on Friday because I was too excited/nervous to concentrate.  🙂  But I think Race/Run Reports should be moved to Monday, instead of Tuesday (Why did I choose Tuesday?  That was silly of me!).  So: On to the report!

I summarized my thoughts and race strategy/plan in Friday’s Pre Race Thoughts post.  I also unabashedly begged for “company” during the race.  This was a last minute thought on my part, but it truly was brilliant, if I do say so myself.  (So modest, right?)  I would encourage all of you to try it in the future.  I know people sometimes “dedicate” each mile of a long race to someone different – but frankly, this was even better.

I posted my request pretty late, so while quite a lot of miles got claimed, others I just handed out to people when it seemed fitting.   [I also left some of you out.  Apologies.  Race brain?  We’ll have to run together soon!]  This strategy was fantastic: I got to spend a mile “with” dear friends, online friends, my biggest cheerleaders, aspiring runners, and running buddies who taught me the ropes when I first started endurance/trail running.  At each mile, I got to imagine someone else was with me: What we’d discuss, the stories we’d share, and how you’d provide encouragement or a kick in the pants, whichever I needed most.  This certainly helped me “chunk” – and it’s also how I remember the race now.  In other words, I don’t remember the race by how I felt running Mile 18 or Kilometer 35, but I DO remember how I felt running with Hilary or Deb or Kathy.

So let’s get started!

After a 3:45 AM wake-up, I proceeded with the usual breakfast/Body Glide/gather stuff routine.  I snapped a pre-race photo in the light of the dining room:

Let's do this!

Let’s do this!

And I headed out for a 1.5 mile walk to the starting line (this constituted my “warm-up”).  Once I got to McRitchie, very clear signage directed me to the Starting Line.  The Start was located close to one set of restrooms, so I availed myself (No line!  There was toilet paper!), then set out to top up the water I drank on my way to the park.  I was displeased to be unable to find a water table, but it is possible that I just missed it.   The TNF crew did a great job of lighting and signing the area, but with darkness and crowds, I could easily have missed water that was available.  Thankfully, my hydration pack was still full (it was just my very small hand-held that was empty), so I wasn’t too fussed.

In order to enter the starting corral, I had to “Register” – ie, have my pack weighed to ensure I was carrying the required amount of water (1.5L for 50K).  The Registration area was easy to find, and there was no line at all!  When I approached, I asked the volunteer if I should take the bladder out.  She looked at me with total confusion and gestured to the scale.  I tossed the whole pack on, and this happened:

Her: “You’re carrying 3 liters?”
Me: “Umm…no…just over 1.5 liters.”
Her: *looks at scale in confusion*
Me: “Is it OK?”
Her: *nods*
Me: *grabs pack, enters corral*

Of course my pack weighed 3 kilos!  Although only 1.75 of those were water, the pack was also stuffed with my nutrition, salt tabs, map, phone, sunglasses, towel….  Anyway, I passed inspection and was standing in the corral about 15 minutes before the gun.

The 100K runners started at 10 PM the night before, and their route was 2 almost identical loops of the 50K course.  Thus, their route took them directly back through the Starting Line, so while we were standing in the corral, we got to cheer for some of them as they finished their first lap.  I felt a bit bad, because I (and they) knew that this better-rested, fresh-legged pack of eager 50Kers was going to be trampling past them in just 20 minutes or so.

As the start time neared, I worked my way forward in the corral, knowing I didn’t want to fight through lots of slower runners in the first  few kilometers.  Finally, I was about 10-15 rows (approximately) back, and I was content with that – after all, 50K is a long way for places to get sorted out!  With 3 minutes until the start, the fellow next to me asked, “Did you just feel a raindrop?”  I laughed.  I thought he was imagining things.  Until I felt one.  And another.  And another.  And a few more, and as the horn sounded for the start, a light rain was falling.

Mile 1: Erica (my “sort-of cousin”, who blogs at (not) just another erica jones).  Well, when she agreed to take Mile 1, and offered up:

“I am also imagining a sleepy monkey audience cheering you on with little ‘TNF50’ (because monkeys are smart and they will know what distance you are running) flags and soy lattes (because it’s early and they’re posh monkeys).”

How could I not want her keeping me company?  Erica, all I can say is that I hope you wore black socks and a cap with a visor, because the light rain quickly became a heavy downpour.  We ran the concrete path for about half a mile, and hit the trail just as the thunder and lightening started.

When someone will stop in Raffles Place to smell the over-sized tulips with you, there's no doubt she'll make a great Mile 1 partner!

From Erica’s visit back in May. When someone will stop in Raffles Place to smell the over-sized tulips with you, there’s no doubt she’ll make a great Mile 1 partner!

