Category Archives: Places I Run

Join Me On This Run: Sussex County, NJ

It’s no secret that I love to run.

I love running in Rochester…my running family is there, and the city has some incredible parks to explore.
I love running in Los Angeles…the sun is always shining, and there’s an odd beauty to the dusty, dry mountains out there.
I love running in Singapore…gear requirements are minimal and the same all year, the rain is NEVER cold, and I know that running in the humidity makes me stronger.

But my favorite place to run is…New Jersey.  Sussex County, to be specific.  This is where I grew up, and where my parents still live.  Any season, any time – it’s impossible for me to run here without a smile on my face.  While I’d love for you all to come visit me, so I could take you on a running (or walking!) tour, I know that’s impossible.  So instead, I’m bringing the run to you!

[Note: I got my first Smartphone after moving to Singapore.  A year later, and I finally realize: DANG those things are pesky in the cold weather!  I had to pull my gloves off every time I wanted to take a picture!]

I figured that 6-8 miles would be a good distance.  So we headed down the driveway:

Ready to rock & roll.  See that enormous pine tree behind me?  Trees just aren't that big in Singapore.

See that enormous pine tree behind me? Trees just aren’t that big in Singapore.

I decided to take a picture at every mile.  In retrospect, I should have run this route backwards, to save the best photo for last, rather than for Mile 1:

Culver Lake.  I think there's a #lakelove Twitter hashtag floating around somewhere for pics like this....

Culver Lake. I think there’s a #lakelove Twitter hashtag floating around somewhere for pics like this….

This photo was taken just after 1 PM.  There were some dark clouds around, but the afternoon didn’t feel quite as dark as this photo looks.  Mile 2 shows the lighting a bit more accurately:

A bit brighter.  And look - telephone poles!!!!  [All cables are run underground in Singapore.  It's easy to get used to NOT seeing this cluttering the roadside.]

A bit brighter. And look – telephone poles!!!! [All cables are run underground in Singapore. It’s easy to get used to NOT seeing this cluttering the roadside.]

I was running next to the highway at Mile 3, so I didn’t stop for a picture.  But here’s a picture from Miles 4 & 5 (a one mile out-and-back):

Not quite the angle I wanted...but I didn't feel comfortable asking someone if I could climb on their roof for a better shot. :)

Not quite the angle I wanted…but I didn’t feel comfortable asking someone if I could climb on their roof for a better shot. 🙂

Look what coincided with Mile 6!

Nature is powerful...

Nature is powerful…

At Mile 7, I was surrounded by naked trees on both sides, so I snapped a picture of the road I was running along, to show you how empty it is.  This wasn’t a coincidental shot – except for the short highway stretch, this is what all the roads I ran along looked like:

Rolling rural roadway....

Rolling rural roadway….

Up some hills, and half a mile later, we were done.  Good thing, too – because the cold weather and a lack of stretching (bad Coach Holly!) tightened up my IT band.  Gotta take care of that right away!!

Thanks for joining me!

Thanks for joining me!

Thanks for joining me!

Thanks for joining me!

Anyone else enjoy a nostalgic and awesome run thanks to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday?

How are you returning to your workout routine, on this (for some, post-holiday) Monday?

Do you enjoy this kind of “Join Me On This Run” posts, or think they are boring?

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: 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!]

28 Miles Is A Really Long Way (TNF 50K Training Run)

I’m running The North Face Ultra 50K this weekend – Oct. 5.  (!!!!!) So let’s take a post to talk about long ultra-specific training runs.   I integrated two of them around my Perth Marathon training: one before and one after.  I planned to write about the first one (a 27-miler in early August), but we left for vacation in London, and I got distracted.  So instead, I’ll tell you about the more recent 28-miler (from Sept. 19), and I’ll work in a few nuggets of wisdom/reflections from August’s run.  See how this new schedule is already helping me stay on track?  After all, Tuesday is Race/Run Recap Day!

Until my 27-miler, I had never done a training run longer than 22 miles, and never run further than ~26.4 miles (what I estimate a marathon actually works out to be for most of us), period.  For that first run, I planned for about 25 miles on trails, and I was feeling anxious about the endeavor – so I simply decided not to think about it (except for appropriate fueling and packing) until it was done.  And while the run was sweaty, tiring, and mentally taxing (and ended up being 27 miles) – I completed it.

Afterward, I took those 27 miles and kind of held them in my hand, staring at them with amazement and a little bit of confusion, “Am I crazy?  Did I just run 27 miles through McRitchie Reservoir?  On a regular old Friday morning?  Did I seriously just do that?!?!”  

Of course, the answer was YES – Yes, I ran 27 miles.  Yes, I did it by myself.  Yes, I ran a marathon distance between my first and second breakfasts.  Yes, I still got dressed, did my work, and even went out for dinner and a show with my family that evening.  Yes, I hope my face didn’t have a smug “I ran 27 miles this morning, what did you do?” kind of look on it the whole time.

But fast forward to September, when I set out for my second super-long training run (aiming for 26-28 miles).  This time, I was less anxious: I’d done this before.  I knew it would take awhile, and be really sweaty and not always easy, but I could do it.  My legs felt recovered from the marathon, I had done a 22-mile run the previous week, and I was feeling strong.  During my August run, I had also made the subtle but important decision to change how I viewed long, ultra-training trail runs.  They actually weren’t “runs” at all – rather, they were “adventures”.  My goals for these long trail adventures:

1. Don’t fall.
2. Don’t worry about pace.
3. Walk the hills.
4. Practice good hydration and fueling.
5. Stay out for 4-6 hours.

It was that last point, the 4-6 hours, that was prompting such long training runs.  Yes, 26-28 miles is probably a bit long for a training run for a 50K (31 miles).  Slightly shorter back-to-back runs would accomplish similar levels of fatigue, and would likely be easier on my legs.  I’m not suggesting that anyone else follow my approach.  But for me, personally, I wanted the confidence of having practiced hydrating and salting for a 5+ hour adventure.  The heat out here is no joke, and on race day, I need to be confident that I can plan, manage, and adjust my fluid and electrolyte intake, depending on the conditions and how I feel – not just for the first 2-3 hours, but for the entire 5+ hours of the race.  And since my legs seemed to recover quite quickly from these efforts, they made sense for me.

