Category Archives: Singapore

What’s it like to run in *insert country here*? Cathryn’s on the caper!

Let me explain how I got tangled up in this craziness:

I’m friends (in real life!) with Grace,
Who is an avid reader of Jen’s blog (incidentally, now I am too),
And Jen knows (online? real life? not sure…) blogger Cathryn,
And Cathryn started this really neat series called “Running The World”.

If you’re confused, the short version is that Twitter magic happened, and Grace connected me with Cathryn, who has been publishing a really neat series of posts on running in different parts of the world.

Cathryn is a Brit living in Northern California, but with connections (yay interwebs!) to runners around the world.  She has used this network to probe into running life in other countries.  Basically, she sends a list of questions/prompts about running in that country (Who does it? What do people go nuts over? What’s awesome about it? What’s challenging? What is it like to be a female athlete/runner there?), then assembles the answers, together with some photos, to provide a glimpse into local running life.

Glimpse into Singapore running: Sweat, Green spaces, Roads.  Wanna know more?  Go visit Cathryn's post!

Sweat, green spaces, and roads – that about sums it up. Wanna know more? Go visit Cathryn’s post!

Grace and I both answered her questions about Singapore, and she compiled them into a single post.  Since Wednesday is supposed to be “Singapore Stories” day (see Order on the Blog!), and I know many of you enjoy reading about all aspects of life in Singapore, I’m sending you over to Cathryn’s blog (My Heart’s Content) for Running the World: Singapore.

[Also, if you live and run in the Middle East or South America, she may be interested in talking to you! Catch her on her blog, or on Twitter!]

Comments here are closed for today; go say hi to Cathryn instead!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any questions?

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

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

Chinese New Year 2014, Day -1

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

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

1. Washing ALL THE RED THINGS:

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

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

2. Filling ang bao packets:

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

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

3. Acquiring plenty of Mandarin Oranges:

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

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

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

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

CNYEve2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gong Xi Fa Cai!!!

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

Any pressing questions about Chinese New Year?

Five Things Friday (Unlinked)

I’m not linking up with anyone.  And it’s actually Saturday morning in Singapore.  Double fail?

No way!  It’s still Friday evening in the US!!  And I’m (finally) sharing a blog post, after a week of blog-silence!  So that’s a double WIN in my opinion.  So let me ease back in by summarizing the last 5 days with 5 pictures for 5 Things Friday.  [Am I supposed to be linking up with someone??]

Sunday: My parents arrived in the wee hours of Sunday morning.  We finally got to bed around 3 AM, and when everyone finally woke up (at a much more reasonable hour of the morning!), we went for a hike at McRitchie Reservoir, and enjoyed a few minutes of breeze on the Treetop Walk.

Treetop Walk!  And a rare sighting of the RWH parents on the blog.

Treetop Walk! And a rare sighting of the RWH parents on the blog.

Monday: We took a lengthy walking tour of the historical parts of downtown Singapore.  Most of Singapore’s “historical” architecture is less than 50 years old, but we did the best we could.  We started with the Dalí sculpture in the UOB Plaza and the Fat Pigeon statue by the river, then caught the other riverside statues, the Cavanaugh Bridge, and the Fairmont Hotel.  After a quick glimpse at the Merlion, we headed across the river to the Esplanade, where we visited my cousin’s art exhibit, My Beautiful Indies: A Rereading, which will be exhibited in the Jendela visual arts space until Jan. 5 (Shameless Plug: Singapore folks, you should go! It’s free!).

We walked back around to the Victoria Theater and Old Parliament House which were, unfortunately, all covered by scaffolding and under construction.  Dad was disappointed by the crappy photo ops, but I pointed out that things under construction are the quintessential Singapore!  We assuaged him by having him pose with the Sir Stamford Raffles Statue.  We continued on to St. Andrews Cathedral, past Raffles Hotel, and on to the National Museum.  Whew!!  However, all the photos of those escapades are on my parent’s camera.  So I’ll leave you with this one, which captures how I’ve been getting in my workouts: By getting up extra early.  No one misses me then.

Bus stop at dawn.

Bus stop at dawn – on my way to the gym!