I know this section of trail well, and although it has some decent hills, the footing is pretty solid.  But the trail was dark and the rain was pouring, so we could hardly see anything anyway.  Still, once our feet got soaked, there was no point in avoiding the puddles, so we splashed right through.  And although I think that the posh monkeys opted to sleep in and avoid the downpour, Erica’s company was all I really needed for that first mile!

The race information booklet had warned us: “In the event of lightning, participants are advised to wait at the nearest shelter until the weather clears before proceeding on with the race.”  Despite some cracks of thunder and flashes of lightning, none of my fellow runners showed any sign of seeking shelter in the trail-side huts.  So although I’m a rule-follower to the nth degree, I opted to keep running.  After all, I’d been out on these trail in similar conditions before.  I just hoped no branches would come crashing down on my head!  Besides, I adore running in the (warm) rain.  There were a few other runners around (our combined headlamps helped brighten things a bit), and I was loving on the adventure and the trail.  The second mile passed quickly.

The last time I convinced her to run a trail race, way back in 2009.

The last time I convinced her to run a trail race, way back in 2009.

Mile 3: Sarah (my sister).  Big sisters are bullies, and I never gave her a choice in the matter.  Sarah is the one who first got me running outdoors, although these days, she’s more likely to hop on the treadmill instead.  She regularly knocks out 3-5 miles at a pretty sweet pace, so I nominated her for Mile 3.  During our mile, she asked me why I do such ridiculous things, like move to Singapore and run trail races in the pouring rain/middle of the night.  But she has a sense of adventure (rock climbing is her “serious” sport these days), and gamely splashed through puddles, which were more like lakes.  She didn’t even flinch when someone ahead of me quipped, “Good thing we don’t have leeches in Singapore!”.  Dang right, dude.  Sarah brought me past the Ranger Station and on to the Rifle Range Link, where we parted.

This section has some short, but technical, descents/ascents – made extra exciting by the slippery, clay-like mud that appears when it rains.  At this point, the rain had let up a bit, but the fog was out in full force.  I was wishing for the “fog lamp” setting on my headlamp.  I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me or hear anyone behind me – running this section in a race with hundreds of people, but feeling so totally alone, was rather surreal – but peaceful.  I actually loved this solo mile.

Splits for McRitchie Section
Mile 1: 9:35 min/mi
Mile 2: 10:44
Mile 3: 10:42
Mile 4: 11:32

Miles 5, 6, 7: Hilary.  I met Hilary through a mutual running friend.  She lived, worked, and ran in Singapore for over 10 years, and recently relocated (again) for work just a few months ago.  But this section of trail was a favorite of hers, and she wanted the chance to run it again.

Within the first half a mile, we came up to Rifle Range Road and the first Aid Station, where we stopped only briefly for a cup (or three) of water.  I was trying to remember to hydrate, despite the rainy conditions – since I knew I was still sweating!  Kudos to the volunteers, who had a small tent that was doing little to keep them dry, as they poured cups of water and refilled bottles and packs.

At this junction, there are metal barriers here between the wide trail head and the road, and one short section that is only blocked only by a heavy chain suspended between two poles.  This is where we crossed.  Stepping over the chain should have been a simple prospect for someone who is 5’9″ tall, but the gentleman running in front of me bumped it and set it swinging.  I misjudged the swing, and when I went to hop over, my ankle got caught, and I face-planted in the mud.  Thankfully, Hilary didn’t laugh (too hard), and the rain-softened ground made for a relatively gentle landing.  My shin smarting, we headed out onto the road for about a mile, before turning back onto the trails.  I was hoping that sunrise wouldn’t reveal a stream of blood down my leg, and thankfully, it didn’t.  [Although two days later, I am sporting a lovely bruise and some small scrapes.]

We ran this section easily – it’s a bit technical in places, but Hilary led and I just watched her feet!  We ran in companionable silence, with a steady effort.  The sky started to get light, the rain stopped, and the miles passed quickly – we even overtook a number of other 50K runners along this section.  I definitely appreciated how courteous and polite the 50K runners were – moving over to let us pass, even if it meant slowing or stopping briefly.  This is a distinct advantage to running a longer trail race with more experienced participants: Folks know the rules and courtesies of the trail!

We popped out at Bukit Timah, and I bid Hilary farewell as I headed up to the Green Corridor.  [I think she wanted to climb Bukit Timah, just for fun.  Her new city is very, very flat.]