So I stepped outside waaaay early on Sept. 19.  KMN was with me, headed out for his own tempo workout.  We kicked off our anniversary by running in opposite directions.  [Thankfully, our marriage is stronger than the symbolism here.]  I wasn’t in the mood to do 4 loops of McRitchie (which is what I did in August), so instead I planned to incorporate part of a route I ran back in February with the Trail Running Singapore group.

[Note: There are trails in Singapore, but most are within a few kilometers of a major road that is serviced by a bus route.  Thus, I can go out for a long run, make up the route as I go, and hop a bus home when I hit my target distance.  The most important thing to plan are water stops (fountains, kopis, or convenience stores).  The logistics of long-run planning are actually super easy out here.  Also, I get cell service just about everywhere, even out on most of the trails.]

Although I didn’t want to run four loops of McRitchie, I still kicked off the morning with one.  There is one main loop, but including my run to the park and a few side detours, I extended up to about 9 miles.

I also blaze a trail around downed trees, and take out every cobweb industrious spiders built across the trail overnight.

I also blazed a trail around downed trees, and took out every cobweb industrious spiders built across the trail overnight.

Then, I turned around a re-ran half the loop again – with a quick stop at this lovely thing:

Right hand fountain at the Ranger Station: My favorite water fountain in Singapore.  It's refrigerated!!!  I always stop to refill here...

The right hand side water fountain at the Ranger Station is my favorite water fountain in Singapore. It’s refrigerated!!!!! I always stop to top up my water here, whether I need to or not!

I decided to add some distance with a quick spin through the Treetop Walk (a 250 meter long suspension bridge, rising 20-25 meters above the forest floor) and its associated trails.  But I had forgotten how many stairs there were on the way out, and ended up doing more walking than running.  The breeze up on the walk was fabulous, though (and probably the real reason I wanted to go!).

Treetop Walk with McRitchie Reservoir in the background.

Treetop Walk with McRitchie Reservoir in the background.

It’s too boring to note every bit of food and beverage that passes my lips during this kind of run, but on average I take 1 electrolyte-only source (usually a salt tab, occasionally Nuun) and one sugar+electrolyte source (Sports Beans or Sports drink) every hour.  I also drink my pack dry (1.5 liters) every 90 minutes, and I chug water at any fountains I pass.  In addition to my hydration pack, I carry a small 8 oz bottle (stolen from my no-longer-used Fuel Belt).  I use this little bottle to mix up concentrated Nuun and to help refill my pack at poorly configured water fountains.

After my high-flying foray to the Treetop Walk, Garmie reported I was just under 14 miles. At that point, another trail branched off the main loop.  I was 4 miles from home, so decided to run 4-5 miles OUT on the “branch off” trail, then run back, then run home – which would put me in the ~26-28 mile range.  So I veered off onto the Rifle Range Link, then to Rifle Range Road.  I’ll admit – a mile of road was a nice break from the trail!

I turned back onto the trails and retraced the route we ran much earlier this year out to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.  Bukit, pronounced like “book-it”, is the Malay word for “hill” – so anywhere there’s a hill in Singapore, the neighborhood/area is called “Bukit _____”: Bukit Brown, Bukit Batok, Bukit Timah, etc.

Bukit Timah is actually the highest point in Singapore (163 meters, don’t laugh), and there is a wide, paved path to the top, along with some short hiking trails.  The spot is quite busy on the weekends, but this was mid-morning on a weekday, so things were pretty quiet.  Standing at the Visitor’s Center at the bottom, with 17+ miles on my Garmin, I made a slightly crazy decision: I was going to hike/run to the top.  I had never made the summit, and although I didn’t think the Ultra would be crazy enough to send us up Bukit Timah, I wanted to check out the terrain, just in case.  Plus, I’d never done it before, and this was an adventure, after all.  The longest trail to the top is just over 1 mile long, hiking from ~80-100 meters above sea level up to 160 meters (the long trail had some extra ups and downs in it, though, just for fun!).

So, I set off.  The footing was a no-brainer (paved), but the first part was quite steep.  I took a photo, but it looks flat, so I’m not showing you.  🙂  I fast-hiked the steep parts, then slow-ran the less steep parts.  The trail I chose turned off-road briefly, to descend, then ascend, about 40-50 meters of trail stairs.  I actually appreciated the variety, and in about 20 minutes, I was at the top.  There’s actually not much of a view, but there is a rock!

Yeah, yeah - the active lifestyle blogosphere is full of folks who summit 14ers like its their job.  But in Singapore, we've got to make do with what we have!  163.3 meters will have to do!

Yeah, yeah – the active lifestyle blogosphere is full of folks who summit 14ers like it’s their job. But in Singapore, we’ve got to make do with what we have. 163.6 meters it is!

I also spotted a monitor lizard hiding in some leaves.  Sometimes, these buggers pop out on the trails. They’re harmless, and run away quickly, but are pretty sizable and can give you quite a surprise.  Just ask my friend Deb, who encountered one on a solo run when she was visiting a few weeks ago. 😉

Look closely, he (or she) is there.  Hint: Look for the tail.

Look closely, he (or she) is there. Hint: Look for the tail.

Having “conquered” Bukit Timah (OK, I’ll admit, even I’m laughing at the measley elevation Singapore offers), I headed back down to the Visitors Center, refilled my pack, and set off for home…but home was still a good 8 miles away.  Usually, once I make the turn to “head home”, I start to feel like the end is in sight.  But on this day, the end still felt really far away, even as my watch clicked to 20 miles, 21 miles…

How I was feeling at this point.

How I was feeling with about 6 miles left.

Physically, I was doing OK – legs were tired, but the varied terrain of Bukit Timah seemed to perk them up a bit.  My nutrition and hydration status was good, and although I was feeling tired, I had no specific complaints.  But my brain was pretty much fried.  I just wanted to be DONE.

I tried out some favorite mental tricks: Bribery?  Not buying it.  Envision the finish?  Depressingly far away.  Why am I doing this?  This is RIDICULOUS!  I broke out my iPod, with a brand new audiobook loaded on, just for this very circumstance.  But somehow, I’d accidentally loaded a book that I’d already listened to, and suddenly, the narrator’s voice grated on every nerve I could muster.  Finally, I hit on it: the tried and true method of chunking.  I chunked my way back out to Rifle Range Road, and back onto the trail in McRitchie.

