Category Archives: Travel

Happy 2014 (aka Will I Stay Awake Until Midnight?)

Spoiler: I stayed awake. But my initial post-by-email attempt failed. Let’s try this again (and pretend this posted about 10 hours ago!)
For those of us who work and play in the GMT +8 time zone (Me! Me! Me!), 2014 is less than an hour away. I haven’t even had a nap yet tonight, and am aiming to make it to midnight without one bit of whining to KMN about how I’m falling asleep. This might be the first year (in the 7 years we’ve been together) that this has happened. Shocking.

And although we aren’t exactly party animals, KMN and I are celebrating the new year outside of Singapore (although still in GMT +8). You see, not even an amazing trip to the zoo on Sunday:

could convince my parents to stay on for a few extra days. To distract me, and to take advantage of the work lull for KMN (sometimes the end of the year is quite hectic for corporate attorneys; this year’s quiet was more the exception than the norm for him), he booked us tickets to Hong Kong – leaving at exactly the same time as my parents flew out to return to New Jersey.

Believe it or not, Hong Kong is a popular destination for trail running and hiking in Southeast Asia. I’ve been itching to check out some of the trails here, and this was the perfect opportunity. So we flew in Monday night, and on Tuesday morning (today), we packed up our brand new Salomon packs (Christmas present!!):

and headed out. Today, we explored Dragon’s Back and some of the surrounding trails. Despite a bit of haze, being out on the trails in moderate temperatures and beautiful sunshine was amazing!

We have another 1.5 days of hiking planned, so I’ll be pretty much MIA until Thursday evening. But I have big plans to catching up on both blog reading AND blog writing (2013 recap, 2014 goals, race and training plans, stretching, hiking in HK, a recap of our visit to Pulau Ubin, and more!) this weekend. I’ll see you there!!

(Also, in the waning hours of 2013, I’ve learned how to post by phone. I hope. Provided this actually posts in something more than gibberish. Fingers crossed!!)

So to ring in 2014, I leave you with the delicious fries we enjoyed this evening. They were seasoned with honey and some other spices, and served with mayo/sambal chili sauce:

Cheers, and Happy New Year!!!

What’s the best part of starting a ‘new year’ for you?

Tips for posting by phone? I’m a bit scared of how my photos will come out…

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?

Fortunately/Unfortunately (Nov. 26, 2013)

Coach Holly here, reporting, live and well (fed) from northern New Jersey, folks!  I think travel inspires me to write Fortunately/Unfortunately posts, so here’s a peek at Sunday’s travels:

Fortunately, modern technology (and the trick of time zones) allows me to wake up in Singapore, and go to sleep later (much, much, MUCH later) the same day in New Jersey.  Only 24 hours of travel are involved.  Living far from family is hard; airplanes make it much, much easier.

Unfortunately, I must wake up at 3 AM in Singapore to make this trick happen.

Fortunately, I can step out of our apartment in Singapore at 4 AM and hail a cab off the street.  When we first moved, we’d pay the extra money to book early morning cabs in advance.  Then, we realized there was really no need for that.  Available cabs are much easier to find at 4 AM than at 8 PM!

Unfortunately, I left my adorable husband sleeping in bed.  I miss that crazy dude!

Fortunately, my first flight (to Hong Kong) was very, very empty.  I had two empty seats next to me!  (Although I would have happily traded the empty seat if I could have had KMN with me.)

Unfortunately, that flight was only 3 hours.

Fortunately, Transfer Security in Hong Kong was completely empty.  Usually, it’s a little nutsy, but I was they only person there this time.  And I didn’t even have to unload every.single.electronic.device from my bag (this is normally what happens to me in Hong Kong, for some strange reason).

Unfortunately, my second flight was totally packed.

Fortunately, I promptly got trapped in the middle of the plane when the first pass of the drink cart started while I was in the restroom.  I got to stand for a solid 15 minutes, bouncing and stretching, without being told to return to my seat.  YAY!

Unfortunately, another American in the same predicament complained and sighed about it.  Some people will complain about anything!  I tried to keep him distracted with some idle chatting – turns out he works in China, and he asked me how long I’d been visiting Asia.  When he learned I lived in Singapore, he contributed this annoying quip: “Well, those of us who live in China think you folks in Hong Kong and Singapore are cheating.”  Thanks for that unsolicited opinion, sir.  For your information, I’m not living in Singapore to put some Asian feather in my American cap.  But thanks for the judgment.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Fortunately, my seatmates were calm and quiet, and I passed an uneventful 14 hours napping, watching one episode each of NCIS, Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, and whatever other crime shows were on offer, as well as Monsters University (cute!).  I also read Drift, a mature young adult novel co-written by Steph Campbell and former classmate of mine Liz Reinhardt.  Nothing too deep, but these ladies have become my go-to for a light, fun in-flight read.

Unfortunately, the overly salty in-flight food on United’s international flights is becoming increasingly gross to me.

Fortunately, I came in armed with plenty of my own snacks.  NO, not the Tim Tams pictured in my packing post – I brought apples, granola bars, trail mix, Oreos, and some salty-but-at-least-tasty snack mix.

Unfortunately, there weren’t very many water walk-throughs.

Fortunately, there’s a secret water stash at the back of the plane (big bottles of water and little cups).  I just brought my bottle back and refilled it.  Repeatedly. Hydration is important on long haul flights!

