Wednesday, 30 March 2016

On the run in South Asia

Holiday, good to get away. We really did get away this time, to Singapore and Sydney. I found races to do in each city, will leave greater detail for later once GoPro pictures are ready. 


You know you're not in Canada (or Kansas, Dorothy) when you see a lizard walking casually down the street. Going outside I'd be hit with such a heat blast, it gave me pause for thought: "back inside?"
Near enough to the equator that daylight hours only vary by about half an hour during the year, the heat and humidity is a similar story. I started my first run before dawn, and even then it's like running in a malfunctioning sauna. 
Soaked in sweat within 2 minutes, it does have its compensations, such as the harbour front view. 

Pre-race recalculations 
It turned out that I ran most of the race route of the upcoming 2xu compression 10k run on my first outing. This first experience of morphing into a small salty puddle had me reassessing my goals: before landing in Singapore I thought 42 minutes would make a good hard tempo run. First step outside the airport instantly changed this to 45 minutes. 5 minutes into the first run changed it again to getting to the finish line and being able to correctly answer "what's your name?" 

Humidex tourism 
Much of the holiday was about keeping as cool as possible, such as the spectacular Marina Bay Sands rooftop pool. I was the only one there without a selfie stick.
I slept in and started my second run late. The humidity was ferocious, you notice yourself dehydrate very quickly. 
A good chance to see the F1 track (a night race - daytime would be too punishing), also doubling as the race start/ finish. 
Later on, my wife did some window shopping while I took advantage of some stores handing out free diuretics. 

Hottest race ever
Starting at the crack of dawn, I let the state of my hydration be my guide. 
It worked extremely well: evenly paced throughout, spectacular views, and continual making up of places. 
There was always room to overtake the suffering half marathoners - they started at 5am - and bring it to the finish. 
A good indication of the conditions: 46 minutes got me 24th place out of over 2,000. 

Finally a chance to cool off. A bit. 
Who let them out? There are cockatoos everywhere, they screech incessantly.
Run Calgary in Sydney. 
Yes I ran across the bridge. About the 500th quickest time, according to Strava. 
Every city should have one of these. 
A rooftop gym, but it heats up so much you'll think you're in Singapore. 

Beaches 'n' stretches
My second run took in some of Sydney's beaches, such as Bondi, above. Sydney's pretty hilly in places, San Francisco style. 
Zoo trip taught me how to do yoga like a koala...
...and how to laze around like a kangaroo.

An other worldly race
The Jabulani Challenge, a trail race just outside Sydney, was on during our stay. It was a good way of seeing the outback, 12k of rocks, red sand and gum trees. There was a 22 and a 45k which I felt was too much for a holiday trail race. A steep hill which was more like rock climbing convinced me I'd made the right decision. One runner took a very bad fall in front of me and I had a few minor slips myself. 
Great experience though. 
Rooftop pool was a fine place for a gentle recovery workout, overseen by a fleet of cockatoos. 
I got in one last run, a 4x 1k in Centennial Park, a nice urban space with show jumping grounds in the centre. 
A holiday with races rather than destination races, both countries were fine challenges. The heat and distance traveled don't really lend themselves to quick times, so I made it all an experience from which to come away smiling. & I did. 

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Marching On

March has been a month of rebuilding, just as February was. 

Physio trips once a week, with warm water baths to rubberize the feet, have been going well. 
It's all been about rebalancing to fix my gait, as well as addressing the compensating reactions arising from confused legs. 
There was the nice surprise along the way of still being capable of a sub-20 5k, with a minor piece of dumb luck gifting me AG 2nd place. 
Between surprise race results and physio trips, there is still some cause for concern as my gait work is at an early stage and my raw endurance has suffered somewhat. 
The glass is still half full though. At the end of the month I am in Singapore on holiday. The glass is overflowing here, despite the dehydration. 

