Saturday, January 30, 2010

Count your Blessings!

 My resolution for 2010 is simple and straightforward: to play sports injury-free. Running with bad knees is no fun, as with swimming with bad shoulders.

This year, should be a great year for me too. I can feel it inside me. I'm so grateful that I'm at the time and day that I could still do whatever I could be doing without feeling tired, or sick. That I'm able to do them. I was swimming at the local Y a few weeks back and there was this couple. At first I thought they were frolicking and being naughty from the way they held on to each other, and then I realized that the girl was blind. I tried to ignore them when the guy was directing her towards my direction. They were coming closer and closer until the guy bumped into me, "oh, somebody's there? sorry." He, too, was blind. This time I looked at them. To be blind and not able to see where he's going while swimming. I almost feel ashamed for wanting better goggles because they fog. I swam my heart out and just enjoyed the feeling, feeling grateful to God for my eyes, for seeing.

Then yesterday went for a walk with my parents. I was feeling sucky, like, real sucky that I couldn't run. I felt that my knees are just taking a goddamned too long of a time to heal and I just can't wait to run! Then, like something out of a movie, I saw a couple walking and that man wore a metal prosthetic. He was limping slowly. He probably could never run, or run as good as he could if he had two legs. Two legs - it's all that matters in the end and I'm complaining because of what - injured knees? 

 Of course, there are days when I feel sad over the era of my 'sporting' days, when I could tempo run for almost two hours, or could play the entire field hockey game under the scorching 3pm sun, when I could do both types of splits and stretch till I was bend over backwards. I probably couldn't now, unless I worked really hard at it, but then again, does it really matter? 

So really, I am just grateful. For everything. If I think I wasn't that pretty, there's some other girl our there with acid scarred face. If I felt stupid, there's someone out there who suffered brain damage from an accident. I remember this one proverb that goes something like this, "I cried because I have no shoes, then I met a boy who has no legs."

  Being healthy should be everyone's resolution every year. And it's not just how far we can run or how often we work out, it's also about making good dietary choices, as well as making an effort to become a better person inside. So feel grateful that you can still feel the sun on your face when you run, or the pounding of your heart during a torturous climb.

Because, if you ever have any bad days regarding your workout or your fitness capabilities, remember that you can, and some others can't.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Giving myself a time out.

Most people I know run because they join running events. These events are a good group of goals to have around. It's nice to have something to run toward to, something measurable, and on that day itself, tangible. 

 I join running events because I want to run.
 I have been running for 11 years. I was at my most active during high school and uni. When I started working, I sort of stopped running continuously and did 'group' sports that were more accessible after work - badminton, squash, etc. Only after I saw a friend entering the local running event that I got the most bitter jealousy ever that radiated from the monitor screen to my face. I have been missing running; I always considered it to be 'my' sport and not anyone else - everybody knew me as the runner in university - that when I saw my friends with their medals I vowed to get myself involved with the whole romance of running again.

 So I started. I stopped just running and did my research - I did LSDs, tempo runs, speed intervals, hills - reminiscent of my high school cross country days. I liked it alright. It served the purpose - I was running 4 times a week again and slept right and stretched endlessly. 

 But after a while it lost the fairytale romance. 

 I don't know how to explain it. Just that after a while, the need to run faster has turned my running relationship into a 'must' rather than a 'want'. I was concerned with my time, I felt shitty if I missed the target mileage, I went crazy over missed running days. For a decade, running took me away from the stress of other things, and now, running sometimes became that source of stress.

 It's entirely my fault. I am a competitive by nature and the tiniest hint of competition would set me determined to win. Running does that to me naturally.

 I only wrote this down because swimming has turned into something like that too. Swimming was something I enjoyed doing as both an alternative to running and also as its own workout. I could swim for hours and I always ended the workout itching to swim again. But after deciding to join the multisport scene and setting up swimming targets, I found myself dreading the workouts. It has turned into something I have to do in order to get better, instead of something I do because. I don't really enjoy my swim as much as I did before because I KNEW what I was doing wrong and my brains were telling myself to change those bad habits. I missed those days when I swam like a madman across the river and felt like a hotshot state swimmer out of it, instead of someone whose kicks weren't strong enough or whose recovery weren't great like I do these days.

