the pencil runs

posts on running

Ruminations on Running

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Training for a marathon defies common sense.

It is hard on the body. The pounding on concrete wears out the knees; the sun ages your skin prematurely; the immune system is usually slightly compromised after a long run. That reluctance to take another step at the 20-something or 30-something km mark is not just your imagination.. It is your body telling you that what you are doing is beyond what is needed for a healthy balanced lifestyle.

So why do people still do it?

Is it endorphins, that biochemical compound released by your body during exercise that makes you feel on top of the world? I doubt so, because sheer fatigue always overwhelms the good feelings with enough time. Trust me, I know that for a fact.

Is it for fitness? There are easier and better ways to be fit. Swimming is easy on the joints and is a good cardio workout. Even running the half marathon or 10km is better as it is less taxing on the body. I was literally sneezing and feverish all day yesterday from the long run on Sunday, and that was only 25.8km.

Is it for fun? Erm, personally, at this point in my life, playing squash is probably twenty times more fun than running a long slow distance. There is greater variety and competition in any game than there is in running, so, no, it is not "for fun", even if the music and company is good.

Is it for fame and glory? Not unless you can finish the race in a superhuman time.

So what is it?

For me it is this:

because flying to the moon defies common sense too.

Week 3: The beached whale run

Monday, September 25, 2006
The beached whale run

Die lah. Cannot make it. How to run a full marathon at the end of the year? I'm having a severe case of cannot-do-this-itis.

Smole's knee gave out very early during this run -- I think it was at the 10km mark. From Yishun Ave 1 all the way to the end, it would suddenly buckle every 500m or so. We walked the very last bit because of the pain.

We also got hungry. Who gets hungry on a long run??? We actually stopped at the 19km mark to eat a sandwich and piece of carrot cake because of the general tiredness. I thought we would have to stop there and take a bus back, but Smole sucked it in and kept at it until we got back to where we started.


[By the way, who says running is free? Amount consumed during run: $1.40 Ribena; $1.00 100-plus; $0.90 bottle of water; $1.40 can of lemon tea; $1.40 can of 100-plus; $1.80 sandwich; $1.00 carrot cake. not including the 3 water refills of water. Who has to eat this much during a run???? Die.]

[By the way, Edgware is positively as un-Singapore-like as you can get. Stepping into that neighbourhood is like stepping back to colonial times. If I lived there, just going home would be stress-relieving. The first time we ran through Edgware was in preparation for the half marathon last year. That was only the head of the beached whale. Now we have to do the whole freakin body and tail as well. Die lah.]

Week 2: Bali Run

Thursday, September 21, 2006
Bali was amazing. The private villa was the epitomy of hospitality; it was great fun getting to know new people; and then there was this: the crazy, amazing, unforgettable run to Sanur and back. 21.83km, most of which was on a black sand beach in the unrelenting noon sun. It was crazy but I would do it again, this time with sunblock.

Bali run

We ran on the main road by the honking cars and grazing cows until we got tired of it; we ran on the inside kampung paths where everybody stared and dogs barked and chased after you; and we ran on black sand that glittered in the sun.

One of the cottage industries in this area is the collection of the perfectly smooth pebbles that was everywhere on the beach for export. There were many women on the beach collecting these pebbles and carrying them in gunny sacks on their heads. The black sand is also supposed to have healing qualities, which I hope explains the large number of naked local men we saw along the way.

It was really an eye-opening run. We didn't take a picture of any of the naked men, but my buddy took one of this guy standing on his head on the beach.

Upside down man on the beach

Along one of the kampung roads heading back to the beach, we saw a sign warning people what to do and what to look out for in case of a tsunami. The sign says that you should run towards higher ground when the sea starts to smell like "cooked salt". I realised that I was such a city girl that I wouldn't know a normal sea from an abnormal one, let alone sniff out the "cooked salt" tell-tale sign.

Tsunami Sign

We had to cross 12 rivers this run. Everytime, we would take off our shoes and socks, wade through the stream, walk a bit, and then plop down to shake the sand off and put our shoes and socks back on. TWELVE TIMES! Some of the rivers were so strong that you could see large smooth pebbles rolling down.

Crossing river 1
Accessing the river.

Crossing river 2
First step.

Crossing river 3
Half-way. Man, this water is fast!

Crossing river 4
Almost there..

Crossing river 5
Waving at my buddy.

We got to Sanur, had a lunch of fried fish and rice, bought a kite, and headed back.

On the way back, Smole lost her glasses in one of the rivers when she stopped to wash up and cool down a bit in the water. She didn't even realise until quite a distance later when we stopped to put our shoes back on. We went back to look, but it was swept away a long time ago.

It was a difficult run for me at the last bit because I had a bad stomachache. The sun also got to me at the end, and at our last drink stop, it felt like we were at an oasis in the middle of the desert. The man at the drink stop said to us that we could stop and fly our kite there because the wind was good, but we had to say that we had many more miles to go... Thank God it was closer than the 2km we thought we had left, because I think another 30mins in that sun would have given me heat stroke.

We are only young (and foolish) once.

(Thanks Smole for running with me and taking the pictures I was too scared to take!)