At this point, my chunks turned to miles: Run 1 mile, walk 0.1 miles, repeat.  These were slow, sloggy, hot, somewhat sad miles.  When a gentleman running in the other direction passed me (I was at about mile 25) and said, “Geez, it’s hot out today!” as he zipped by, I sort of wanted to punch him.  Dude, you have NO idea.  Or maybe he did.  What do I know?

Three run/walk repeats later, and I was back to the road, just one mile from home. Normally just want to run to be done, but still…the urge to walk was very strong.  As I fought it with each step, I tried to channel the experience: “I’m going to feel this way during the Ultra.  I’m going to want to walk.  I’m going to want to stop.  I might want to cry.  But I will keep moving forward.”  As I am often telling my clients: “Your training is for your body, AND for your head!”  Well, this run certainly worked out my head muscles…

Finally…5 hours, 20-something minutes later…I was home.  My husband (already at work) had programmed the air conditioner in the study to turn on a bit before my anticipated arrival.  He chilled some water for me, and left me a note reminding me to hydrate (watermelon & Aquarius sports drink in the fridge!).  After a few minutes in the air con, some cold beverages, and a little stretching…I felt surprisingly GOOD.

The greatest casualty of the run was a callous on my right big toe, which got a blister underneath and ultimately had to be cut off (the callous, not the toe).  This is normal for me, so no biggie.  [Also, we’ll be talking about feet and blisters a lot in some upcoming Coach’s Corner posts, so stay tuned.]  There wasn’t even too much chafe-induced post-run squealing in the shower.  And I was awake enough to bang out some work, write a blog post that some people actually found funny, and enjoy anniversary dinner with my husband (don’t hate on the recycled photo):

Hey, you two clean up pretty good!  ;-)

Hey, you two clean up pretty good! 😉

Overall, I’d call the run a major success.  I accomplished all my goals.  I pushed through some tough spots.  Part of me wishes I hadn’t experienced such mental disintegration at the end of the run (motivation wise – all my faculties were still perfectly intact), but part of me is glad for it.  Brains need training too, and there’s no way that this run made me less prepared for the North Face race.  So…come on, Saturday – bring it on!!!

[Even though a race preview doesn’t fit into the New Blogging Schedule, I’ll be posting one, so keep your eye out for one in the next day or two.]

I know a few of you have favorite Port-o-Potties – but does anyone else have a favorite water fountain?

As a runner, what limits YOU more: Your brain, or your body?

Recipe for a Most Excellent Saturday

*Note: This is one possibility.  There are lots of variations that will be equally delicious and (ful)filling.  This just happened to be mine, yesterday:

Sleep in until 6:30 AM.

Get dressed, eat a granola bar, and quickly gather:
1 sweat-wiping towel
1 handheld water bottle
1 MRT card
A few dollars
Phone

Sleep until 6:30, then get up, eat, and grab your gear.

Remember, it’s “only” 10 miles. No need to fuss too much!

Add, in order:
Subway ride to Kembangan MRT
Exploration of the second half of the Siglap Park Connector

I ran the first half of it during a 22 mile run a few weeks ago, and was itching to finish the job.  I can now confidently run from East Coast Park to Bedok Reservoir.  If you want to try it sometime, let me know! 🙂

For Jeano.  I crossed this road to get to the canal to get to East Coast Park.

For Jeano. The Park Connector crosses this road at the Kembangan MRT station.

In East Coast Park, mix together:
1 Sprint Triathlon
1 Easy-paced 10 Mile Run

The first part of my run was only about 2 miles long.  That brought me to the start of the triathlon, which I was planning to cheer at/watch.  After a short delay, the first waves of swimmers began:

Mixing running and spectating means sub-par photos with my phone.

Mixing running and spectating means sub-par photos with my phone.

The sprint-distance swim was 750 meters, so before long the first athletes emerged from the water.  I cheered at the swim exit for about 20-30 minutes, then decided it was time to get the rest of my run going.

I've lived on this tiny island for almost a year now.  It's about time I got a beach photo!

I’ve lived on this tiny island for almost a year now. It’s about time I got a beach photo!

My plan was to spend the next 8 miles running around the course.  First, I set out along the bike course, which was a 6.66 kilometer loop.  The sprint-distance athletes rode three loops.  The course was on roads through the park, and I could easily run alongside most of the course, either on the walking path or the grass.  I ran facing the oncoming cyclists for about 2 miles, then refilled my bottle and ran back on the other side of the loop, again facing the cyclists.  I definitely enjoyed watching some of the cyclists chuckle as they realized that the crazy girl they saw on one side of the loop was now on the other side of the loop.

By the time I got back to the transition area, many of the athletes entered the one-loop, 5K run course.  I again set out running “against” traffic.  I kept my eyes peeled for GCA, and found her with about 2 kilometers left.  In my haste to cross over to her side of the course, and much to the amusement of the oncoming runners, I tripped over a gigantic bit of shrubbery.  Thankfully, it’s her name that is Grace, not mine.

And, I survived, yelled like crazy, then made her chase me for a little while. 🙂  She good-naturedly did not curse me out, even when I said fantastically helpful things like, “Relax your shoulders!  Keep breathing!  I know your quads are cramping – don’t think about them!  Think about using your hamstrings instead!”  If I were her, I probably would’ve punched me.

As she turned toward the finishing chute, I headed back out and run-cheered all the way to the turn-around point, where I finally left the park and ran my final half mile to the bus stop.

Guys, these were the most fun 10 miles I’ve run in a long time.  The course was perfect for run-spectating, and my miles flew by as cheering (and tripping over hedges) kept me distracted.  The energy and air required for cheering kept my pace slow and relaxed.  Plus, after a few weeks of super-long runs, 10 miles felt incredibly short.  I hopped on the bus and headed home.

Toss in post-run:
Watermelon
Granola with super-cold milk

Add an hour or two of relaxation, and a little bit of prep time for my gym-specific RPM Instructor Evaluation.

Apply a generous amount of:
I PASSED!

Now all that stands between me and my very own class is some team teaching and a final evaluation of my teaching a full class.  I’m totally pumped, and can’t wait to get started!