Unfortunately, our descent into Newark was a little bumpy. Although it didn’t seem particularly unusual to me, both the people sitting next to and behind me used their air sickness bags.  I get sympathetically nauseous, so I hope they weren’t *too* offended that I closed my ears and eyes.

Fortunately, the immigration, baggage collection, and customs process took less than 25 minutes.  Easy, breezy on a Sunday afternoon, for some reason.  And from this point forward, my “Unfortunatelies” disappear!

My parents were waiting for me (with more snacks and fresh water!), and the drive home was uneventful.  I went for a short run – which was chilly, but invigorating and awesome, then took a MUCH NEEDED shower.  Seriously.  The shower after 24 hours of travel is beautiful.  Then we enjoyed a delicious dinner of roast chicken, salad, and pierogies.  [Gotta work a little Polish tradition in there somehow!]

And from there, it’s been Thanksgiving preparation, a bit of running, a lot of eating, and the perfectly usual jet-lagged sleep schedule of 11 PM – 2:30 AM and 5 AM – 9 AM.  Sure, why not?

I won’t be taking an extended Thanksgiving blogging break, so you’ll see plenty of me around here in the coming week – but I would like to wish safe travel to those of you traveling in the coming days, especially if you’re traveling along the eastern seaboard. And if your travel plans involve airplanes and airports, breathe deeply and remember:

“The test of good manners is to be patient with the bad ones.”
-Solomon ibn Gabirol (poet and philosopher)

If you could watch one TV show for the entirety of a long flight, what would it be?

Fill in the blank: “On my ideal international flight, every meal service would consist of only ____________________.” (one food item ONLY!)

Pancakes / 1 Hour Pack / Guest Post

Well, folks, it’s just after 5 AM on Sunday morning (Singapore time), and I’m on a plane, heading for the land of turkeys and cranberry sauce and all other Thanksgiving-type shenanigans.  I am both ridiculously excited (Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and my family knows how to celebrate), and a bit anxious (my To Do list is a mile long…this will be a working holiday).  I properly prepared for my travels and return to the USA by fueling up with pancakes on Saturday morning:

We tried out W39, a cute little cafe in the Clementi area.  The verdict?  Fluffiest pancakes in Singapore!

We tried out W39, a cute little cafe in the Clementi area, with KMN’s parents. The verdict? Fluffiest pancakes (that I’ve found) in Singapore!

I did some spin training and errands on Saturday afternoon, then came home to attend to my much-procrastinated packing.  As excited as I am to visit New Jersey, I was completely uninspired to pack.  This is ridiculous, as I am no stranger to travel, and packing is usually a non-issue.  Finally, I set my trusty lab timer, and gave myself 4 x 15 minutes to pack:

First 15 minutes: Clothing & shoes (cheating because I have some cold-weather gear at my parent's house)

First 15 minutes: Clothing & shoes (cheating because I have some cold-weather gear at my parent’s house)

Second 15 minutes: Electronics and associated chargers (included updating magazine and book downloads).

Second 15 minutes: Electronics and associated chargers (included updating magazine and book downloads).

Third 15 minutes: Work necessities (included uploading RPM music to computer).

Third 15 minutes: Work necessities (included uploading RPM music to computer).

Final 15 minutes: Pack suitcase (large extra suitcase is for return trip), change over wallet.

Final 15 minutes: Pack suitcase (large extra suitcase is for return trip), change over wallet (US-based credit cards, money, and frequent buyer cards/gift cards)

Dear Future Self: Please remember how painless that was, and stop your whining next time you have to pack.  And with that, I’m off.  Please excuse the delayed Commenting/responding over the past (and next) day while I’m traveling.  See you all from Eastern Standard Time!

And if this brief post didn’t fulfill your need for bloggy goodness today, head on over to Spohie’s blog, Life’s Philosophie, where she and I are co-posting in her Marine Corp Marathon: Reflections post!  [How do I co-post on a race I didn’t run?  Bwahahaha…you’ll just have to head over and see for yourself! 🙂 ]

In lieu of commenting today, head over Sophie’s way and say hi!!

Mount(ains and Miles) Doom

Some days, I fail as a blogger.  Even if though I ran a lot of miles and composed a slightly clever post about being a female endurance athlete yesterday, I definitely dropped the ball on my most important Blogger Job of the Day:

Promoting my first-ever guest post, over at Mountains and Miles.

I’m helping to fill in while Logan is in Colorado on an awesome rafting trip cleaning up flood damage to her property there.  When she asked me to blog, I was a little nervous – although she is a “regular” running blogger like the rest of us, my favorite part of her blog is the crazy travel stories she shares.  Now, I have my share of passport stamps, but have had nowhere near the adventures she has.

But, I thought long and hard, and came up with one of the best travel/adventure stories I could.  So on her blog today, I’ve recounted a snippet from New Zealand: The time my husband and I conquered “Mount Doom”.

Teaser Pic!

Teaser Pic!

Finally, a bit of housekeeping for new friends who have wandered this way recently: Here’s a more formal About Me section, and here is a more casual collection of Holly Fun Facts.  Here’s a bit about the guy who’s often photo bombing joining me in my pictures.   As far as other things I blog about (Food, Yoga, Motivational Posts, various things Singapore, etc.), I try to keep my posts pretty well categorized, so wander on over to the sidebar on the right, and click on anything that catches your eye.  🙂  There will also be some new organization imposed on this blog space soon, so stay tuned.

And if you like what you read, then subscribe by email (look to the right), add my to your feed reader, or hop on over the Run With Holly on Facebook and say hello!

Now, why are you still here?  GO READ ABOUT MOUNT DOOM!!

Chevron City to Surf Perth Marathon: Race Report (Part 2)

Yeah, yeah – this is much later than promised.  I’ve been busy doing this:

When a friend from the US comes to visit in Singapore, you have no choice but to take her out for rainy running excursions at McRitchie Reservoir (and other similar shenanigans).

When a dear friend from the US comes to visit you in Singapore, you have no choice but to take her out for rainy running excursions at McRitchie Reservoir, and participate in other similar shenanigans. While twinning. Obviously.

But before all this excitement, I was in the middle of a marathon (in more than one way!) race report here.  So if you missed the first part, check out Chevron City to Surf Perth Marathon: Race Report (Part 1).  The short summary: I was at the halfway mark in 1:54:xx, and just about to enter the hilly section.  Things were about to get serious.

Elevation profile from 20K to the end. Source.

Elevation profile from 20K to the end. Source.

I’m going to break up this next section by elevation, rather than into 5K chunks, because reporting the splits makes much more sense that way.

21-23 km (13.1 – 14.3 mi): Up
The climbing began.  I often think that a hill looks quite steep and intimidating from a distance, but once I’m at the base, or somewhere on it, the whole thing seems much more manageable.  Many years ago, I shared this observation with my Mom, and her wise response was, “But which perspective do you think is more accurate?”  Still, I blithely ignore her brilliance when faced with an incline on a run.  I prefer to think, “Hey, I’m running!  I’m running up!  This isn’t so bad!  Hey look, this part directly in front of me isn’t so steep!  Keep going!  My eyes must have been deceiving me, this isn’t so bad!”  Even as my respiration rate increases and my legs feel the burn, I continue to focus on what’s just ahead.  I tell myself the same thing I tell my runners:

“Little steps!”
“Eat up the hill!”
“Keep your feet moving!”
“Just keep climbing!”

Actually, without too much fuss, I was up the first climb.  The course turned sharply at the top, and I was thankful that my pre-race profile study told me that I’d be climbing for about 2 kilometers.  So when I rounded the corner and saw another moderately steep but loooong incline, I was prepared.

The “hill training” in my marathon prep included regular runs at McRitchie Reservoir, which doesn’t have anything terribly high/steep, but does have some small rolling hills.  I also ran a few shorter runs as easy hill repeats, and when I did a treadmill run, I’d choose a “rolling” profile.  Furthermore, I really just enjoy running hills, and don’t let them intimidate me.  This attitude won’t make up for a lack of training, but it’s a great complement to solid training – so know your course, do your training, and laugh as you cruise up the hills during a race.

OK, I’ll admit – I’m not sure that I actually laughed.  But I started passing people.  Like, a lot of people.  Turns out that my legs loved the change in terrain.  Using the same muscles in the same way over and over again on the flats was starting to tire them – so the addition of some hills was great for distributing the workload to different muscles.

The reward at the top was a literally breath-taking view (like, I gasped out loud) over the Swan River.  I was so tempted to stop for a photo.  Fortunately (for my race), I didn’t have my camera.  So, I kept running.

Mile 13: 8:45 min/mi
Mile 14: 8:57

23-26 km (14.3-16.2 mi): Down
After another almost-hairpin turn (a small traffic circle, at least, rather than a traffic cone) and final short incline, I hit the downhills.  This was just before the 24 kilometer mark, and after a brief debate with myself, I decided to let ‘er rip.  I love running downhills!

This isn’t the place for a long lecture on downhill running, but Coach Holly’s short version is this: If you do it cautiously, slowly, tentatively, and with lots of holding back – then your quads will do a lot of work.  If you open your stride, roll your legs over, and barely let your feet touch the ground – then your legs actually do less work.  A trail running friend in Rochester taught me how to do this (I’m not sure she ever gave me a lesson – I may have learned just by watching her – thanks, Laura!), and it’s a technique I’ve used for years.  It’s especially fun on the roads, which are generally devoid of rocks, roots, loose gravel, and other potentially trip-on-able detritus.

Running downhills too hard, too early can be bad for the legs.  But I was past the halfway mark, feeling good, and ready to be a little daring.  This section was a blast!

Mile 15: 8:27 min/mi
Mile 16: 8:09

26-28 km (16.3-17.4 mi): Flat
At this point, the course leveled – briefly.  I think I had a bit of adrenaline still flowing from the awesome up/down section, because my splits continued to come up a bit fast.  But my legs were holding up well – my calves and Achilles tendons were starting to feel a bit tight, but nothing felt close to cramping.  So I decided to let myself go, and run by feel.

I also ate some Sports Beans, and donated some Sports Beans to the course.  My SBs were really sticky and smushed together, and while trying to wrestle them out of the package, I dropped a large, mushy clump of them on the ground.  Apologies to anyone who might have stepped on them, and was forced to carry a few extra ounces of sugar and electrolytes on their sneaker for a bit.    I refilled my bottle again along this section, eager to continue feeling hydrated and cool.

The rain had pretty much stopped by this time, but the skies remained overcast, and the temperatures relatively cool.  This was running-weather-perfection!

Less perfection?  The two out-and-backs (both with turn-arounds at traffic cones) in rapid succession, along this part of the course.  At the second hairpin turn, I definitely mumbled, “Again?!??!”  Those turns really steal momentum.  But I couldn’t feel too cranky – I was still passing people, and was pleasantly surprised by how good I was feeling.  I told myself there was one long climb between me, and the “just 10K to the finish” mark.