Tuesday: Christmas Eve! We hosted KMN’s family for dinner, so spent the day in a place that my family loves to be: The kitchen!  We cooked up a dinner of Asian mushroom soup, Adobo pork loin, roasted root veggies, and cranberry sauce.  I, of course, insisted on the American Christmas tradition of a cookie plate:

Clockwise from top: Gingerbread men (and women), Peanut Butter Blossoms, Ginger Cookies (the flatter ones), Molasses Cookies (the rounder ones).

Clockwise from top: Gingerbread men (and women), Peanut Butter Blossoms, Ginger Cookies (the flatter ones), Molasses Cookies (the rounder ones).

Wednesday: KMN’s family enthusiastically welcomed our whole crew for Christmas Dinner.  But before that, we enjoyed a pretty low-key Christmas day – baking pumpkin pies (to bring for dinner), enjoying a few gifts, and playing games.

Reason #529 we knew that KMN belonged in our family: He shared his box of Christmas chocolates with us during game time.  [Games + Chocolate are a RWH Family Tradition.]

Reason #529 that KMN belongs in our family: He understands the Games + Chocolate tradition, and happily shared his box of Christmas chocolates with us during an intense Scrabble session.

Thursday: We took a day trip out to Pulau Ubin, a tiny island that’s a 10 minute boat ride off the mainland.  The main attraction for us was the Chek Jawa Nature Reserve, one of the few places in Singapore where the coastline is preserved in its natural state (sand bars, sea grass ‘fields’, and protected habitats formed by mangrove swamps).  The easiest way to get around the small island is by bike.  Everyone played:

If it's a bit blurry, that's because I was taking it behind me, while I was riding.

If it’s a bit blurry, that’s because I was taking it behind me, while I was riding.

So that summarizes our last 5 days.  And now, we’re off for a few more adventures (YAY!) before my parents leave on Monday (BOO!).

What is your favorite (old or new) tradition in which you participated this holiday season?
I love when my whole family works together in the kitchen!  Food is one of our love languages.

If you could hear more about ONE of these days, which would it be?
[Sneaky way to get a quick reader survey in there, eh? :)]

Should I be linking up with someone for Five Things Friday?

Culture Jolts (“Jolt” is less than “Shock”, right?)

A few days ago, I had lunch with my second-cousin-in-law.  [Yes, that is a relationship – and yes it is the same s-c-i-l who shared his NYC Marathon race report last month.]  As some of you may recall, he’s a Kiwi who relocated to the US about six months ago.  One of my favorite parts of lunch was pestering him with all the questions people have been asking the adjusted version of questions I’ve been fielding for the past year:

What do you miss about New Zealand?
What is the silliest question someone in the US has asked you about New Zealand?
What is the silliest question someone in New Zealand has asked you about the US?
What was the hardest thing to adjust to in the US?
What surprised you the most about the US?

This conversation – comparing our answers and experiences – finally prompted me to sit down to write this post.  Each time I’ve been back in the US, I’ve intended to write something similar.  I’m often asked by folks in both the US and Singapore what I find weird or strange about going back “home” (meaning the US – although Singapore is my home, too – I have LOTS of homes!).  I’m often asked: “Do you have culture shock when you go back to the US?”

And the honest answer is no – I don’t experience culture shock.  Singapore really is a genuine “East Meets West” city, and on the surface, it bears a lot of similarity to the US and Europe.  Of course, when you live here for awhile, hang out with Singaporeans, observe carefully, and take the time to dig deeper – there are plenty of subtle differences.  But nothing is strong enough to make me feel “shocked”.   I do, however, experience a more mild version – one that I’ll call a “culture jolt”, when I return to the US.

These “jolts” are usually times when I am struck by all the small changes I’ve made to adapt to life in Singapore.  These are things that I no longer consciously think about doing or seeing in Singapore – they are just a seamless part of my life here.  But when I return to the US and forget to recalibrate, I have a little jolt (and usually a good laugh at myself) when I realize I’m acting or thinking Singaporean in America.  Here are five of the most common jolt-worthy situations:

1. Crossing the street.  Singapore’s history as a British colony means that traffic drives on the left.   I don’t drive in Singapore, but when we first moved, it took me about 2 months to reliably convert my “left-right-left” traffic check pattern to “right-left-right” when crossing the street.  [My husband habitually kept a tight grip on my hand when we were out walking in the beginning, and pulled me back from an oncoming car more than once.]  Switching back in the US proved way too complicated, and I ended up standing on the street corner, trying to reason out which way to look.  This is ridiculous, so in NYC, I always obeyed the Walk signs, and everywhere else (out for a run near my parent’s house), I just checked back and forth about three times, really fast – then crossed the street quickly.  Thankfully, I lived to tell the tale.