Gently stir in:
1 beautiful, fresh Seared Tuna Salad
1 ice cream sundae

I was craving some cold, delicious, fresh greens. Om-nom-nom!

I was craving some cold, delicious, fresh greens. Om-nom-nom!

Top with:
1 episode of The Good Wife
Comfy Bed
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz……

And that, my friends, was a Most Excellent Saturday.

What has been the highlight of your weekend so far?

What are your Top 3 Favorite salad toppings?
[Frozen peas, feta cheese, seared tuna – NOT necessarily on the same salad.]

Weekly Workout Round-Up (Aug. 26 – Sept. 8): Marathon Recovery

Yesterday, I posted my Workout Round-Up for pre-marathon week.  Now it’s time to take a look at the post-Perth workouts!  In case you have forgotten (or are new – HI!), I actually spent my summer dual-training: for a marathon in Perth at the end of August, and for a 50K trail run in Singapore in early October.  With the 50K in mind, I ran a solid race in Perth, but didn’t kill myself.  I only had about 2 weeks of recovery before hitting a few more long workouts, in Singaporean heat, on Singaporean trails, in preparation for the 50K.

[Perth race reports are here: Perth Part 1 and Perth Part 2.]

So here are my two recovery weeks.  The goal of Week #1 was: Do whatever the heck you want, and nothing more.  This is a physical break – but more importantly (for me) a psychological break.  After adhering to a training plan for so many weeks, this break week was important for me, for my mental recovery/rest – especially since I planned to jump right back into a few intense weeks of training.

Monday (Aug. 26): Walk all over Perth with Grace, groaning slightly, avoiding stairs, and enjoying a long afternoon rest over gloriously rich hot chocolate at Chocolateria San Churro.  Red eye back to Singapore.

Tuesday: Not one blessed thing.  Not even a stretch.  (Don’t tell my coach.)

Actually, my legs were already significantly less sore.  What was nagging me the most?  My back, of all things.  I must have been a bit more tense than usual during the marathon, because the muscles of my upper/middle back felt tied in knots.

Wednesday: Yin Yoga

Basically, Joyce turned out the lights and I dozed off.  Well, I guess I approximated enough of the postures that she didn’t come over to check if I was still alive.  So, that’s a start.  My back felt better afterward, as well.  Two points for yin.

Thursday: Yoga

Post-Spin Stretch.

Post-Spin Stretch.

Sherlin works us a bit harder than Yin, but the hamstring/quad/hip flexor stretching was just what I needed, if not exactly what I wanted.

Friday: Spin

I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel about spinning, but they were actually really, really OK with it.  And my still-tight back was quite happy to stretch and fold forward to the handlebars.  Excellent!  I made a mental note that, if running turned out to be draggy  next week, spin would remain a good option.

Saturday & Sunday: Stretching and rolling and resting.

After switching places in and out of town during most of August, KMN and I were finally both home – and expecting guests on Tuesday.  We took the opportunity to catch up on chores, finish up a DIY project around the apartment, and prepare for visitors!

I also spent the week eating pretty much what I felt like eating.  For example, on Saturday night, I really wanted popcorn.  We were out of kernels for our popcorn maker. KMN went to the store to buy some, couldn't find any, and came home with this instead.  A reasonable substitute.  And a POP UP BOWL?  I'm not sure if this is pathetic, or cute.  ?

I also spent the week eating pretty much what I felt like eating. For example, on Saturday night, I really wanted popcorn. We were out of kernels for our popcorn maker. KMN went to the store to buy some, couldn’t find any, and came home with this instead. A reasonable substitute. And a POP UP BOWL? I’m not sure if this is pathetic, or cute. ?

KMN went for a long run on Sunday.  For the first hour he was gone, I was thrilled that I could catch up on work and tidy up around the house, rather than haul myself out for a weekend long run.  For the second hour he was gone, I was jealous that he was getting all the endorphins and I was getting none.  The timing was perfect: Clearly, I was ready to get back in my running sneakers!

Now twinning with my husband. But he was going running; I was merely going floor mopping.  [In Singapore, mopping is a tech-shirt-worthy job.]

Now twinning with my husband. But he was going running; I was merely going floor mopping. [In Singapore, mopping is a tech-shirt-worthy job.]

Total workout time (including rolling and stretching): 3 hrs, 45 min.  I should have been able to knit a sweater, or make a chiffon cake, or at least wash all the windows in the apartment with so much less time spent working out.  But alas…I don’t have much to show for it.

My goal for post-marathon Week #2 was to return to regular (albeit mostly easy) running, for about 25-30 miles, if possible.  To keep my overall workout load reduced, I planned to cut back on my cross-training workouts for the week.  This corresponded nicely with having guests, too.

Monday (Sept. 2): BodyPump

A two week break from BodyPump doesn’t do your (or at least, my) muscles any favors, that’s for sure.  I kept my weights fairly light – downloaded a bit from what I was using in July and early August.  And despite doing the squats and lunges without any added weight at all – I was feeling the burn, both in class and most definitely the next day.

We also went to another supermarket, and were able to find popcorn kernels.  After checking the snack aisle, the cereal aisle, and the grains aisle, we accidentally stumbled up them HERE.  Kind of makes sense, I guess...?

We also went to another supermarket, and were able to find popcorn kernels. After checking the snack aisle, the cereal aisle, and the grains aisle, we accidentally stumbled up them HERE. Kind of makes sense, I guess…?

Tuesday: Run (6.1 mi)

My dear friend Deb arrived for a visit verrrrrry early on Tuesday morning.  She’s a running machine, and promptly informed me that she wanted to run.  So, we ran.  The pace was a bit faster than my usual, but the miles flew by as we chatted and caught up.  As I did most of my marathon training alone, having someone to chat with really helped pass the time.

Wednesday: Run (8.1 mi)

Deb needed to do her long run, and wanted to check out the trails near our apartment.  I obliged, and we ran one loop of McRitchie Reservoir together.

Deb on the run.  [*cue music*]

Deb on the run.

After one round, we parted ways and I headed home, while she completed a second loop.  And in those 8 solo miles, she had more adventures than I’ve had since moving here: Mischievous monkeys ransacking boxes of water bottles, a sighting of a small snake, and a close encounter with a monitor lizard!

Playful monkeys on the first loop; she didn't have a camera to catch their shenanigans on her second round!  How many monkeys do you see...?

Playful monkeys on the first loop; she didn’t have a camera to catch their shenanigans on her second round! How many monkeys do you see…?

Thursday: Rest

Actually, it poured all day.  We went to a museum and took things slow and easy.

Friday: Run (3.6 mi)

KMN and Deb both did longer, faster workouts.  I pulled the “I just ran a marathon 1.5 weeks ago” card, and took a shortened option.

Saturday: Hiking in Palau Ubin

Our Garmin died partway through the trip, but we probably walked/hiked about 6-7 miles for the day.  Since we were all running a race the following day, I opted out of any other workouts.

Sunday: 5.6 miles + 20 Story Stair Climb

All three of us (KMN, Deb, and I) ran the Salomon Vertical City Trail Race.  I’ll post a separate race report soon, but suffice to say that I am much better trained for longer distances at the moment.  It was also a great example of That Time Coach Holly Ran The Race She Always Lectures You NOT To Run.  Stay tuned. [Edit: Salomon Vertical City Trail Race Report]

All smiles before the race!

All smiles before the race!

Total Workout Time for the week: 5 hrs, 38 min – almost all running, with some stretching/rolling.  Having Deb around this week was a great motivator for me to get back out on the pavement and trails.  Zipping off to the gym while guests are visiting seemed a bit of a waste – so that helped keep most of my training time run-specific.  Next week (uh…that would be this week that has just passed), it’s back to running + cross training, though.  Bring on 2 weeks of post-recovery, pre-taper 50K training!

What is the coolest/scariest animal you’ve ever seen while out running?

Anyone have a good recipe for pesto?  I made pesto last night, and it was a flop.  But I have an over-achieving basil plant, so…help a girl out?

Did you notice the new Run With Holly Gravatar photo (in the Comments section – I’m not just a green design anymore – I have an actual picture!!)?  Not to brag (much), but I have to admit that I’m feeling extra snazzy now!

Weekly Workout Round-Up: London Edition (Aug. 5-18)

I promise to post about my 27 mile run (in fact, I have much of the post written) – but Marathon day is just a few days away, and I’d like to be caught up with my training reports before I run.  Otherwise, posting them would be a bit anti-climactic, right?  And since the 27er was really more training for the 50K anyway, I’m going to hold off until after the marathon before sharing that post.  Hope that’s OK with you.  If not…well, I suppose you could hack my computer and try to steal the post, but really…that would probably be a waste of your time, and my annoyance.  So, let’s just call it a truce, OK? 

*ahem*  Anyway.  On to what happened two weeks ago (including running-in-London photos):

Monday (Aug. 5): Rest

Well, not complete rest.  I energetically consumed sour gummy bears and and an ice cream sundae while and after solving some computer/website problems.

Tuesday: Run (4.1 mi) and BodyPump

Another goofy Tuesday face!

Another goofy Tuesday pre-run face! A quick comparison shows it is eerily similar to the previous Tuesday’s…

My flight to London didn’t leave until Tuesday evening, so I had plenty of time for a morning run and lunchtime BodyPump.  Bonus: I found a new favorite BodyPump instructor.  She gave great, clear instructions – and deviated from the BodyPump “script” when necessary.

For example: During squats (with weights – bar on shoulders), instructors always tell us to “keep your back straight, and don’t lean forward” – I’m sure this is part of the Les Mills BP script.  But the truth is, with a weighted bar on my shoulders, if I kept my back “straight up like it’s against a wall” while squatting, I would certainly fall over backward.  Some forward lean is appropriate, and necessary.  This particular instructor is the first I’ve heard to finally (FINALLY!) acknowledge this: “Keep your chest up and off your legs.  A bit of forward lean is fine – you need it to manage the weight on the bar.  Just remember that the work comes from the squat, not from leaning forward and back.”  Hallelujah!

Wednesday: Run (5.3 mi)

This was my first run in London, designed primarily to explore the area and to fight late afternoon jet lag.  Our hotel was just one mile from Regent’s Park, so I ran one congested, 6 PM mile to the park, three glorious miles around it, and one slightly less congested mile back.  Then, I took the best shower ever.  [Post-flight showers are awesome.  Post-run showers are pretty good, too.  Combine a long flight, a day of sightseeing, and a run – MAN that shower was terrific!]

Thursday: Sort-of Tempo Run (5.7 mi)

KMN, ready to rock and roll a tempo run.

KMN, ready to rock and roll a tempo run.

KMN is back on a training plan, and Thursday was his tempo-run day: 2 mi Easy/2 mi Tempo/2 mi Easy.  His tempo pace is a bit slower than mine, but I like hanging out with the guy, so I stuck with him.  We were blessed with cool London temps (55-65°F / 13-18°C) for virtually all of our runs; this was no exception.  I’ll admit that dropping about 30 sec/mile in the easy pace department without even trying was pretty awesome.

Friday: Rest!

We hiked around the Tower of London complex all morning, though – but that’s a topic for a different post!

 

Saturday: Long run (15.2 mi)

Guys, in case you skipped the paragraph above about the cooler temps – COOLER TEMPS ROCK!  Basically, I cranked out 15 miles at pretty much marathon pace. This might be a smidge fast for 2 weeks out from the marathon, but my effort level really wasn’t that high – the speed was accidental.  I blame it on the gorgeous weather.  I’ll admit that this run made me incredibly excited for Perth.

Also? Ducklettes.  There were quite a lot of them on the canal.  So cute!

Also? Ducklettes. There were quite a lot of them on the canal. So cute!

We started out on the Regent’s Canal, but were quickly directed off when we came to the Islington Tunnel, the longest tunnel on the Regent’s Canal.  There’s no footpath through the tunnel – tunnels were dug no wider than absolutely necessary.  Without a path, the horse pulling the boat was unhitched and led over the tunnel, while the boat was guided through the tunnel like this:

When you don't have HORSEpower, you've gotta use MANpower!  [hehehe...]

When you don’t have HORSEpower, you’ve gotta use MANpower! [hehehe…]

Thanks to reasonably good signage, we navigated the 1 mile detour and got back on the canal.  We ran about 4.5 miles out, found a water stop in Victoria Park, then turned around and came back.  

Somewhere along the canal.  I love running with this guy! :)

Somewhere along the canal. I love running with this guy! 🙂

KMN stopped at 10 miles, but I continued along the canal for another mile or two.  I got off again, this time at Regent’s Park.  I did one loop around the park, then cut back through the center, took a few “garden” photos (it is England, after all!), and headed back to the hotel.  All in all, not a bad run.  And hey, after weeks of 20, 22, and 27 milers, a 15-miler felt…short!

An English mini-garden, in Regent's Park!

An English mini-garden, in Regent’s Park!

Sunday: Run (5 mi)

Vacation can help put a smile on that Sunday-run-face... :)

Vacation can help put a smile on that Sunday-run-face… 🙂

Back out to the canal for some easy end-of-week miles.  I intended to go back out for another 3 in the evening, but my arches were feeling a smidgen sore.  I think the combination of running exclusively in my Pures (which I don’t usually wear for 4-5 runs in a row, but they were the only running sneakers I brought) and lots of walking/sightseeing time on my feet just tired them out.  This isn’t uncommon for me, so I opted out of the run, used my elbow to give my arches a mini-massage (try it – it works!), and skipped my last few miles.

Total for the week: 35.2 miles (was aiming for 40); 6 hrs, 45 minutes workout time.  Overall, not too bad a week.  I would’ve liked to get in a Tempo run at my tempo pace, and maybe a few more miles – but for a vacation week, I’ll take it!

Don’t worry – the next week is short and sweet.  Or at least, full of lots of rest days…

Monday (Aug. 12): Run (5.4 mi)

Last run in London! 🙁

Tuesday & Wednesday: Rest

Blergh.  I hate two mid-week rest days!  But I left the hotel in London around 10 AM on Tuesday, and by the time I got into my apartment in Singapore, it was already 1 PM on Wednesday – and I hadn’t really slept for more than an hour or two.  I should have forced myself out in the evening, but I opted for a (very) early bedtime instead.

Thursday: Run (6.5 mi)

I slept through the morning cool, and after the gorgeous London weather, I had trouble convincing myself to head out into the heat.  So I did some slightly-hilly treadmill miles instead.

And was planning to stay at the gym for BodyAttack – until I realized that jumping around, sashaying side-to-side, and kicking in the air might not be the smartest idea, 10 days out from a marathon.  The last thing I wanted to do was bust an ankle (been there, done that, a month before a marathon).  So, I went home instead.

Friday: Rest

I acquired a scratchy throat sometime before dawn on Friday.  “Stay calm, you have more than a WEEK to recover!”  Still, I panicked a bit and opted for extra fruits, lots of water, and lying low.  I also took a shower, put on real clothing (OK, yes, that’s a Moving Comfort tech shirt, but I am wearing it with a skirt!), and did my hair.  See, new haircut:

When I FaceTimed with my parents, my Mom said, "Whoa!  You even have your hair done!"  Crazy.

When I FaceTimed with my parents, my Mom said, “Whoa! You even have your hair done!” My reply? “As long as I stay in the air conditioned study, it’ll even stay this way!” 🙂

Saturday: Run (10 mi)

Having decided that the scratchy throat was merely a pesky mini-cold, and not anything more sinister, I got up early to cheer for the Love Your Heart Run.  I took up my usual place on the upslope of Marina Barrage.

Early morning Singapore skyline.  Snapped while waiting for the runners to come through!

Early morning Singapore skyline. Snapped while waiting for the runners to come through!

I would definitely consider running this race next year, if it fit into my schedule – if only because it was extremely small, for Singapore.  The runners actually had space to maneuver and move, which is a welcome change from some of the bigger, more packed, Singapore races.  As always, cheering for folks was a blast, and I even managed to get a smile out of some. 🙂  And there was only one woman who looked at me, plugged her ears, and started shaking her head.  Sorry, Ma’am – I’ve got it, though. No cheers for you next time!!

Thoroughly inspired, I went right home, changed, and got my miles in for the day.  They weren’t exactly pretty, or as easy as I would have liked, but they were logged.  Last double-digit run before the marathon: DONE.

Sunday: Yin Yoga & Run (5.1 mi)

My standard, procrastinated Sunday run.  Yep, did the same 1 mile loop I did two weeks ago, except this time…I got caught in a massive cloud-burst.  Just as I was starting my third loop, the sky totally opened up!  After my initial annoyance, and a brief wish for my cap, I just laughed.  The rain was cool, and it was falling so fast that there were enormous puddles everywhere.  I splashed about like a little kid, having a blast – until I inhaled some of the water pouring down my face and started choking.  Not just anyone would be able to do that.  I am immensely talented, folks.

When I got back to our apartment, the security guard took one look at me, realized what happened, and tried to hide his amusement at my drenched condition.  I laughed right along with him.  I promised him that I wouldn’t track too much water indoors, and eventually just shed my socks and sneakers, which were holding about a gallon of water.   I love how the rain can turn a regular run into a mini-adventure!

Weekly total: 27 miles, with 6 hr, 13 min of total training time (plenty of stretching and rolling).  I’ll confess – this wasn’t exactly the training week I wanted to have two weeks before the marathon.  I intended to cut back on the more dangerous activities (BodyAttack!), and probably lay off most of the spinning – but I’d wanted to do some upper-body Pump, and yoga, and a bit more running.  But life is life – and this is what I did.  One more week (really only 3 days, by the time I post this) until the big day!!

Tell me about a time you were caught in an unexpected downpour – while running, or just while living life.

I’m putting the finishing touches on my Perth packing: What items must I NOT forget?
[I already have my toothbrush, Body Glide, race day apparel, and passport.]

A Short Detour To Athens (London Day 1, Part 2)

I believe I left you all halfway through my first day in London (I was solo the first day; KMN joined me after that).  So after my trip into London on the Underground, breakfast, a free cappuccino, the London Canal Museum, and Platform 9 ¾  (read about all of this in First Impressions Count – aka Loving London)…it was still only lunchtime.  That’s what you get when your flight lands at 6 AM!

I also stopped in here for a 10 minute bask in the sun.  Because, you know, it's the British Library and all.  Just sitting in the courtyard made me feel smart(ish).

I also stopped in here for a 10 minute bask in the sun. Because, you know, it’s the British Library and all. Just sitting in the courtyard made me feel smart(ish). You can see King’s Cross Station in the background.

By 2 PM, I was able to check into our hotel to settle my luggage, grab some WiFi to check in with family, and enjoy my lunch – then head off gloriously empty-handed for a few hours at the British Museum.

On our previous visit to London, KMN and I were particularly excited to visit this museum – in fact, it was the only museum we made time for.  We were both amused, and a little smug, that we’d (inadvertently) planned a trip through Europe that started with the sites of ancient civilizations (Greece, Rome), and ended with visits to large repositories of artifacts that were given/stolen/purchased from the sites of those ancient civilizations (Pergamon Museum in Berlin, British Museum in London).  However, on that trip, we only had about half a day to tour the British Museum.  This is approximately 2.5% of what is required to properly see even just some of everything on display.

So on this trip, we chose a hotel near the British Museum, so that we could pop in and out at our leisure.  Entry is free, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed in there, so a few shorter visits seemed to make sense.  Wednesday afternoon was my Visit #1.  First thing I saw when I passed through the gates?

Again, what's with the psychic powers, London?

Again, what’s with the psychic powers, London?

I took a few deep breaths of coffee smell, and passed on the actual liquid, though.  I had pieces of the Acropolis to see!

How did the Acropolis end up in London?  Well, I’m not going to get into lots of detail here, but essentially, when British explorers happened upon the ancient ruins of Greece and Italy, many wanted to take back parts (like, statues, and columns, and carvings, and…well, as much as their ships would hold) as souvenirs, trophies, and/or gifts.  Their rationales ranged from “We like it, we want it, we’re taking it!” to “Well, if you aren’t using it, why shouldn’t we be allowed to take it?” to “We’ll pay you X amount for it.”  There remains quite a bit of controversy between the Greeks (or Italians) and the British about who rightfully owns these items, and how they are best displayed and shared with the public.

[*Note: Some of what is on the actual Acropolis site today is a reproduction – particularly of the friezes and some of the statues.  The originals are protected indoors, on display at either at the Acropolis Museum in Athens or British Museum in London.  Feel free to read about our trip to Greece and visits to the Acropolis (Athens Day #1) and Acropolis Museum (Museum + Food, What Could Be Better?).]

I’ll admit that seeing parts of the Acropolis (and especially the Parthenon) in Greece, and others in Britain, as components of two different, but both really impressive, displays, made me wonder: What if it was ALL displayed together??  How impressive would THAT be?  And then quickly: But this way is still impressive, and more people can see them!  So I’m not sure what the “right” answer is.  But, here’s a photo from the Parthenon hall at the British Museum:

This is roughly set up like the Parthenon itself.  The friezes on the walls would have lined the walls of the Parthenon.  The scupltures along the "short" end (that you can't quite see in this photo) became the pediments, arranged under the peak for the roof on the short ends of the building.

This is roughly set up like the Parthenon itself. The friezes on the left and right walls would have lined the walls of the Parthenon. The sculptures along the “short” end (all the way in the back in this photo) became the pediments, arranged under the peak of the roof on the short ends of the building.

I spent a solid 30 minutes in this room, recalling our trip to Athens, reliving our visits to the Acropolis site, and pondering the sophistication and complexity of ancient civilizations.  Standing inside such a huge and famous piece of history is incredibly powerful (to me, apparently).  But in my opinion (since it’s my blog):

Acropolis Museum (Athens) >>> Acropolis display in the British Museum (London)

Eventually, I roused myself out of ancient civilizations, and checked out the Enlightenment Rooms. The displays in these rooms pay tribute to a time in history when physical exploration of the world was bringing all kinds of new knowledge, items, and experiences to Europe.  The rooms are filled with drawings, models, and artifacts that were used to share new discoveries in the geographic, anthropological, and natural world.  For example: There was a replica of a stuffed platypus that one explorer sent back to a royal friend, to convince him that such an animal existed.  Although you and I may never have questioned the existence of a platypus, the skepticism makes sense – after all, a platypus is a rather unusual animal, wouldn’t you say?  So I spent some time looking around, and thinking about how people learn about and process information about the natural world.

When the museum closed at 5:30, I was looking for a lighter topic.  So I got changed and took a quick exploratory run around Regent’s Park.  We were staying about a mile from the park – and it was an annoying mile to run, as I tangled with pedestrians, street crossings, and construction works.  But Regent’s Park was quite nice, and I cruised the 3 mile Outer Loop, enjoying the cool evening and setting sun.  When I got back, I finally – FINALLY – took a much needed shower, then headed out to gbk (Gourmet Burger Kitchen) for a falafel burger, fries, and a hard cider.

I kinda want another one of these...now?  [Even though "now" = 11:30 PM, one week later...]

I kinda want another one of these…now? [Even though “now” = 11:30 PM, one week later…]

KMN arrived a few hours later, and after a good night’s sleep, we set out for further exploration of London.  Of course, we started with…FOOD!  So come back tomorrow, to see what we did and ate!

Have you ever doubted the existence of a platypus?  Or considered a world where the existence of such a creature was in doubt?  Oh, my goodness: Is the Loch Ness monster the modern day platypus?  
[KIDDING, on that last one folks. KIDDING.]

Ever traveled solo?  Do you enjoy it?  Where did you go?
I love traveling with KMN, but actually didn’t mind spending the day alone, either.

 

22 Miler (July 26th): Lessons in Chunking.

For those who may have missed it, my Weekly Workout Round-Up for July 22-29 included a Friday morning 22 mile run.

First of all, I must emphasize that a 22 mile run is not necessary for marathon training (Perth Marathon, Aug. 25).  In fact, I wouldn’t even put it on a marathon-training schedule for most of my runners (myself included).  But this run wasn’t really for my marathon training – it was a stepping stone to some longer distance training runs I’ll be doing to prepare for my first 50K (The North Face 50K, Oct. 5).  Basically, I have used marathon training as a motivator for me to increase my mileage over the past 4-5 months.  And I’m using the 50K training to keep myself honest about marathon training and my goal to build mileage – not (yet) to train for/run a super-fast marathon.  (I can’t do a 50K without decent mileage – but I can do a 50K without much emphasis on speedwork.)

So – 22 miles on Friday morning.  On Thursday night, I prepared some food, clothes, hydration, and an early alarm clock.  In the morning, I had some breakfast, finished prepping my supplies, and headed out for 22 miles.  Having grown bored with my regular routes, I decided to explore a path to the Botanical Gardens, run around/through the gardens a bit, then head back and finish in AMK/Bishan Park.  For fun and motivation, I decided to bring some friends along:

Obligatory Door Photo: Ready to rock & roll!

It didn’t take long before I got myself into route trouble.  Hint: “I think this will work” route planning on Gmaps isn’t *always* the best idea…

Long Run FB Update2

I don’t usually carry my phone when I run (mostly for moisture-related reasons – but there’s a lot to be said about this in some upcoming posts, thanks to Amy!).  However, for this long run, I knew that water stops might be few and far between, so I brought my hydration pack.  While my whole hydration pack gets sweat-soaked on a long run, it’s not *quite* as wet/dangerous for a phone as being shoved in my shorts pocket or bra top, and I trust my double-ziplock-bagging technique to keep it dry (enough).  So thankfully, when I got “stuck”, I just whipped out my phone.  [Note that, thanks to the humidity in Singapore, I only remove one of the plastic bags, and simply use the phone through the second…because the sweat on my hands alone would be enough to ruin my phone, if it got into the wrong cracks/crevices.]  And my persistence paid off, because I discovered a route/road that I will be using a lot in the future [Hint for locals: Kheam Hock Road lets you scoot right under the PIE – no sidewalks for a bit, but there’s not much traffic!]!

I made it to the Botanical Gardens, and set out to run one loop around the outside (Dunearn Rd > Cluny Rd > Holland Rd > Cluny Park Rd).  But I missed a turn, ended up almost in Holland Village, and had to double-back.  Then, while navigating the Tyersall Ave section (which I’ve never actually walked, run, or driven), I ended up climbing both Gallop Road and Gallop Walk (dead ends), before finally finding my way back to Dunearn Road.

In other words: Always expect that an exploratory run will take a bit of extra time/distance.  This had been my plan anyway – I had 22 miles to cover on one small island, so burning a few miles doing route investigation was no big deal!

For good measure, and to cement the correct path in my head, I ran a second loop – with much greater success, bringing my distance up to about 13 miles.  I swung through the Amenities Center in the Gardens to use the restroom, refill my hydration pack, and update:

Long Run FB Update 3

And with that, I left the Botanical Gardens (which seem considerably smaller when you’re running, rather than walking) and retraced my steps back toward home.  I took a short detour through Bukit Brown Cemetery – a spot which also deserves its own post.  Basically, I felt like I took a gigantic step back in time, running through this old, overgrown, mostly-neglected Chinese Cemetery.  Kinda creepy-cool, actually.

Also during this cemetery detour, I really started getting tired, mentally and physically.  I’d been cruising along just fine, but knew that it was time to start “chunking” the remaining miles.  “Chunking” is my favorite brain-tricking game for getting through a tough run, of any distance.  Basically, I divide the remaining run up into segments, by location/distance/time (depending on my mood), and simply focus on getting through the current segment.  This is a remarkably effective strategy for me, and it’s gotten me through many a tough run.  And no, the “chunks” don’t have to be equal.  On this particular day, my Chunks were:

Chunk #1: “Get to mile 16.  If you were Jeano, running the Hanson’s plan, then you’d be DONE at 16 miles.”

Chunk #2: “Get to 18.  You did 18 miles on the treadmill during the haze.  You can TOTALLY do 18 miles outdoors.”

At that point, this thought kicked in:

Long Run FB Update4

Chunk #3: “Get to 20 miles.  You did 20 miles two weeks ago in New Jersey.”

Chunk #4: “FINISH.  No, you do NOT need to stop for lemonade.  You have two measly miles left.  You can have all the lemonade you want when you get home.”

The truth is that the last 3-4 miles were really challenging.  My legs were tired and I was definitely dehydrated (despite consuming 3+ liters of water, 3 salt tabs, 2 packs of Sports Beans, and 1 pack of Honey Stingers).  How do I know I was dehydrated?  My body told me: The ONLY thing I could think about during the last 2-3 miles was an enormous, cold glass of lemonade or 100 Plus.  Yes, I was craving 100 Plus – definitely dehydrated!

[Safety Note: I was dehydrated, but safe – I was still taking in plenty of water, and not experiencing any symptoms of severe dehydration or heat-related illness: cramping, headache, chills, cessation of sweating, etc.  Running long distances in Singapore is dehydrating, and I know my body pretty well.  I wasn’t doing much damage by finishing out my last 2 miles before stopping for 100Plus.  If I felt that intense craving at Mile 10, I would have acted differently.  Safety first, people!]

Yes, I share your watermelon love, Brennan!

With 2 miles to go, I made myself practice the final miles of the marathon.  I’d be tired then, and have to keep running.  So I kept running, thinking to myself: “Quick turnover, light steps, drive your knees” (these are my form cues).  And finally…1 mile left.  “I can do anything for 1 mile.”  At that point, I knew I had it made.  For me, the last mile is usually much easier than the second to last mile!

And then…I was done.  I stopped at the first hawker center I passed to buy a cold 100 Plus.  When I got home, I gobbled down approximately one zillion slices of watermelon.

This run was exactly what I needed: Long, slow distance (9:40 min/mi pace), for both a mental and physical workout, as well as practice for a long run at Singapore temps – which will be crucial for the 50K!  And despite my end-of-run fluid cravings, my recovery went pretty well.  After refueling, showering, and propping my feet up for a few hours, I felt pretty good – and finally remembered to update my adoring bored public:

Long Run FB Update5

I even had enough spunk to meet a client for a short run, go to a Yoga For Runners class in the evening, and join KMN for a late-night-date-night at my current favorite post-hard-run spot: Fat Boys (a burger joint – very American, I know).  I ordered the chicken Caesar sandwich (I actually don’t eat beef burgers), fries, and a root beer float.  I finished every bite (so quickly that there was no photo taken!), then went home, and slept like crazy!

And that, my friends, is the story of my longest training run ever, in excruciating detail.  Thanks for playing along!

Have you ever FB-posted or Tweeted your way through a run?

How do you pick a “good” watermelon?  I poke them, smell them, and tap them – but honestly have no idea what combination of results to those tests means that the fruit will be sweet and delicious.

Do you “chunk”?