Mile 17: 8:30 min/mi

28-31 km (17.4-19.3 mi): Up
And just as this second long climb began, I ran past a few women who had cycled out to cheer.  They had some cute signs, including one that made me laugh out loud (but I forget what it said), and one that I do remember: “Bike Rental: $5.”  They were some good looking bikes…

Somehow, I blocked out the next few kilometers of climbing.  I know I kept running, I know I was passing more people (although everyone was getting pretty spread out by this time), and I know I gave the timer dude at the 30km mark a big smile.  I replayed the same climbing pep-talk that I used on the first climb.

I found my mind starting to wander, and I had to remind myself to think about running, concentrate on climbing, and keep my legs moving.  This was a strange feeling I never experienced before on a run – it was almost like being just a tad light-headed, but not quite.  I didn’t feel poorly at all – just the very slightest bit loopy.  “Fuzzy” is the best word I can think of to describe it – like I was trying to think through a very light fog.

I worried briefly that my body was rebelling (nutrition/hydration/electrolyte issue?), so I forced myself to concentrate. I asked myself some basic questions: Name, birthday, wedding anniversary, US President’s name, etc.  I answered correctly (at least, I think I did), so I figured I was OK.  I decided that, if the feeling worsened, I’d slow down or take a break.

I crested the last bit of the hill and got a final glimpse of the Swan River overlook before heading “over the hill” (literally) to enjoy some of the downhill that I’d climbed on the way into the park.

Mile 18: 8:26 min/mi
Mile 19: 9:04

31-34 km (18.6-21.1 mi): Gradual Down
Again: downhills.  Again: Cruising.  My legs started to fatigue, so I started using my brain.  I wasn’t pushing hard, I was just encouraging my legs to keep turning over, keep running, smooth and steady, etc. etc.

I reached up to scratch my face, and felt…grit.  I was confused for a minute, then remembered that, when you run someplace where there is evaporative cooling, you can get a salt crust (in Singapore, it’s more like a salt slick, or a salt wave).  I spent about half a mile carefully extracting, and VERY carefully swallowing, my first and only salt tab of the day.

I passed the 32K flag, and had a little internal celebration: 10K left!  [OK, a smidge more than 10K – at this point, my Garmin was 0.15 miles ahead of the course markings.]  I knew I was running well, and was well ahead of my goal time.  I spent about half a mile struggling to do some pace/finish time math.  That thought process looked something like this:

“I was already approximately 9-10 minutes “ahead” of 9 min/mi pace.
Even if I ran 9 min/mi to the end, that would be a finish time of 3:50-3:51.
That’s pretty snazzy!
But…if I run a little faster…
Could I hit 3:45?
What pace would that be?
An extra thirty seconds per mile…no…make that minute per mile…
Wait, was that 9 minutes ahead or 10 minutes ahead?
How far ahead is my Garmin? How many extra tenths will I have to run?
Did I pass the 32 K flag one minute ago, or two?
Wait a second…or a minute.  HA! I made a joke!  Funny girl…
60 times 5…divided by…
Wait, no.
What is wrong with me?  Why can’t I do this stupid math??
…”

[Note: I warn my clients about this “race stupid” feeling.  I’ve witnessed it many times, but haven’t usually fallen victim myself, until this marathon.]

I am both surprised and slightly embarrassed over how stupid I got.  I do this stuff every day – heck, it’s my JOB!  And suddenly, six miles from the end, I couldn’t handle some simple pace math.  I realized I was getting frustrated, and decided that the exact time didn’t matter.  I had a good margin of safety, and some really bad stuff would have to go down for me to miss my sub-4 goal.  So I forgave my inability to reason out the math, and instead focused on my running.

My legs were tired, but there were no “bad niggles” (injury niggles). I was pushing, but nowhere near the brink of collapse (except for my math skills).  I didn’t think I was pushing too hard for my safety, or doing any damage that would require extended recovery (thereby disrupting my plans for a 50K in October).  I did feel that fatigue was starting to slow my legs, however, so I was pleasantly surprised each time I checked my Garmin along this stretch:

Mile 20: 8:18 min/mi
Mile 21: 8:14

34-39 km (21.2-24.2 mi): Flat
Finally, somewhere around Mile 22, it happened.  I was expecting this moment.  I was prepared for this moment.  I was pleasantly surprised that it took so long for me to arrive at this moment.  But…I was ready to be done.

My legs were tired.  My brain was tired.  I knew I could finish – it just wasn’t really fun anymore.  But I’d been blessed with 22 fabulous, glorious, ridiculously easy miles – I could pull out 4 tough, tired miles.  This is why I put in so many hours of training – not for the first 10 miles, but for the last 4 miles.

So out came the mental tricks.  At this point, they weren’t that complex:

1. Chunking: Focus on the half miles.  Take a drink every half mile.  Just run half a mile at a time.  Focus on the half miles.
2. Play Catch: Focus on the shirt in front of you.  Catch up to the person.  Pass the person.  Repeat.

The course wound through a residential area, next to a park, and through an industrial/commercial area (actually, I think this is what happened, but don’t take me word for it – I was distracted, and my brain was fuzzy).  There were several spots where small crowds congregated to cheer.  I hadn’t minded that the rest of the course was pretty quiet – this was a little smattering of support, exactly where I needed it!

There was also musical support along the course in this section: First a bagpipe group/band, then a car dealership blaring pump-it-up music through their loudspeakers, and finally a drum corp.  Although I seldom run with music (unless it’s playing at the gym while I’m on the treadmill), I am a musical person.  I have some training in music, and I listen to music often during the day.  I sing, I dance (when no one is watching), and I serenade KMN relentlessly with the music from the current RPM Cycling release.  But I was caught completely off guard when, as I came upon the first group (bagpipers), my eyes welled up.

Now: I don’t especially like the sound a bagpipe makes.  I have no emotional connection to bagpipes.  I wasn’t crying from exertion.  But here I was, in the midst of a totally selfish endeavor (I don’t think running is selfish – but I do think that racing is, for me, pretty selfish), and there they were – this group of older gentleman, gathered at 9 AM on a gray Sunday morning, giving up their time and energy just provide a happy little boost for me and my fellow runners.  I felt…overwhelmed.  And a few tears may have squeezed out, before I shook myself and returned my focus to the race.  Crying congestion wasn’t going to do me any good at this point.  But lo and behold, the whole feeling repeated itself as I passed the car dealership music, and then the drum corp.  I idly wondered if I had lost all control of my emotions and was going to turn into a blubbering mess at the Finish Line.

I still felt that my brain was slightly fuzzy, and I reminded myself to concentrate on the race and keep my leg speed high.  I fumbled with my third pack of super-sticky Sports Beans (which also felt unnecessarily complicated), got sugar and sticky all over my hands, wiped it all over my shirt, considered stopping to rinse my hands (I hate having sticky fingers), then reminded myself how stupid that would be so close to the finish.

There was one climb in this section – I still can’t find it on the course profile, but I assure you that it was there.  And it was not insignificant.  At first, I was excited that I was coming into the Final Climb, although it felt a bit early.  Thankfully, a lone cheerleader was shouting, “Just one more climb!” along this section.  After brief consideration, I realized he meant one more after this one, confirming for me that this was not the final climb (go check the course profile, you’ll see what I mean).

I kept running.  I kept passing people.  22 miles, 22.5 miles, 23 miles, 23.5 miles, 24 miles – TWO MILES LEFT (sometimes, I lie to myself at the end of a race)!!!!

Mile 22: 8:21 min/mi
Mile 23: 8:38
Mile 24: 8:12

39-42 km (24.2-26.5 mi): Up, Down, Finish
The course ran through a park just before the 38 km mark, and all crowds disappeared.  The only support was a sign advertising, “(Name), Massage Therapist / Call XXXX-XXXX!” I laughed aloud.  The sign was optimally placed, but she would have done much better handing out business cards.  I’m not sure that anyone is wasting precious mental resources memorizing a phone number at kilometer 39 of a marathon. No way, Jose.  Thanks for the laugh, though, Miss Massage Therapist!

I struggled through a bit more fuzzy math, and calculated that a sub-3:45 was still a possibility, depending on *exactly* how much over 26.2 miles I’d have to run (with 10K left, my Garmin was 0.15 miles over, and the last 10K was less curvy than the first 30K).  So when the final climb came into view, I ran.  I thought about walking, but didn’t really have a good reason to, so I kept running.  And running.  And running.  I focused on a small plateau, and then the next, and then….hopefully the last one.  It was.

Now, less than a mile to go.  And I heard myself again, in my head: “You can do anything for a mile!”  So, I ran.  I ran fast (everything is relative).  I passed a guy.  I set my sights on a woman a bit ahead of me.  I heard the announcer.  I ran a bit faster.  I saw what I believed was the final turn.  I ran a bit faster.  I passed the first woman, set my sights on a second.  I saw all the Finishing Chute flags.  I ran a bit faster.  Finally, I saw the Finish Line arch.  I was still at least 30 seconds away.  The numbers on the digital clock at the Finish Line came into focus, and I watched it click over from 3:44 to 3:45.  Dang.  Oh, well.  I ran faster.  “Drive your knees, relax your arms, breath.”  GO.

I crossed the line.

YES.  Oh-so-much YES.

Mile 25: 8:38 min/mi
Mile 26: 8:06
Final 0.38 mi: 6:56

Any other hill-lovers out there?  Let me hear you!!!

Does the “fuzzy” feeling happen to anyone else?

Think about a race that you ran well: What was your first thought when you crossed the Finish Line?

Chevron City to Surf Perth Marathon: Race Report (Part 1)

Guys, I’m still struggling to put this whole marathon experience into words.  You all know that my posts tend to be long-winded thorough.  And that goes double for race reports.  I hate to leave anything out – especially after you all told me a few months back that you really like to hear ALL the details of the race.

Just the idea of summarizing 26.2 miles (42.2 km) – almost 4 hours – of running into a single post feels daunting.  GCA was super-prompt with her race report.  After dinner on Sunday (race day), she napped for 3 hours, then woke up and blogged all about it – read her Perth Training Study Evaluation.  I’m trying to be less than 7 days behind her.  (Whoops, FAIL.) So here goes:

As I discussed in My Big Fat Goal Time post, I was aiming for a sub-4 hour race (just under 9 min/mile).  Armed with this basic goal, and the elevation profile of the race, I set about drafting a strategy on the back of the paper with my flight information.  Because, you know, why have more important pieces of paper than absolutely necessary?

Elevation profile of Chevron City to Surf Marathon (Perth).

Elevation profile of Chevron City to Surf Marathon (Perth). Source.