 I envy other people like you guys who seemed to love it continuously despite, and because of, the relentless training. I wish we were cut from the same cloth :)

 I have been taking the time for these past few weeks to just get myself into the groove of working out without having any goals.  I went for walks without caring what the time period and distance were, I swim continuous laps without counting, there'll be days when all the exercise I did were pilates classes. Cycling seems to be one of the sports where I have yet to feel that pressure; because I am a newbie, therefore I have no goals to achieve, nothing to compare myself to. I enjoyed all the rides I did just feeling awesome because my heart was pumping and my legs felt like torched steaks. This is good for me.

 When I start my running days again, which will be in 5-6 weeks or so, I plan to do it with a reckless abandon. I'm going to leave my watch at home, and just run. I want to feel as if I'm springing across the tarred roads and flying, I want to end the run with a smile both on my face and in my heart. Most of all, I want to stop being so rigid, documenting my runs as if my life depended on it. Maybe I would be in races, maybe I won't. I'm not saying I want to stop this entirely, but like all of us are entitled to do, I just want to recharge and restart my system again and find the real reason for me to run: because I love it, and I can.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What's technology without training

I've been thinking - if we were to put the best runners at the starting line wearing the same basic running shoes, how would it turn out? I was taking my bike out for a ride when a fellow cyclist saw the bike and commented that how it's now obsolete (my bike is a ten speed, reminiscence of 1970's). His is a bike of a good brand. Then we started talking about technology versus training. What makes a better athlete? The technology or the training of that athlete?

It reminded me of this article I read about the F1 Drivers. Michael Schumacher was reigning the race track at that time, as were other hopefuls such as Montoya and Jacques Villenueve. The article reasoned that although there is no doubt that Schuey is a talented driver, his top-notch racing car and support helped made him number one. What if, suggested the author, they were to put all these drivers in the same basic F1 car and had them pit out against each other?

When I was running in races, one of my favorite things to do is to look at runners' shoes. I used to deduce newbies as those with non-cushioned or supportive shoes, and 'seasoned' runners with proper running shoes. But when I went back home and ran with my dad and his running buddies (they're called the Nilai Impian running club! haha) most of them were wearing Power and one even in the black canvas 'Boy Scouts' shoes. My dad was the only one who was wearing a running shoe, an Adidas I bought for him even as he resisted and complained about the unnecessity. And these uncles were good strong runners. Some smoked me like a gun.

I'm not saying that buying all these technology and brand name is foolhardy. My point lies in the fact that it's actually our brain and not the technology that is making us a better runner, cyclist, swimmer, etc. When we buy these high-technology stuff and we use them, in our mind we are already stronger. And that mentality is translated to a better performance. This is called the Placebo effect.

Imagine if the marketing team behind Asics brand revealing that there's nothing in the shoes except some common rubber and stuffing, but thanks to their claims of using some sort gel technologies, had most people running faster and better than they think they could.

Maybe it is already true.

Been going back to my long time favorite sports lately: karate. I dropped after uni, but thinking of getting serious about it. It's a sport of total art and strength, just like swimming :) I've done about 3-4 sessions already and loving it. Other than that I've been doing various bike ride (most recent was with an Ironman contestant! ya rabbi patutla dier annoyed aku slow gila), swimming, and some in-line skating (yesterday did 12km and my thighs burnnnnned). I'm actually quite enjoying my fitness life without any races to train for.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Eel

I was fiddling with the settings of this blog and accidentally blocked it. Sorry everyone.

I'm not a huge Youtube dweller, but I admit there are some good instructional videos out there for me to learn (I found out how to 'insert the rear wheel of your bicycle' video there to be very helpful). However, I came across this one titled The World's Worst Olympic
Swimming Trial:

I didn't know what to expect when watching this video. I really thought that one of those guys would just be too slow or something. I just didn't expect this. In case you were too lazy to watch the video, it shows a swimmer named Eric Moussambani, who had to swim the heat alone when the other two swimmers were faulted. And he swam a horrible, inexperienced 100m ever. He was flailing, his techniques were straight out from the kampung style, and he could barely swim 100m. The whole thing gave me the chills.

