Never underestimate the power of detraining! It’s been 6 weeks since I’ve done any semblance of a long run, in fact this weekend’s distance would be considered ‘very short’ by anyone who’s training for a marathon. What happened is that my body has totally forgotten how to burn fat for fuel, so two-thirds into the run, I felt carbo-depleted and needing a gel or something. What used to my ‘recovery’ pace is now my ‘steady-state’ long run pace, wow. It’s such a blessing in disguise that I’m no longer pacing 55min for Shape Run – it would’ve been a hard effort! But come July, all this will change and I will start training and attempt to qualify for Boston again. That was supposed to be my one and only time but after what had happened I feel compelled to go back again. Meanwhile, one more week to the holidays and I’ll have a life again
Yes, that’s the title of Ryan Hall’s book, but no, I’m not going to write about him today (what a disappointment he won’t be at Boston next month).
I witnessed something special last week. These two boys clad in ‘Bukit Timah Primary School’ t-shirts were racing each other on the track. They looked about 8 or 9 yrs old. That meant some random distance between 100-200m. The first thing I saw was that their arms were flailing all about, the kind that will make any coach shake his head and sigh. But when I got nearer I heard one of them humming away as his ran. Some out-of-tune thing, hilarious; while the other was laughing away. And at some point they started ‘racing’ with me as I ran by. When they reached their imaginary finish line the boy who was lagging behind shouted ‘yay, second!’ triumphantly. Needless to say, when both of them realised that I wasn’t stopping at their finish line, they started giggling uncontrollably.
They were easily the happiest people at the track that day. To the two boys, I hope you forever retain that childlike innocence and continue to run happily!
Every marathon training cycle, inevitably I’ll do something stupid and end up sustaining a minor injury. Too excited and too enthu lah. Of course this time is no exception; it started with the hip and then moved down along the hammies and subsequently the calf / post tib which started pulling on the sole of my foot. Brilliant! But this time it’s really a blessing in disguise because I’m finally convinced that I need to change (more specifically, reduce) my training so that it’s sustainable without falling sick, getting injured, being too tired at work etc. Time to be more realistic. Darn, not exactly looking forward to running less.
One random day I was thinking, if/when I have kids in future, I would have totally no idea how to give them the kind of childhood that I enjoyed, which was characterised by lots of running in circles around big fields, spending time at playgrounds while my mother was at the market, and of course, piano lessons / watching classical music concerts / reading Enid Blyton books (but these don’t really count for now).
None of the fields are there anymore, and in their place are a cluster of hdb flats and a hospital respectively. And the main playground has been replaced by a concrete amphitheatre that is used by getai organisers occasionally. Another smaller playground has been converted to those little tyke plasticky things laid with foam.
And here’s the reason why old-fashioned playgrounds were so awesome: they were challenging (or scary) enough to be fun. I remember metal swings that could go almost 180deg and if you didn’t hold on tight enough you might just get flung off; seesaws that were impossible to play with if you were alone (instead of the springy ones today); metal structures that weren’t easy to climb without some strategising, and those that were high enough to give me goosebumps when I looked down; and slides that created enough friction to make our butt painful. Not forgetting how fun it was to flick sand at one another, only to have to deal with the subsequent uncomfortable sand-in-eye sensation.
That was a perfect learning spot for learning about life’s lessons – taking risks (the higher you climb, the better the view, but of course a more painful landing if you fall), how to deal with fear (the moment when you climbed all the way up but didn’t know how to get back down), teamwork (that’s what’s required for the see-saw to work properly), bearing the consequences for your action (ie the sand illustration). More importantly, our parents felt safe enough leaving us there to play freely while they did their marketing, so we had the space to develop our own playground rules and figure things out by ourselves.
I find it difficult to find an environment to teach those lessons to kids today. Oh well, I bet back then my parents felt the same way about their childhood too. (oh no, no more trees for climbing and free-roaming animals, how do I teach my kids about nature?)
I’m sure there’s more but these are the seemingly harmless stuff I’ve eaten which have caused me to stop multiple times during a run. And somehow the next few days will be affected as well.
1) wholemeal bread + peanut butter + banana (1 of those, I can’t figure out which one)
2) oreo cheesecake / mango cheesecake / american cheesecake
3) isotonic drinks straight from the bottle
4) milo nuggets
Just when I was wondering about taking it too easy for my trainings and considering upping the ante, nature has its own way of challenging me, although not in the way I expected. It happened during my planned 32k run last Sat. After 12k I noticed that the sun has been a wee bit stronger compared to the past few days. And by 20k all I could think of was ‘so hot!’ I don’t remember when was the last time I felt this way; drank so much water that my stomach felt bloated, but I still felt very thirsty. Had a brief respite at the outr water cooler where I stopped for 5mins and literally took a shower. At the last part, I tried to manage it by jogging from 1 bus-stop to another and taking a break at each bus-stop. It didn’t work either – all that ‘jogging’ at 6min pace felt like interval effort. So I ended up walking the last 1k back. It was the first time walking felt better than running!
It felt like a joke when in the subsequent days, the weather turned cool and rainy. Now I have utmost respect for the ironmen who run their marathons in the heat of the afternoon. I also believe that among my friends, LC is the mentally strongest runner I’ve seen.
2 months left! Honestly, I’m hoping that time would pass faster. For once I don’t really care about how well-prepared I am; I can’t wait to get to Hopkinton, and after all that I’ve heard, maximising my time on the course actually sounds like a more attractive option than getting to the finish line as quickly as possible.
Years ago, when I first started running, this was what typical running singlets looked like:
Over the years, the more popular designs have evolved, but mostly it got more and more skimpy. Necklines were lowered, more ‘racerback’ designs, thin straps etc. But I was still surprised when I saw the latest Adidas design:
Whoa, I wonder what’s next.
In Athens, the men’s marathon was held in the evening, and Keflezighi ran a nearly perfect race, winning the silver medal. Afterward, he didn’t sleep, and at 4:50 a.m. he flew out of Greece, bound for Florida. “The flowers that I got from the medal ceremony were the flowers that I brought for our first date,” he said. Four years later, the couple have two children, and they live happily in Mammoth Lakes, at seventy-eight hundred feet.
Marathoning may be the only sport in which sponsors target the losers, and the losers pay for the winners. That’s how the running boom played out for the Kenyans and the Ethiopians: it created a lot of slow, rich American marathoners willing to pay big money to get beat.
In a way, the sport creates an unusual intimacy between the recreational and the élite: in a marathon, they all gather together on the same starting line. But in truth the top guys are still on the fringes, isolated, pounding out the miles as in the old days. And from the African perspective it couldn’t be stranger. Michael Chitwood, the director of Team World Vision, told me that when he went overseas he had trouble explaining his funding. “I go to Africa and say, ‘Well, I work with marathoners and we raise money for these projects,’ ” he said. “They’re like, ‘What do you mean? You guys don’t have that many good runners in America!’ I say, ‘No, no, no, they’re not good runners!’ ”
(Because these days I feel like reading more than writing.)
I’ve finally entered a new age-group in triathlon terms. Well, it happened quite a while ago but you know, some things take more time than usual to sink in. With a slowing metabolic rate, longer recovery times, and the need for more sleep, I do hope that I also have an increased level of common sense to make up for all that.
But it didn’t quite happen this morning. I originally planned a 2:30-2:40hr run or 27-28k and planned the route a week in advance. After a two-month dearth of long runs, I’m suddenly very excited about them nowadays. Because of my gross miscalculation it turned out to be almost 30k and I only realised it at the end of the run. (Because of my new garmin settings I don’t really have a sense of distance nor pace anymore.) I remember running the exact same route last year with LC but it didn’t occur to me to check before going ahead. Worse still, I conned 2 more people into running the route with me although they didn’t seem to mind the extra distance! The M&M route was strategically placed in the last one-third of the run and boy was it painful – I’ve never experienced this kind of pain during any long run before, but on hindsight I love it!