I know the profile is small.  Basically, the first major climb (~60 meters total) is at the half-way mark, and the second (~50 meters) is at about 18 miles (30 km).  I still struggle to estimate what “60 meters of elevation change over 2 kilometers” looks like, but I did some rough calculations and decided that it wouldn’t be too bad.  This was my race plan:

0-3 km: Downhill.  ~8:30-8:45 min/mi [I know, this is counter to my “start slow” strategy – but only to capitalize on the early descent.]
3-21 km: Mostly flat.  ~8:45-9:00 min/mi
21-23 km: Climb. Don’t look at watch, keep effort steady.
23-25 km: Descend. Fly by feel. [I’m good at descents.]
25-29 km: Steady. 8:45 – 9:00 min/mi
29-31 km: Climb. Don’t look at watch, keep effort steady.
31-39 km: Cruise. 8:45-9:00 min/mi if you can.  Remember the slight downhill.
39-41 km: SUCK IT UP.  <— Yep, that’s what the Race Plan Paper said.
41-42 km: Don’t die. Focus on the finish line. Stay steady. No sprinting. Sprinting = cramping.

Basically, I wanted to bank 3-4 minutes on the first (flat) half, if possible, so that when the hills hit in the second half (and I got tired), I could settle into a 9 min/mi pace without obsessing over a few seconds.  This would also let me build in a bathroom break, if I needed one.

[The course was marked in kilometers, so I memorized the profile by kilometer.  And although I’m now fluent in both miles and kilometers, I still prefer to monitor my pace in min/mile.  Thus, this post will use kilometers for distance and min/mile for speed.  Deal with it.]

On race morning, we woke up at 4 AM, had some Buckwheat O’s (local cereal; tested during shake-out run), and got suited up:

Last race-related photo from my camera. I opted to leave my phone in the room; hence, no photos.

Last race-related photo from my camera. I opted to leave my phone in the room; hence, no photos.

 The weather was a bit of a concern: The predicted temperature for the day was 13-18 °C (55-65 °F), with a 40-50% chance of rain.  We weren’t sure if we were going to have a dry, warm(ish) marathon, or a rainy, windy, cold marathon.   We both wore tanks and capris, and donned a waterproof shell jacket for the 1 kilometer walk past the Starting Line and to the Convention Center, where we were being corralled for the start.

We quickly found the small van that would be transporting the Marathoner’s drop bags – as opposed to the enormous truck designated for half-marathon drop bags.  We gave thanks again for a small field in the marathon (about 1,500 registered).  Since the walk warmed us both, we decided to gamble on the day going “warmer” rather than “wet and cold”.  We packed our jackets/arm warmers/extra layers into our drop bags and handed them to the volunteers.  We hit the port-a-potties (NO LINE!), which were of a Singaporean style: chemical flush, running water in the sink, etc.  Fancy, by American standards!

About 20-30 minutes before the start, we made our way into one of the large halls of the Convention Center, designated “Marathon”.  There was a short safety video and taped warm-up, but we found a wall, plopped down, and tried to relax.  There may have been some people-watching involved.  At about 6 AM, we were collected and led, en massto the starting line.

There was a light mist as we walked the 1 kilometer to the start (we called this our “warm up”), but we remained hopeful for good race conditions.  All the marathoners were led directly into the Starting Chute, and after 60 seconds of announcements (the last of the marathoners were still filtering in), the starting horn honked.  And that was it: We were off! Time: 6:11 AM.

[Note: If you’re looking for a marathon with lots of pomp and circumstance, this isn’t it.  If you’re looking for a marathon that is organized, calm, and well-executed, you found it.]

0-5 km (0-3.1 miles)
There was less than half a mile of intense jockeying for position, after which the 2-3 lanes of road that were open to us were more than sufficient to accommodate all the runners.  Of course, people were still trying to find their pace and proper position.  I countered the typical “starting speed” with reminders to myself to hold back a bit.

I’m not big on mantras, but through these first three miles, I kept telling myself, “Run your own race.  Run your own race!”  Even in a small race, it takes everyone awhile to get sorted out, so it’s quite common for a lot of passing to occur (I was both a passer and a passee).  This is too early a stage to try to find a pace buddy, so I focused on the marathon-paced running I did in London, and tried to lock into that pace again.

Mile 1: 8:31 min/mi
Mile 2: 8:34
Mile 3: 8:44

5-10 km (3.1-6.2 miles)
This section was the “out” stretch along the Swan River.  The sun was rising (behind the clouds), and there was a light mist, but temperatures were perfect.  I was sweating slightly, and there were no goosebumps to be found.  Perfection.  People were starting to sort out their paces, but there was still a lot of passing/being passed, so I opted not to latch on to anyone quite yet.   I did pass a gentleman running in coveralls, a hardhat, and boots (I’m sure there was a tribute or story to this, but didn’t pause to ask him), and another wearing a fuzzy pink onesie and matching pink hair.  I didn’t ask for that story, either.

I was busy soaking in the experience and the gorgeous running weather, until about the sixth kilometer, when I realized that the road ahead was quite curvy.  I heard Boots (a running mentor of mine from Rochester) in my head, “Courses are measured on tangents. So for goodness’ sake, run the tangents!!”  He probably would have added a few other choice words for emphasis, but I’m keeping the blog G-rated.  Over ten-thousand miles away, he still made his point: Pay attention and run smart.  I spent the next few kilometers dutifully easing my way back and forth across the road, on long diagonals between curves, while my fellow runners hugged the left side of the course.

Around the 9 kilometer mark, the elites (a group of 4 Kenyans) were just re-entering the “return” section along Swan River. Somehow, one of them didn’t notice that there was an entire section of road blocked off for “return” runners.  Instead, he vaulted a cone (?) and nearly crashed into me.  Well, it’s not every day that I nearly get plowed down by an elite Kenyan runner!  Too bad I didn’t notice his bib number…one of the four won the race.

I recovered with a short stop at the 9 km water stop – a helpful volunteer used his pitcher to refill my handheld bottle, and I was off again in less than 30 seconds.  Thank you, sir!

As I came to the 10 km mark, I looked down at my Garmin to see that my tangent-running work was rewarded: 6.26 miles.  Awesome!

Mile 4: 8:43 min/mi
MIle 5: 8:39
Mile 6: 8:40

10-15 km (6.2 – 9.3 mi)
The first 1.5 kilometers of this section dropped a bit, bringing us to the first hairpin turn (of many) on the course.  We rounded the corner and began the (mild) climb back up.  A few minutes later, I passed GCA – she spotted me first, but we both managed a little shout-out.  Based on the distance between us, I knew she was off to a strong start.

Soon, the course turned off for a cruise through the University of Western Australia campus (one of them, at least).  I spied beakers in the window of one of the buildings, and had a brief nostalgic sigh for my undergrad days in the research lab.  The rain picked up at this point, and I was working to avoid all the painted sections on the road (there were lots, on campus) – I’ve seen more than one person wipe out on rain-wet road paint.  I ate half a pack of Honey Stingers at the 8 mile mark.

By this time, I’d settled in with a few “running mates” – I didn’t converse with anyone, but we’d been running near each other for a few miles.  Two older men were running next to me, and from their conversation, I gathered that they were veterans of the course.  They were laughing about the easy first half, and the particularly challenging second half – just in case I’d forgotten about the climbs in the second half!

The pace on my Garmin was a smidge faster than my goal, but I was mentally tired of holding back, and started to think that I should let my legs find a comfortable pace for themselves.  So I relaxed my “holding back” a bit, and tried to check my Garmin less.

Mile 7: 8:34 min/mi
Mile 8: 8:37
Mile 9: 8:32

15-21 km (9.3-13.1 mi)
I knew I had built myself a comfortable 4-5 minute cushion already.  My only fear was that my quads were starting to talk to me.  Nothing major, but the muscles were saying hello and experiencing the first few twinges of fatigue.  Experience has taught me that this feeling often subsides after a few miles, though.  I decided to continue to let my legs determine the pace, hoping they knew how to run smart.  Although a little earlier than planned, if I settled in to a 9 minute mile here, I was pretty confident I could still finish under 4 hours, even with a bathroom break.

Did I mentioned that I had a pee?  In the month before the marathon, my body had developed the incredibly annoying habit of deciding that I had to pee the minute I started running.  [No, I am not pregnant.]  The first few times, I humored it, running back upstairs or stopping at the next bathroom.  I soon realized, though, that if I just kept running, the urge never really worsened.  So on marathon day, I wasn’t surprised to feel my bladder (or rather, my bladder nerves) talking the minute I started running.  I decided I’d keep running, and if/when the urge got worse, I’d stop for a break.  But even into the 15K mark: no worse.  Ah, well, if that was the most annoying feeling I was having at 15 kilometers, I was doing pretty well.

I was also playing a tricky hydration game.  My hydration needs in Perth were far different from my needs in Singapore – but with only a few days in Perth before the marathon, I was using my experience from pre-Singapore days/guessing/trying to listen to my body to decide what I needed.  I was sipping from my bottle every 8-10 minutes, and finished a liter of water in the first 18 kilometers.  [Another refill stop at 18K; I filled my bottle with a few cups from the table. Pitcher guy from 9K, I wish you were there!!!]  But my stomach wasn’t sloshy, my fingers weren’t swollen and I was still feeling good, so I reasoned that I was doing a decent job with hydration.  [Edited to add: Finger swelling during exercise is common, especially in warmer weather – it does not automatically signal that there is a problem – but I know that when my water/salt balance is off, my fingers will sometimes swell.]

Knowing that the first big climb started just before the half-marathon mark, I finished up my Honey Stingers around the 19th kilometer and took in some water.  GCA and I had walked this several times, so I was ready.  Effort steady, feet moving quickly, relax, breathe, effort steady….  Bam – at the top.

Just after this climb, the marathon route re-crossed our starting line – which was the same as the starting line for the half marathon (the half-marathon route was the same as the second half of the full marathon route).  The half-marathon had considerably more entrants (10,000?), and it was about an hour before their start, so there were lots of people milling about.  So as we passed through, there was music, some cheering, and a big ‘ole race clock.  I came through at 1:54:XX.  

Turned out that my legs were teasing about being tired, as I had clipped off three more sub-8:40 splits in the three miles leading up to the halfway mark.  I crossed my fingers that this speed wouldn’t come back and bite me in the tush in another 10-15 km.

Mile 10: 8:33 min/mi
Mile 11: 8:30
Mile 12: 8:38

The cheers provided a happy little boost, but I quickly buckled down as I saw the start of the 60 meter climb looming ahead of me and realized that I’d underestimated what 60 meters of elevation looked like.  It was time for the real work to start.  But the truth is…I love hills, and am probably part mountain-goat.  I was ready.

Want to read the rest?  Tune in tomorrow! 🙂
[Sneaky, I know.  But 2,000+ words is already a LOT!]