No doubt most people would find this funny (he was nicknamed The Eel afterwards, even got himself a Wiki page). But I was simply moved with the perseverance he gave in the swim. I read that prior to competing in the Olympic, he had never seen a 50m pool. He taught himself to swim about 8 months before, and he practiced in the 20m pool of his city's hotel. I doubt I would have his guts to compete in the Olympic. I would feel many things - shame, inferiority complex, embarrassment - that would be enough to stop me from racing. But he walked in, wearing an outdated Speedos compared to his opponent's swimming suits. And he swam, completed the 100m even when it was too slow, even when the whole crowd was laughing.

Would you have done the same thing?

It makes me think that the only enemy you have to fight is your very own self. Once you get over the self-doubt and self-bashing, the rest would be, shall I say, smooth sailing.

warmup: 1x100m kicking drill
set: 1x200m, 2x400m, 1x100m
cooldown: 1x100m kicking drill

total time and distance: 45 minutes, 1.3km

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Woke up early for pilates. The class was full when it started, I guess the instructor must be good. And it was indeed a punishing workout. He worked us on our arms and I felt like both of them were scorched, and was wondering when the hell would he work us on our abs since I came to this class mostly for core exercises. 

 Then he said, "that's the warmup, now to the abs!" 
And then I died.

 I have the weakest core and arms ever. This is the downside of being thin, it looks good with many clothes sure, but you don't function well in sports... and I love sports! urgh. I vowed myself to come to every pilates class he teaches. What a great torturous abs and arms workout. 

 Going to stuff myself with good food as possible and maybe do a short bike ride this pm.

Bt 18 - Peres Hill

 Today I very anxiously and gladly joined Kooky Kash for my first ever group bike ride. I was reaally looking forward to it: the most mileage I'd gotten on my bike was a measly 4km and my dreams of being in a triathlon is slowly diminishing. But at the same time I was so nervous - Could I even go up? What if I tripped and fell? How hard really is the hill?

  I went to bed with racing thoughts and slept fitfully. When I woke up this morning it was 4am, and then again at 530am. This time I did not get back to bed, but played the internet and had cereal. I dozed off for a while until 630am. Left at 7am, and predictably got lost even with a detailed map and direction on how to get there.

 When we started the ride I was instantly left behind. Later I realized that my speed was just too damned slow, when I thought that that was a normal speed. One of the guys stayed back with me; and he dished out some good tips and advices - the stem of my bike is too long for me, thus making it hard for me to handle my brakes (which is why my hands always hurt!), he told me about the concept of changing gears and how to gauge your speed. This certain body part of mine was starting to hurt and throb real badly. Throughout the ride it was the only thing that was a negative, everything else was just awesome. 

 When we joined the rest of the group they were already at the top looking like they have a good 15 minutes rest or so. Kash has told me about the next part: a 9-10km ride uphill. She parted with a sound advice: keep spinning. At first I was wondering what that means - some sort of a cycling limbo that I do not know about, but then I figured out the hard way when we went slowly uphill. It is suicide to stop cycling - you just don't feel like starting again. So I didn't stop, and cycled, no matter how awful everything felt. Even my breathing was labored and my thighs felt like they're steam fried. As we're about to reach the top she said, "the last part's a bit steep," and instantly I wished she didn't say it because the ones we went through were already steep, I had no idea how the next one's steep is going to be like!

 Going up, I was already building up the nervousness about going down. I was scared of how fast my bike can get - I have always been scared of speed, especially speed that is controlled by me. And seeing all the other cyclists zipping down like colorful shadows made me nervous. Kash told me to keep holding on to my brakes and brake cautiously. As we sped down she was like, "let go don't brake, enjoy the downhill!"

 So I did. Some parts were scary and I felt like I was going out of control - being built less sturdy has its disadvantages - that I could see my shadow quivering and shaking. But the speed on these curves felt really nice, no cars to worry about, ample of space, and wind in your face. I couldn't really remember what how the rest of the ride paned out except that I both wanted it to be over (body parts were hurting!) and didn't want it to end (I'm whizzing by awesome sceneries with the wind on my face). When I hopped off the bike and started to walk, my legs felt like they're made of rubber. I had to lean against the car for a while. Kash laughed at me, said, "Well, why did you think I am standing still right now?" hahahha.

 I am REALLY glad I joined this ride. It was an amazing first time for me and I love how my thighs burn and my lungs felt like exploding. Haven't felt like that for a while. I loved how mentally challenging it gets. Also, the camaraderie after the whole thing is over. Listening to grown men's jokes has always been a favorite after growing up with crude, aging, but feisty uncles and tok ayahs. I am amazed at how these so-called 'senior' uncles smoked me - and I mean SMOKED - from the beginning until the end. Why, they're splashing about in the sungai when I finally arrived, panting.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bike Ride

I still have the leftover of the fever today, so the mood to enjoy my bike ride is a little bit foiled. 

 To be honest, I'm having a hard time finding a decent route for my bicycle. By decent I mean something that is more than 4km, and isn't going downhill all the time that I always ended up braking my heart's content. Everytime I take my bike out for a ride I am intimidated by the passing cars and sometimes speedy motorcyclists. When I am lucky enough to find a flat stretch of road I keep on having to stop since there are many T junctions along the way. A friend of mine who cycles once mentioned that the subang jaya neighborhood is the worst place for a cyclist to train and well, I didn't put much heed or thought into his statement then. Now I know. 

 But I hate to complain so much and decided to make do. Well, if the biggest, most decent route around ss19 is only about 4km or so, be it. I'll probably just do about 8 loops of it. Even if I ended up braking half the time, or cruising. Only today is marred by a slight drizzle and my headache. Normally I would be reluctant to end a workout without feeling sweaty or exhausted, but today I was too discouraged by the route and also tired from the fever.

 That's about it. Hope everybody is feeling good about their workout.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Swim Drills

My first swim class and I was late. 
I went home early after my training, felt a fever acting up and bundled under the covers to sweat it out. Too soon it was nearly 6pm, so I swallowed Actifast and got going. But I was unfamiliar with the area so I got lost. 

 When I arrived the other students were already there. My instructor, Mr Lee, introduced me to everybody by saying that I am a triathlete! I tried telling him that I am attempting to compete but everybody was looking at me like I'm a hotshot swimmer. There's this one guy, Ng, who asked me about my time and all. I was instantly nervous. He had me swim 100m to assess my style, and I got so excited that I went too fast and I burned down at the last 25m. I choked and sputtered in front of them. so embarrassing! hahaha..
 He then asked us to do kicking drills, which nearly wiped me out. My thighs were burning. After that it was one arm stroke drills, which I sucked. Then, the best part of the evening, he had us swim across the pool (17m) with only a single breath, kicking all the way. I nearly died! And then, as if the torture isn't enough, he has us tread water with our hands above the surface of the water, all the way. Of course I failed that. My legs simply weren't strong enough. To end it, he asked me, Ng, and this malay dude to race 100m. I went charging the first 100m, but lost steam and came reallll slow, breathing like an asthmatic. What a humbling experience! To think I was a hotshot swimmer in my 3k pool - well of course, when everyone else were elderly grandpas and uncles! hehe.

 He asked me what my goal was, and I told him to be able to swim long distance while conserving energy. Ng's target was all about speed - he wanted to do 100m in less than 1:40. The malay dude wanted to be able to swim; he was practicing his breaststroke mostly.

 All in all, a good tiring workout, but too short to my liking. Can't wait for the next class. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Brick la sgt.

Today I had an offshore training, which started at 12 noon for registration, and had me going Yabedabedu nuggets! in the office yesterday when I found out. Ever since I decided I'm going to try to do a triathlon, my mind is working 24/7 trying to find time into an already packed day. I once wrote a lengthy piece about completely re-setting the concept of time - wouldn't it be great if a day consists of 48 hours and nighttime is only for 12 hours?

Anyway I woke up early today to go for the pool. I arrived just ten minutes after the opening hour - and walking towards the pool I was deliriously happy. An empty pool, just to myself! But when I walked in I saw there were about 3-4 swimmers, but they were doing laps themselves. My swimming goal this morning was to either swim for 1 hour or do 1.7km, whichever come first. Of course I was hoping to do 2km but I do not want to overwork myself.

Warm up: 2x50m
Set: 3x100m, 1x800m, 1x200m
Cool Down: 1x200m

Total distance and time: 1.5km, 60 minutes.

My right shoulder has this recurring - but not all the time - pain when I swim. It feels like a jolt, or a stab of pain, and I was super paranoid. I DO NOT want to get injured - a swimmer's shoulder on top of my runner's knees. What's next - a biker's thigh? At the rate I am going, collecting injury after injury, the next thing I know I'm reduced to no exercise and gorging my heart out and with my injury prone self I might get Foodie's Stomach. Haha not funny I know.

So I restrained myself from going further and settled on a one-hour swim. To shake things up a little bit I made myself breathe after 7 strokes, which had me gasping a little bit but I managed nevertheless.

Evening, I decided to take my bike out for a ride. We're still strangers, and to be honest I am actually... scared of my bike. It's funny -I've jumped off a suspended platform and went cave spelunking but show me my yellow bike and I tremble at the sight of it. Riding with my boyfriend proved to be no good either. He barks instruction and I could feel him snicker inside whenever I nearly topple off the bike. He is amazed at how wimpy I was the first time I tried out my bike.

I think the issue was pure intimidation. You were supposed to enjoy biking enough to buy one but I did it the other way around; buy a bike first, figure out the bike later. In result, the mechanics of the bike intimidate me - fork, tyres, gears, shifters, etc. Then taking out and putting the tires back in. I still have a hard time putting back the rear tire I was sweating like a good aerobic workout by the time I'm done. Man, that was tiring! Oh wait, what? I have to ride on it?!

I haven't been riding a bicycle for quite some time - that is, riding on a road shared with cars and motorcycles and sometimes moving lorries. And seriously, I thought the function of a bicycle is that you have to pedal them, but apparently not for my bike. It goes on Faassst.. so fasstt... exactly HOW FAST is a normal road bike supposed to go? I tried downshifting (or maybe it was upshifting - never really got the hang of the jargon) to no avail. I ended up half of the ride crouching down and squeezing the brakes. My palms ache in the most horrible way ever. People complain about sore butts when going cycling the first time but for me it was sore palms.

So the whole 30 minutes of riding was spent like this: pedal for 5 seconds, crouch, brake, brake, brake, release brakes, BRAAAKEEE, cruise, brake. I did ride up one uphill which had me going all perky for a while but it ended way too soon and I would want to do it again, except that I had to go downhill first to go uphill and that would mean... more braking. No thanks.

I think I also have to get myself gloves.

Oh well, my foray into this scary multisport ensues...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2 deadly sins

Ever since coming back to my parent's house just 45 minutes from the city last Thursday, I've been doing nothing but committing to gluttony and sloth. I've never felt so guilty and to be honest can't wait to get back on track and face the daily monotony of work and routine. But at the same time this self-indulgence of food and sleep and inactivity and nothing else doesn't really happen often, so I'm trying to force myself to enjoy it as much as I could because come Monday, I'd be back to square one again. 

 Only I've been a glutton and a sloth since Thursday, and I am starting to feel restless. The only form of 'exercise' I did was accompanying my parents on their daily morning walk for like maybe half an hour before treating ourselves to a hearty breakfast of nasi lemak and roti canai! Granted the walk is about 4-5km daily (its about 2.5-3km to the town and back again) but still. The rest of the days I'm either lounging on a bed reading, eating, sleeping and then talking to my parents while they potter in the garden. 

 And the food... let's not talk about it. I think I've had stuffed turkey, mashed potato, dendeng, kari ayam, ayam rendang, and today me and my sister baked a cheesecake and chocolate brownies. Can you say gluttony? To relieve my guilt I keep looking at my training calendar that will start this Tuesday and will continue on through the 3 weekends since I've 'punched card' with my folks this week. 

 Ignore this totally pointless post. Bet nobody noticed the 2 4-5kms I did amidst all the heavenly food and desserts hahahahhahaha!