Splits for Rifle Range to Bukit Timah
Mile 5: 11:09 min/mi (Aid Station)
Mile 6: 11:07
Mile 7: 10:49

Mile 8: Amy (who blogs over at Run Write Hike).  Mile 8 is Amy’s “Mile of Truth”: The point at which she starts to wonder whether or not she can actually do this – so she offered to help me through my Mile 8.  Incidentally, my Mile of Truth occurred much, much later – but as we scrambled up the steep incline onto the Green Corridor, I was happy for some company.  This section used to contain railroad tracks that linked the port at the south end of Singapore with Malaysia to the north.  Most of the tracks are now removed, but a broad, flat “green corridor” remains.  This is quite flat and very runnable, but can be a bit boring.

Amy lives in Boulder, and expressed some jealousy over Singapore’s relatively mild elevation profile – so this was the perfect section for us to run together.  We talked about being PhDs eschewing academia, the ups & downs of investigating alternative careers, and the amusements of being white girls in Asia (she worked in China for a few years).  She also reminded me to take my first packet of Sports Beans.  For some reason, I had no desire to eat anything for the entire race.  I wasn’t nauseous, I simply didn’t want to eat.  But fueling early and often is important for long-distance events, so I listened.  Amy stuck with me a bit past Mile 8, when a (real person) struck up conversation.

Mile 9: Sherri.  After 8 miles of great company that was all in my head, I was surprised to hear someone come up behind me and say, “Gosh, isn’t this a beautiful day for a run?”  I adore Singapore, and love Singaporeans – but there’s something about hearing an American accent that just turns my head – and this woman had one.

One bonus of ultra running is that it’s not always an aerobically-taxing event, so we were able to chat a bit.  Turns out, she’s a veteran of ultras, but recently moved to Singapore with her family – this was her first race here.  And she was right: The early storms and subsequent overcast skies helped keep the day cool.  The Green Corridor can be quite exposed, but the cloud-cover helped keep the temperature down.

Sherri and I were just running along and chatting when suddenly, my right foot sunk in sticky orange clay-mud.  In general, the Green Corridor section had little standing water, few slippery patches, and overall quite comfortable footing.  But a small slick of mud was disguising a big ‘ole mud pit, and before I knew it, I was up to my right knee in mud.  Thankfully, my left foot landed forward, on solid ground, and I was able to pull myself free.  Unfortunately, my “Watch out!” warning to Sherri came seconds too late, and she was sunk up to BOTH her knees in a second mud pit, just a meter or two ahead of me.

I grabbed her arm and tried to help her out, while she tried to keep her shoes on her feet.  [I said a silent prayer of thanks for my tight Salomon tension laces!]  She pulled one un-shod foot out, and went in after her shoe with her hand arm.  I have no idea how she did it, but she came up with her sneaker.  I grabbed it from her and tossed it aside, while she leveraged her other leg (shoe still attached, thankfully) out of the mud pit.  When both of her feet were on solid ground, and she had her shoe in hand (in the process of transferring to foot), I left her to deal with the mud situation and continued forward.

In less than a mile, I reached the turn around, and headed back the way I came.  I passed the mud pits, yelling at the oncoming runners NOT to step in them.  The rain began again, and I tried to clean my hands up a bit.  I wanted to refill my hydration pack at the upcoming aid station, but didn’t want to smear my equipment with the sticky mud.  But the rain wasn’t heavy enough to do the trick, and finally I settled on using my small squirt bottle to rinse off.

When I stopped to refill, I realized it hadn’t been necessary – I had plenty of water.  But since my pack was off and bladder opened, I topped up, closed up, and headed off – but not before I felt a moment of pity/embarrassment for a fellow racer, who was yelling in frustration that he needed a SHOVEL, or someone to lend him size 7.5 sneakers.  He apparently wasn’t as lucky in the mud as Sherri was.

"The Three Hollys"  My lunchtime running buddy - and the Holly who kept me company - is the one on the right.

“The Three Hollys” My lunchtime running buddy – and the Holly who kept me company – is the one on the right.

Mile 12: The Other Holly.  One of my friends from Rochester (of Team Holly Cow fame) is a regular speedster, also named Holly, and no lover of the trails.  I christened Mile 12 her mile, since this section was as close to road as a trail race was going to get.  Honestly, Holly, I don’t even remember what you said, but I listened, because the Green Corridor was getting boring.  Thanks for the company and distraction!

Splits for Green Corridor
Mile 8: 9:22 min/mi
Mile 9: 9:55 (mud pit)
Mile 10: 9:04
Mile 11: 9:59 (Aid Station)
Mile 12: 9:10
Mile 13: 9:28

Somewhere after Mile 13, Sherri and I ended up running together again, and when she told me, “Well, I’ve been having trouble finding women who like to go running in the jungle,” my heart skipped a beat.  She was clearly an experienced and strong trail runner, seemed quite friendly, and dang wouldn’t I enjoy a long distance trail running partner on occasion!  I pulled away from her on a steady climb leading into the trails by the Dairy Farm – but that wasn’t the last I saw of her during the race.  Remember Sherri.  She’ll be back.

Official race photo, courtesy of Running Shots.  Their dedicated photographers were braving the rain and risking their equipment to capture our day.  Thank you!

Official race photo, courtesy of Running Shots. Their dedicated photographers were braving the rain and risking their equipment to capture our day. Thank you!

Mile 15: Nicole (who blogs at Work In Sweats Mama).  She requested Mile 15, in honor of the 15 mile long run she had scheduled for the weekend.  Since the middle miles were pretty unclaimed, I was thrilled for her company.  She regaled me with stories of her kiddos, and we laughed over the blessing/curse of working from home as we wound our way around the twisty, rolling terrain of the Dairy Farm.  Before I knew it, we were at the Mile 15 aid station.  I had a few cups of water, and an accidental cup of 100Plus – which I spit out in surprise, and exclaimed to the volunteers, “This isn’t water!”  They looked at me like I was nuts.  Thank you, Captain Obvious.  But next time, different cups for water and electrolyte beverage (especially clear electrolyte beverage) would be awesome.  Thanks!

Splits for Dairy Farm
Mile 14: 9:51 min/mi
Mile 15: 11:24 (Aid Station)

Mile 16: Jeano (who blogs at Jogging Jeano).  She didn’t volunteer for it, but as a Hanson Plan convert, her longest marathon training runs were 16 miles.  Hence, whenever I hit Mile 16 in a training run, I think about her marathon training plan with a bit of envy: “If I were Jeano, I’d be DONE right now.” Anyway, she kept me chuckling with her good-natured snark as we made our way along the Zhenghua Park Connector.  We ran quite a bit of downhill, and I was thankful I wouldn’t be running this section uphill again (no, no – instead I would be running an entirely different section uphill around mile 24).  We ran under a flyover (overpass) that had a whole garden planted underneath – some snoozing volunteers were taking advantage of the benches and shelter for a quick nap.  [Many of them had been working long overnight shifts to support the 100K runners.]

But there was no napping for us.  We kept running. My legs were starting to feel a little tired, and I succumbed to a walk on one pretty long, steep-ish incline, until Jeano busted me about slacking.  We kept running.  Or, at least, I kept running – she zipped off at about 16.5 miles.

Honestly, I zoned out for the next few miles.  I had no one scheduled to run “with” me, I was starting to feel tired, and I was focused on reaching the Aid Station – and KMN, who was planning to be there – at 31K (19 miles).  The terrain was gently rolling, which actually works well for me.  There was only one confusing intersection, and the rest were well-marked with clear signage and helpful volunteers.  Even the places where some of the race distances (13/25/50/100K) split from each other were clearly marked, and volunteers were helping direct runners along the correct route.

I just ran, and tried not to think too hard.  Because this was a lengthy out-and-back section, I actually got to see the leaders on the “back” portion, while I was working my way “out”.  That was pretty fun, and I counted myself as approximately the 5-6 woman.  I was definitely starting to fatigue, but just kept pushing.  I knew that the Aid Station was the furthest out point we hit, and from there, I would be heading back toward the Finish Line.  Even though “back” was still 20K away, I know from experience that “heading home” provides a psychological boost for me.  I also knew I had a lot of “company” lined up for the last 10+ miles, and that was going to help me make it through.

Finally, I burst out of the trees and to the Aid Station.  I crossed the timing mat, found KMN among the approximately six spectators, and demanded, “Help me with my pack.”  Due to some technical issues, the bladder in my hydration pack requires some binder clips to keep it closed.  This works just fine, but makes it slightly pesky to open and refill.  But KMN knows the drill, and he helped me.  He also snapped a reasonably good photo…

*Insert suspenseful music*

…but you’ll have to return for Part 2 to see it.  😉

Splits for Zhenghua Park Connector/Trail to Mandai
Mile 16: 10:02 min/mi
Mile 17: 10:56
Mile 18: 9:53
Mile 19: 11:40 (Aid Station)

[Edited: Part 2 is now available at TNF100: The North face 50K (2013): Race Report (Part2)]

What’s the earliest race start you’ve had?  How do you feel about racing in the dark?  Trail racing in the dark? 🙂

I don’t want to hear grumbling about race photos.  Describe a race photo of yours that you love!  [I’m talking about something that shows grit, determination, and spirit, people!]