Yasso's 800 and why you shouldn't run when sunburnt

My body has been feeling out of whack ever since I got burnt. I'm lethargic, grumpy, lazy, and in pain. So it was with much effort that I dragged myself to the stretch of road near my home to do a few laps yesterday evening.

I haven't done anything for four days. No cycling, no walking, no running, and there was the freakish long run this weekend looming over me like a curse. I squeezed into my sports clothes -- I hate running bras even more when I'm burnt -- brought a bottle of water, and tried out Yasso's 800. (Yasso's 800 is a pretty nifty way of training for the marathon. Basically you want to train to be able to do ten 800m in the same "time" as you want to do for the marathon, for example a 4:30hr requires you to do it 4:30mins.)

I chose a straight stretch with a short hill at the end of it, and I estimated 800m to be two laps of that stretch. So I started running... and felt weird straight away. My muscles weren't co-ordinated and I felt like I couldn't sweat properly. I thought I had just lost muscle mass and fitness because of the last four days so I perservered. First lap 4:55; Second lap 4:42; Third lap 5:07. I was pooped.

And then I noticed them. Hundreds of water-filled bumps all over my arm, my shoulder, and the back of my legs. The sweat had collected under my burnt skin and was unable to get out! The skin was slimy to the touch.. horrible! So I went home immediately, got into the shower and scrubbed myself with a wash-cloth, which left me looking like a multi-layer scratch-and-guess-what-colour-you-get-for-a-prize card.

(I have a picture of the bumps, but to keep this blog from becoming a compendium of awful pictures of skin abnormalities, I'm refraining from posting it.)

Week 2 - Part I

Tuesday, September 19, 2006
The cost of an adventurous (read: crazy) run in Bali this weekend.

Garmin Burn
The shape of my garmin foreruner branded onto my wrist.

Zebra stripes
My invisible running tee. :)

Aloe Vera and painkillers. Need I say more?

Details of the run coming soon. Stay tuned...

Running graph

Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Running Graph

This is a graph of every single run I've ever done since July 2004.

I think it will be fun to watch this graph change as Smole and I push the upper limit of distance in preparation for the marathon in December. You can already see "Week 1" as the first peak just after the Army Half Marathon.

To Smole -- 13 weeks, baby! 'Till the wheels fall off and burn!

Related posts: One year running; Speed and Distance

Week 1

Monday, September 11, 2006
Week 1

On track!

Running gear, limited edition

Sunday, September 10, 2006
I dragged myself out of bed at 6am to meet up with the sgrunners to collect my limited edition gear. Cool or not? :)

Running Gear

I like! The shorts look a bit short, but I probably could get used to it. It's high quality stuff! Well done, TLR. :)

It was a bit strange meeting virtual folks for the first time. Didn't know to go with my real name or my moniker, so I went with my real name (since I thought it more sincere), only to get blank looks, until I said my moniker, then I got mostly blank looks and possibly one flash of recognition.

It's strange hearing them referring to one another by their monikers: reno, meteor, dorimon, TLR... TLR even labelled my running gear "mis_nomer"! Kinda cute I thought, so here's a picture.

Running Gear

It is strange how a name chosen in a particularly misanthropic and ironic state of mind grows on you.

God willing

Friday, September 08, 2006
Smole and I finally sat down and did some serious mathematics and came out with this plan for our long runs.

Week 1 _________ 20km 10Sept
Week 2 _________ 24km 17Sept (bali)
Week 3 _________ 26km 24Sept
Week 4 _________ 28km 01Oct
Week 5 _________ 30km 08Oct
Week 6 _________ 32km 15Oct
Week 7 _________ 34km 22Oct
Week 8 _________ 36km 29Oct
Week 9 _________ 38km 05Nov (Australia)
Week 10 ________ 35km 12Nov
Week 11 ________ 30km 19Nov
Week 12 ________ 25km 26Nov
Week 13 ______ 42.2km 03Dec

In between the long runs, we'll do a mix of laps, hill repeats, and shorter distances at a moderate to fast pace. In between the short runs we'll play squash, badminton and cycle.

In between the squash, badminton and cycling, we'll have to figure out how to read, work, eat and sleep while running because we won't have time for anything else if we stick to this plan. At the tortoise pace we run, we'll be spending a quarter of our waking hours of the weekend running! We really need to train to get faster, if only to save time.

What an audacious and exciting plan. Quoting Joan (an elite runner with elite quotes) quoting Bob Dylan,

“How far you going?” Ruby asked me with a smile.
“I’m going all the way ’til the wheels fall off and burn.”

- from Bob Dylan’s Brownsville Girl

The odds against us

Sunday, September 03, 2006
Instead of training, I've been busy designing logos for my posts on training. So, to kick off this logo's inaugural appearance on this blog, I quote Smole:

Hey, you know what happened? I went to the Runner's World website and clicked on their personalised training programme to get a plan for our marathon at the end of the year, right? So I put in our recent half marathon time, the number of weeks we have left to the race, and chose a "moderate" training plan and it refused to churn out a plan for us! It says, "Sorry, you do not have enough time to train for your chosen race. Please consider changing or postponing your race." ??!??

Funny thing is, when I went in and put in the exact same variables, it churned out a plan for me. Heehee.