This lefty “driving” habit extends to escalators.  I first learned city escalator etiquette in Singapore: Stand to the left, walk to the right.  Well, on this most recent NYC trip, I was startled several times to realize that I was clogging up the “walking” side of the escalator – the left side, in the US.  This makes sense.  In US driving, we pass on the left.  Ditto for escalators, of course!  Duh.  Sorry NYC, I’m not ignorant, I’m just becoming a lefty.

2. SPACE.  I haven’t forgotten about the vast areas of green, and space between houses, and American driving distances, so these don’t “jolt” me.  But I am suddenly very aware of how much space, and personal space, matter in the US.  I used to be rather sensitive to crowded, busy places – but as I mentioned in this post, going to the supermarket with my Dad a few days before Thanksgiving didn’t bother me one bit.  The US supermarket didn’t even feel full!  I had space to steer a cart, two carts could pass easily in an aisle, and I wasn’t dancing around or leaning over someone to grab an item off the shelf.  Even crowded supermarkets and busy streets in the US feel enormous compared with their counterparts in Singapore.  Aisles in stores are spacious, parking lots are big (and spaces are WIDE), bathroom stalls are large enough for a dance party (trust me, I found them so comically large that I tried), and tables in restaurants feel like they are miles away from each other.  I was in the US for two weeks, and I didn’t have to use my “lift your bag up, suck in your tummy, shuffle sideways between two seated patrons” move once – not once.

3. The two-handed pass.  In Singapore – and much of Asia – handing over money, a credit card, or a business card is often done with two hands, as a sign of respect.  Before moving to Singapore, I’d always hold my wallet in one hand and pass money with the other – so I had to learn a different sequence of movements to use at the cashier in Singapore. This was awkward at first, but is second nature now.  In fact, it’s so natural that I found myself making a two-handed-money pass to countless cashiers in the US, and chuckling every time – “He must wonder what’s so special about my credit card, the way I’m reverently handing it over!”  [You don’t think you have a payment-motion habit?  Put your wallet in the other hand the next time you pay for something, and see what happens.]

4. Oh, the politeness!  “Hi, my name is Lisa and I’ll be your server today! Can I get everyone started with some drinks?” *big smile*  On this recent trip back to the US, I couldn’t help giggling every time a server introduced him/herself, thanked us for placing an order, checked in on us, and brought over refills or extras without being asked.  I equate most service in Singapore with New Jersey diner service – you usually feel like you’re slightly inconveniencing your server, who is perpetually somewhat annoyed at you.  And if you feel like your food is being flung down on the table?  Totally normal.  I don’t feel bothered or offended by this service in Singapore, but I do find that service in the US feels so over-the-top polite that it’s funny to hear the things they say, oh-so-cheerfully.

For example, I went out to eat with my parents a few nights before I left, and our server wasn’t especially awesome.  She was totally unhelpful, mixed up the menu, and was rather rude.  My parents were definitely displeased – but it wasn’t until I saw the annoyance on their faces that I realized how inappropriately she was acting – for a server in the US.  It appears that Singapore has significantly lowered my standards for service.  This is a good thing…I think?

5. “Is it?” This is an expression that Singaporeans use approximately the same way Americans use, “Oh really?”  It serves to acknowledge that someone said something, and to indicate a bit of surprise or mild skepticism.  It could be interpreted as a request for elaboration or further explanation, depending on the circumstances.  For example:

Friend: “And tonight, I’m driving all the way to *random location 5 hours away*.”
Me: “Oh, is it?”

I generally try to curb my Singlish-speak in the US, but this phrase snuck in a few times when I was back this time.  And it’s an especially funny one, because to an American ear, this sounds like an incomplete sentence.  I’ve even had a few people respond, “It is WHAT?”  What’s slightly funnier (or scarier?) is that it takes me a few seconds to realize why they are confused.  Whoops.   [There are one or two other Singlish-isms that sneak into my American vocabulary, including “Can” and “How do you call this?”  But neither elicits the same confused look that, “Is it?” does.]

So there you have it: A summary of my “culture jolts”.  I think tomorrow I’ll do a quick wrap-up of Things I Miss.  But for now, it’s after midnight – and I’m feeling sleepy.  After just 24 hours back in Singapore, this is quite an accomplishment. Singapore time and EST are 13 hours apart, so jet lag can sometimes be quite pesky.  So I’m going to roll with this sleepiness, and head to bed.  ‘night!

Ever experienced any of these “jolts”?  How about any other “culture-jolt” type situations?

If you’ve traveled internationally, which country that you visited reminds you most of your home country?  Which seems the most different?

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!]

A Post That Needs A Fish Pun (but I can’t think of one)

After all the preparation, then the race, then reliving the whole thing to write the race report (Part 1 and Part 2), I’m ready to talk about something besides “The 50K“.  [Cue all my readers breathing a sigh of relief.]

Since The New Blog Plan has designated Wednesdays as “Singapore Stories” day (or some other recurring feature), let’s try a short story for today yesterday (I actually wrote most of this on Wednesday, I swear).  And I promise, this post will be less than 600 words.

I should preface this story by noting that the standard for customer service in Singapore sometimes feels….somewhat low to someone who was born and raised in the United States.  This is not to say that I haven’t had any good customer service experiences here, because I certainly have.  [Although admittedly, unlike in the US, the fastest and most polite service often comes from government agencies, as opposed to private businesses.  But I digress.]  Regardless, a number of my “Singapore Stories” will be rooted in customer service experiences, as they are often the ones that leave me scratching my head.  So without further ado, let’s go to the supermarket.

Scene: The fish counter at the local supermarket.  This is similar to the fish counter at a US supermarket, except that instead of fillets, whole fish are sitting on ice: head, scales, guts, etc.  You choose the fish you want, then ask one of the staff behind the counter to gut it and remove the scales.  [Incidentally, you do still get the whole fish: head, fins, etc.]

I select a small pomfret (it only needs to feed KMN and I) and hand it to the auntie behind the counter.  A small bit of some organ is protruding through the kill-cut (I think), but I don’t think twice about that, since I’m going to ask for it to be gutted anyway.

[Don’t mind the approximate Singlish.]

Me: *hands fish over counter* Can clean for me, please?
Fish Auntie: Don’t want this one.  *points to protruding innards*
Me: Ahh…it’s OK.  Will clean anyway, yah?
Fish Auntie: *shaking head* No, no – don’t want. *takes fish from me, buries back in display ice*
Me (assuming she knows something about fresh fish selection that I don’t): Ooook.
Fish Auntie: *digging around for another pomfret*
Me: Small one, please.  Small.  Just for two people.
Fish Auntie: *holds up somewhat larger pomfret*
Me: Errrr…smaller one can?  That one a bit big.
Fish Auntie: *puts fish on scale* 400 (grams).
Me: *shakes head* Mmmm…a bit big.  Smaller one can?
Fish Auntie: *nods, prints pricing label, takes fish back to cleaning counter*
Me: Sigh….

I have no idea.

Language barrier?  Possibly, but her English seemed pretty good to me.
Upselling?  Perhaps, but it’s not like she’s working on commission.
Overall misunderstanding?  Maybe.
An Auntie just being an Auntie?  Most likely…
[KMN’s Peranakan family has taught me to respect the matriarchy!]

There was a time (not too long ago) when this would have left me huffing and puffing and peevish.  Instead, I just laughed.  A few more grams of fish wasn’t going to break the bank.  So I came home that day with some extra fish, and a story.  And when I recounted the story to KMN, he didn’t seem the least bit surprised.

The only major disadvantage of the extra fish?  Microwaving fishy leftovers the next day really did stink up the apartment…

*Fish Commission = Fishmission?  Fission?

Would you laugh it off or try to insist on the smaller fish?

Ever cooked a whole fish?
[We usually poach ours, but I’m open to other suggestions!]

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?

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!

If You’re Talking About Me, I Don’t Want To Know

*We interrupt London recaps and training banter so that I can have an Expat Moment.  I don’t have too many of these, but I’ve experienced a weird situation several times recently, and it’s been bugging me, so I’d like to get it off my chest.

First, a little background: There is a Singlish term used out here to refer to a Caucasian: ang moh.  The literal translation of the Mandarin is “red hair”, although the phrase is now used to refer to any Caucasians, regardless of hair color.  [Some of the first Caucasians in this part of the world were merchant sailors – many were Dutch – some Dutch people have red hair.]  I’ve heard the term described as a “racial epithet” – and while I won’t pretend to understand every nuance or subtlety in its meaning, I can assure the Americans reading that “ang moh” is nowhere near as powerful and charged a word as some racial epithets in the US.

For example, I will refer to myself as an ang moh in conversation with locals, and use the term as an adjective to describe my “ang moh hair”, or an “ang moh habit”.  So although I don’t usually hear friends or family refer to me this way (which makes sense, since they, you know, call me by my name), “ang moh” is not a taboo term.

Singapore, here’s the thing: This is just a friendly reminder that I, and I’m sure many other ang mohs in Singapore (even those who didn’t marry into a Singaporean family), know the phrase.  I can even pick it out in a flood of Mandarin, “xxxxxxANG MOHxxxxxxx,” – plain as day.  So when I’m out by myself at Sheng Siong, or the kopitiam, or on the MRT platform in Bedok (all places where there’s a high probability that I’m the only Caucasian around), and you and I have a casual interaction – then you turn to your friend and say something in Mandarin that includes the words “ang moh” – I can pick that out as clearly as if you said my name.  And in this context, I’m pretty sure that you are talking about me, and/or Caucasians in general.

And honestly?  I walk away feeling kind of icky.  It turns out that I don’t like being the subject of a discussion being held right under my nose, in a language I don’t really know, and loudly enough for others nearby to hear (in a language many of them understand).

I’m not sure what I was doing that was so notable.  Yesterday, I was paying for my groceries, exchanging receipts with the cashier.  As I gathered my bags to go, the person behind me in line said, “(Something) ANG MOH (lots more Mandarin I couldn’t understand),” then she and the cashier laughed and looked at me.  I didn’t find my soda water, yogurt, and watermelon to be so hilarious…

And today, in the MRT station?  When I stepped out of the bathroom stall?  I’d just finished a workout with a client – so first I peed, then I changed into a dry, better-smelling shirt for the ride home on the subway.  This seemed, you know, courteous.  But wrangling off a sweaty shirt and sports bra, and into dry replacements in a small stall, took a minute or two.  So as I stepped out and and an auntie barged in past me, calling to her friend in the next stall, “ANG MOH (something something something in Mandarin),” what came after didn’t leave much to my imagination.  Auntie, I am sorry if my extra minute caused you discomfort or inconvenience.

Am I being too sensitive?  Probably.  Am I unaccustomed to being the “foreigner”?  Perhaps.  But the idea of being discussed – and knowing I’m being discussed – right under my nose, annoys me.  I’ve been trying to figure out what, exactly, bothers me.   I have no doubt that people talk about me behind my back.  But I like who I am, and feel pretty comfortable in my own skin, thanks to some tough lessons learned during middle/high school.  Instead, I think that what bothers me is the fact that these folks don’t consider that I might have some idea of what they are saying.

So I suppose my request is this: If you want to talk about me in Mandarin (or any other language), maybe you could you refer to me as “that sweaty girl in the red shirt” or “the woman in the purple dress”?  There’s a much greater chance I won’t know that you’re talking about me.  Although…on second thought…I intend to learn enough Mandarin that I know those phrases, too.  So maybe instead, just lower your voice?  Or wait until I walk away?  At least then, I won’t know what’s happening.  Thanks.

And in the meantime, I’m going to have KMN teach me something I can say in these situations.  Probably along the lines of, “Excuse me, but I do speak some Mandarin.”  That should give the person pause.  🙂

[I should note that this is a lesson for us all, myself included.  In the 21st century, lots of people speak lots of different languages.  Be careful what assumptions you make.  My husband is more good-natured about this kind of thing than I am, but it’s pretty ignorant of an American to tell him, “Wow.  Your English is REALLY good!”  Especially when the person who made the comment has no idea where KMN grew up.]

Put yourself in my position: A foreigner living in a country where it is absolutely obvious that you are not native.  What do you do when you know someone is talking about you in a language you don’t really speak?

A. Shut up and walk away
B. Respond in English
C. Learn and use a snappy Mandarin response
D. None of the above.  Instead, I would ___________________________________.