Edit: City to Surf Perth Marathon: Race Report (Part 2)

It would be fun to make you guess the ending, but I already spoiled it with my immediately-post-race-post.  Anyone else dislike Choose Your Own Adventure books?
[They annoyed me to no end when I was a kid.  I’m a stickler for completeness, and could never figure out how to make sure I read every single page.]

Does writing a race report ever feel like a daunting task for you?
[Apparently, YES.  Although once I get started, I really get into the groove, and usually enjoy reliving the race.]

Do you run the tangents, or just go with the flow?

Perth Marathon: The “Evening-Of” Abbreviated Version

I won’t make you read 1,000 words – let’s just cut to the chase:

Perth Marathon = 3:44:53

Sha-freakin’-zam.

Given my training and goals, this was a very pleasant surprise.  Actually, it’s closer to ‘shock’ than ‘surprise’, really.  I know that with solid training (including speed work), I have a sub-3:30 in me, no question.  But I didn’t expect to run so well today.  And I did it feeling shockingly awesome, up until Mile 24 or so.

I’m going to take you through every drizzly, spunky, happy-view moment in gory detail in a day or two, but for now, here’s a quick-and-dirty summary:

3 Awesome Things About the Perth Marathon
1. The weather.
2. The small field (highest bib # we saw was 1427).
3. The view at the top of the hill in King’s Park.

3 Awesome Things About My Race
1. How much I had to hold back to stay around 8:45 min/mi through the first 10 miles.
2. Point #1 paying off as I cruised up the hills in the second half.
3. Checking my pace coming into Mile 20 and seeing “8:10”.  Repeatedly.

3 Spots That Hurt Right Now
(Or will when I stand up)
1. My hips (expected).
2. My lower shins (weird).
3. My pointer toe blister (if that’s #3, I figured I’m doing pretty well).

And now?  Dinner, and bed.  In that order, with very little in between.  Well…I might brush my teeth.  😉

My brain cells were busy being fast today, so I have no question for you.

So…erm…Tell me something – anything – about your weekend!

Perth Marathon: One Sleep Away!

It’s 9 PM, Perth time.

Race flags off at 6 AM.  [Nine hours to go – but who’s counting?]

We’re staying 1 km from the Starting Line (SWEET).

The alarm is set for 4 (or 4:15?) AM.

At the moment, I’m giving thanks that GCA and I had the foresight to stay so close to the start.

Today, we enjoyed a relaxing day in Perth, complete with a shake-out run, noodles, the Museum of Western Australia, coffee, and some Italian food for dinner:

The pizza, while not *quite* NJ style, was pretty tasty.  So were the tomatoes.

The pizza, while not *quite* NJ style, was pretty tasty. So were the tomatoes.

I’m feeling….ready to go.  As I just messaged to KMN: “If someone gave me the option of starting the race now – RIGHT NOW – it would take all of my self-control to say, ‘No, after a few hours of sleep would be better.'”  I’m feeling antsy.  I think my legs are feeling rested (?).  No funny twinges to be found.

I’m a little worried about my brain.  [As is anyone who knows me…hehehe…. 🙂 ]  I have done lots of long running this training cycle, so my mental endurance for long running is excellent.  But I haven’t done tons of running at a super-uncomfortable place.  So I hope my head is ready to handle it, when the going gets a little tough tomorrow.  I’ve visualized my way through it, I have some mental tricks up my sleeve, and I’m happy to be racing in a place that’s marked in kilometers (which come a lot faster than miles!).  Although, there are 42 of them.  Ah, well. 🙂

We’re also pretty psyched about the size of this race.  As best we can determine, only the first 2,000 numbers have been reserved for Marathon runners – and the race isn’t sold out.  Thus, there are fewer than 2,000 people running the marathon! [There are lots more doing the half, 10K, and 4K -but it’s unlikely we’ll see too much of them.  We run the second half of the marathon along the half-marathon course, but the half-marathoners start at 8:50.  I plan to be LONG through the half-way mark by then.]

I’m also excited to see some more of Perth, via the marathon route.  We’ll get a pretty sweet tour of the city, according to the course map.  I’m not thrilled about all the “out-and-back” sections, but since I’m not gunning for a ridiculously fast time, I can’t complain too much.  If you click the map, you’ll see that the course is very mildly “rolling”, with two bigger climbs.  Thankfully, both climbs are rewarded immediately with lengthy downhills, so the give-and-take should feel pretty even.  I’m pretending that the climb at the end isn’t there, because by 40K, I’ll have no choice but to gut things out to the Finish Line. 🙂

The weather is looking…rainy.  I only hope this is a cool-to-warm rain, rather than a cold rain.  There is a possibility for an extra layer at the start, but otherwise, race day kit looks like this:

Keeping my Fleet Feet Endurance Team close to my heart. :)

Keeping my Fleet Feet Endurance Teammates close to my heart. 🙂

Plus, my water bottle and a bit of nutrition will be tucked here and there.

So: *deep breath*  The hardest work is done – now it’s time for the fun!  Fellow Perthians, have fun tomorrow.  I’ll be making friends/looking for company on the course, so keep your eye out for me, if you’re running just under 9 min/mi.  Singaporeans, send your good mojo when you wake up.  US Eastern Standard Time, send it over Saturday night dinner.  And when you’re all finished, think a few good thoughts for Green Girl Running, who is *also* running a marathon on Sunday, Aug. 25.  But hers is 16 hours later than mine.  Time zones are funny like that…  🙂

And with that…I’ll see you all on the other side!!!

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.]