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Saint Patrick's 5k Surprise

An annual tradition, and usually a time trial on my way to the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon weekend. The build-up had a few twists, some of them literally. 

The colour of the wedges is just a coincidence. Far more deliberate have been my efforts at doing exactly as I'm told by my physio, whom I'd been going to for a month before race day.
The aim has been to fix an imbalance. I've been working on rolling my right foot in more, activating my inner right hip, boosting my core strength and improving gait efficiency. Running less like a crab in other words. Some exercises seem to be trying to address everything on the list all at once. While looking like a fraudulent guru. 
I've still been permitted to run, making sure I ask what limits to impose. With all the snow and ice gone, all a runner wants to do is go long, go fast, and go often. 

So, no speed work since early February, only recently up to 3 runs per week and none longer than 11k. I would've been pessimistic about speed endurance in a 5k but for one thing: I had noticed that I was getting much quicker uphill, almost effortlessly so. I believed that to be my imagination until Strava started telling me otherwise. 

All that added up to the usual pre-race conclusion: no real clue how well I would do. A PB was of course not going to happen, but I might just get under 20 minutes. There are 2 inclines of note, so I should handle those better than prior years. 

Start at Tickover
Late to line up and some questionable self-seeding had me starting a bit further back than I wanted. 
The start was more of a jog than a run.
Spotting an opening, I steamed up the left. "Almost there!" yelled my good buddy Rich, who came armed with a Super Mario sign. 

The Mental-list
First k done in 3:50, quicker than I had thought. Into the second turn, a quick evaluation: big-ish downhill should get me to the halfway point in under 10:00. 
Before the descent, with the exception of the start, my only 2 position changes of the race: a couple of guys who had oversped at the beginning. 
"A go-pro!" yelled a marshal. Km2 was a gravity-assisted 3:46. The turnaround breaks up momentum, and I assumed I would struggle to regain the same pace. 
Just as I saw a giant plush toy come past the other way, my watch said 3:58 for the third kilometre.  

Gump and Dump
Forrest Gump and posse joined from the 10k race, which had started 20 minutes earlier. They left me trailing. 
Back up the same hill again, and I assumed that here I'd be giving away enough time to push me over 20:00 for the race. I did the 4th k in 4:20, though I don't remember looking at my watch at the time. 

Finishing Girl Power 
Rounding the last corner, then the final descent, I could hear quick feet and quick breathing. Turning around, it was a couple more 10k runners. I recognized the lady for winning a 5 Peaks race I did last year. I tried to follow as she overtook, but couldn't quite live with her pace. 

I had assumed it was all academic anyway - my pace up the hill and decision to run comfortably hard after it led me to believe I was going to get a nice 20:20. Then with the finish line clock reading about 19:45, I found myself 30 or so metres from the finish:
Hold this pace just 10 seconds more, and Mount Improbable is yours. That takes more than 10 seconds to actually say, I believe the thought that came into my head was, "er...yes". Listening to the video (link below), I let out a sigh at the line. 
19:56 gun time. I would've been happy with over 20 minutes, but was thrilled to beat it for the third St Patrick's time. 
Before being thrilled, I melodramatically flopped over the side fencing to correct an oxygen deficit. 
I had signed up for the result text message, so as soon as I got hold of my phone it said:
AG second? A bit random (given I placed 17th overall), but I'll take it as a reward for my rebalancing efforts and for obeying the physio. 

Unraveling the Mystery 
I took advantage of a different physio at the after party. Wow, that sounds terrible. No, not like that. 
Moving on. I'm just wondering, is the above the face of success, or the below?

Stop and Smell the Four Leaf Clovers Along the Way
I can only conclude that the loss of raw speed was partially offset by slightly improved efficiency and uphill performance resulting from my rebalancing efforts. 
Those efforts are only just beginning really, this race being a nice bonus along the way. My third St Patrick's AG placing and prize beer glass too. Still, running and racing is always its own reward. ☘

Link to race video, without music: