Friday, April 30, 2010

Lion City Weekend

I'm going to the South this weekend for some nice experience and craziness. 

 Singapore to me is like the Asian version of America. I grew up with american magazines therefore wanting almost everything they have in the pages. Malaysia don't always carry their brands or label and Singapore is the closest one that one could go to and get some.

 When I was crazy with my crafting, Singapore (other than ebay and etsy) was my go to spot for some knick knacks or other craft tools you couldn't find in Malaysia. You name it, Olfa blades, Elmer's Glue, etc. When I was obsessed with sewing my own clothes, Singapore turned me into a crazy shopaholic. I scoured every little back alleys and tailor shops for the most authentic and cutesy fabrics as well as ribbons, patterns, and other sewing paraphernalia. 

And now that my focus is on running, I am out of control. When I went to Singapore last year for Std Chartered, walking into their malls was a test of willpower (similar to running a marathon?) since I was broke. Every other shop was a running store, and the socks, shoes, clothes all called out my name, pleading for me to take them home. I went in a couple of shops and I wanted them all - the socks, shoelaces, heart rate monitors, even the chi energy necklaces! Suddenly I understood what it feels like to want to be rich. Imagine being able to whisk all these products into the shopping cart without mentally calculating in your head how much it costs.

 Things I think I want (or need):
- One of those compression tights things. They look so comfortable and I have always been a sucker for good advertising. This one makes me believe my legs would be super strong by just slipping into them! And if they don't work at least I have a super nice 'leggings' to block out the sun's ray hahah
- Garmin Forerunner. I have to declare this: I LOVE GPS. For my senior year project, I did something GPS based and I think the technology rocks like youhavenoidea. A GPS device that is designed for runners? GET OUT OF TOWN. Also, as much as I enjoy running without knowing the time and distance, if I had to choose, I rather lose the time and have the distance. I like collecting distance. You don't call it a distance sports for nothing if you don't obsess over the miles, right? (coverline sebab mmg slow)
- Better Knee Guard. I have decided to keep using my patella stabilizer (or plain ol' knee guards) for my runs therefore I want a nice and proper one to replace this pair that is about to wear out from constant use. The highly recommended pair costs a bomb! Urgh, I need money. (Or to rob a bank).
- Hydration Belts. I don't know why but I nearly bought one last year. The whole idea of it is very tempting. But this was when I thought I would be running marathons.
- Shoes. A given. I don't even know what I want or what suits me. I ran in Power shoes and only recently upgraded to New Balance. But my most used pairs are my two trusty Reeboks. See? Nak jugak merasa Asics sebenarnya hehehehe.

 The list might go on if I allow myself to daydream but the first three would be my top wants. They are also, the top three expensive things. Actually, other than the hydration belts they all could cause a dent to my paycheck. 

 When I reach this stage I try to tell myself that running is the simplest sport. It only requires a pair of (good) shoes and your willingness to keep going. I have met an uncle who runs like the wind and uses the timer on his cellphone as his running watch. He should be wearing all the gazookas  - he deserves a better running watch, not me!

 Okay, gotta continue my packing. See ya all you weekend warriors.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Brisk Walk

I need to gain some weight.

 Everybody's making jokes about my weight now and it's getting worrying. They say that by the time I ran to the finishing line all that's left would be my hair and a stick. My sister read the paper today which states that for every kilometer you run you lose 1 kg and she's like no wonder you're so freaking skinny!

 This morning, boyfriend and I woke up early for a nice stroll/jog at the lake. He is far off worse than me: got a nice hairline fracture on his ankle and his fibula bone popped out of the socket. When we looked at his x-ray we all visibly cringed, even the doctor. He has been off work for 8 weeks now, with countless of physio sessions and ice (but his icing is done the professional way - sticking his ankle through the hole and the ice would be timed and adjusted accordingly - I was looking at the icing machine in awe). He was hoping to make it for the football selection end of May but it seems like the dream is dashed. We're a walking example of Misery Loves Company.

 I got a nice workout - brisk walking for about 5 loops. I forgot how taxing this seemingly docile exercise is, especially if you're an injured runner making a comeback. Those aunties really know what they are doing. I tried to follow their speed but lost steam after 3 rounds. How did they go so fast without running? It seemed impossible as I kept breaking into a stride every once in a while. It was much more easier to trot than to walk at a furious pace for a long time. Nevertheless I was sweating and pumped up while my boyfriend took it real slow with a 1 km walk. So kesian. He was also complaining about the lost of his muscle mass especially on his thighs (vain). I had to admit they looked especially slim comparing. I mean before that his quads were scary to look at and he couldn't fit in any of those trendy TopShop jeans guys our age wear kahkahkah. You know, the really slim ones rocker dudes wear?

 Anyway, my doctor said that I could start running again, albeit slowly but I'm SO nervous. I keep feeling twinges of pain when I do. And now I think I feel it all the time... even while sleeping. I think I'm going crazy. He says my knees look ok now, if you don't count the cartilage wear and tear. But as far as inflammation goes, I'm clear. He thinks I'm being paranoid and he likes that fact since it would make me run carefully. Oh well.

 Really need to go for a massage. And gain some weight. Does Appeton WeightGain work? I'm tired of all the nicknames, jokes and wearing belts for ALL my jeans. Damn.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nice To Know You, Friend

I have a new friend, and her life is the total pits.

I met her on a rainy Wednesday evening. It was drizzling, stopping anything soon, and I felt wistful, knowing that to run afterwards would be a very therapeutic feeling. But my knees won't appreciate the therapy.

My new friend is blind in one eye, from an accident when she was 3. Her husband left her for another woman, and she is left fending for her kids and coping with the cost of life in the form of mortgage, car loans, bills, and everything else in between. My new friend lost her father recently, and she told me that she has lost the only man who loved her truly and never let her down even for a second. Also, she has a weak pair of legs, shuffles everywhere when she has to walk, which is often because her car breaks down almost all the time ("This car reminds me of my ex- husband," she told me wryly, "because it always gives me shit.") Her youngest is suffering from Lupus, and seems unable to motivate himself to enjoy school. She was a swimmer all throughout high school and university even with one eyesight. She was fast, a waterbaby. But since life bogs her down so much all her glory days is a gift she reopens once in a while at 3am in the morning when she couldn't sleep.

That is my new friend, and her name is Perspective. I come to her if I want a dose of Get Me Out of This Funk. Being young, and unharnessed, and sometimes impatient, I tend to forget that it's not the end of the world if I couldn't run. I go back and forth from being Miss Spiritual, Life is Great to WHY AM I STILL NOT RECOVERING?

So here it is, Perspective. Do I want her life? Or mine, which is - when you look at it again - not so bad at all. In fact, I am going to for a nice long walk after this, and enjoy the view. I could still enjoy blue skies and dogs marking trees and insane traffic jams, whereas Perspective can't. Not completely.

So, no brainer here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Fellowship of Girls

I had a fun time last weekend with 2 wonderful girls.

It's true what we've been told many many times: the most important element in anything we do (but in this case, sports) is the mental strength and willpower. I remember reading from somewhere that in most cases during a testing or a trying race course, the mind gives up 40% earlier than the body, and when it does, the body follows at an alarming speed. Also, a friend once told me, "If your mind told your body to stop, it will stop. So don't tell it to stop, and it won't."

My benchmark for my own willpower changes from time to time. When I was doing a steady flow of 10k races, it would always be the worst 10k run. If I could survive that, then this 10k is nothing. And then I went to Nepal, which for me was a test of mind, with the heavy bag and knee pain and the elements of weather and the endless miles. Every race after that, through a struggling phase, I'd remember the worst memory in Nepal and told myself to push through. This usually happens when I go up a really monstrous hill or during the last leg of a long race where you just wanted to stop.

Doing a lot of sports at once helped me with my willpower. While a particularly testing pose in yoga where one had to squat for a nice steady 4 minutes, I forced my mind to think of this particular time when I cycled up a really bad hill. I could do this, the burn in my thighs now is nothing like the burn I felt then, I told myself. When I am climbing up a hill and just wanted to stop pedaling, I went back to the time I in-line skated up a hill in Kiara and nearly went backwards from the lack of strength. But I made it, and therefore I MUST DO IT.

The worst hill I climbed was this one hill in Kg. Limau Manis. It was a short one, but very steep. I have never faced hills like that before. I think it only took me about 2-3 minutes? but it was the worst 3 minutes ever. All visualisation of other bad moments failed when I realized I was about to reverse back downhill. With nothing else to do, I chanted a steady mantra of, "Just go forward just go forward just go forward," and, "Tahan sikit tahan sikit tahan sikit tahan sikit," until I reached the sweet end.

The worst race I ran was Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon. I did a half-marathon, it was a gruesome distance to run with bad knees and feet. I felt the pain at 2km and it never let on until the end. I started to fight with myself at 16km, and I think it was only thanks to my mind that I managed to finish the race. In one interview Joan Benoit advised, "Don't look at the mile markers," but that's what I did. It was horrible chasing for one signage to another. I just wanted the race to end! The only saving grace was that my whole system had given up except my mind. I just admitted to the pain and suffering and told myself that at one point this will all be over but before it does, I'd probably just have to go through it. Not fighting to keep optimistic or to distract myself was the best thing I did on that race. I just surrendered to become the walking dead.

Last weekend was a new benchmark for me. I did not know how I did it, but I certainly did. I think I yelped and cried out, "I can't do this!" at 3km to the end. But I had an amazing company of a heavily mustached man who was beside me pushing and also a fantastic girl who was an awesome showcase of the mantra, "Just keep going." It was a sweet victory to finally stop. It was there and then that I wished to God I did not cry out, "I can't do this!" at the last leg. I need to be stronger than that!

I need to remember this for the next one. No crying out.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Heartbroken at 4yrs Old

Got this gem off my sister:

The mother (who posted this up Youtube) wrote:
June 22, 2008This little one comes home from Vacation Bible School in love with her 15 year-old camp counselor, Stephen. After two hours of hysterical crying I had to document this moment for posterity. Oh, and we are about to move to Japan...she wants to take him with us!

So cute, but at the same time endearingly sad. She really DID look like she's devastated. I'm sure she'll bounce back again in no time! Aaaah, life as a 4-yr old.

Going Downhill

Too many things to write about, but I want to talk about knowing our limitations.

 I have a training journal and when I looked back at past entries I realized I went too hard on running. This was last year before Ramadhan. I was obsessed. I think I ran everyday. During the fasting month I managed to sneak in 17 days of running. Some were done without having any sahur the night before. My knees were already hurting then. 

 I came back from Nepal with a pair of horribly hurt knees. And yet I still ran - I ran a 10k, an 11k, and 2 half-marathons, and finally the Malakoff 12k. And what did I get in the end? Bad timing, and a degenerative disease that I could never repair. Cartilage isn't something that you could produce back. It's like neurons you see. You lose them, you lose them forever. And I have people telling me, "And you're so youngggg."

 Thats right, I have early arthritis, and I'm not even 30. Blame it on my foolish obsession. 

 The same thing goes to my swimming. I swam so hard and so often and so long (hitting 3k on a normal day) that now my left shoulder is rendered useless. 

 If I had listened to my knees last year, if only I'd stopped when my knees started to hurt, I COULD have saved them, or at least extended the symptoms' appearance. If only I had held back on swimming, took my time without adding a lot of mileage every week, I could still be swimming to this day. Moderation should be the key word for both cases, one I didn't take heed on. The most important thing is sensible training. 

 I have been sick for 3 weeks. Viral fever, and then a nasty lung infection. I missed out on a lot of my workouts. Some days, you could see me packing my swimming bag only to be defeated by an aching shoulder at the end of the day, and driving straight bag home. I tried going for a run and if I didn't get reduced to a walk I would be huffing so badly an asthmatic person would gladly loaned me his inhaler. I remember telling someone what my time for a 10k was and I had two answers: before injury, and after. She said, "That is really sad. Aren't you bummed?" I never thought about it that way before, but now that she mentioned it, yeah maybe a little. Only because I was foolish.

 I would have gladly blamed all of this (my downhill fitness) to my fever but truth to be told I wished I had listened to my body when they waved out the white flag. MODERATION. And SENSIBLE training. This isn't something you could call an adversity, or something you need to experience to learn and get better. With body parts, you go down and you'll never quite get up the same way.

 On a brighter note: Bidor half-marathon this weekend. I have always wanted to run this ever since I found out about this run 2 years back. I hope I will get the chance to one day. Who would be doing this? Good Luck to all runners. Well, this weekend would not be so bad for me either. I would be having fun up north with the company of 2 girls and about a hundred more of men in tights! My fitness is in shambles and I am in the lowest state of fit, but life is NOT all about being fit.

 Remember everyone, MODERATION and SENSIBLE TRAINING. Good, repeat after me, your friendly ol arthritic friend.


Monday, April 19, 2010


This is a video taken on the way to Annapurna Base Camp and just short before I suffered the Altitude Sickness. I was asking one of the many porters going uphill whether to go straight up or wait until the sheep cleared. It was fun going up the trail!! I enjoyed this so much, right up to the scene of a dude peeing against the huge boulder rock (not in video). I saw one of the baby sheep with its two legs broken and it was literally just dragging itself downhill :( I cried a lot during this trip... Nepal would always remind me of animal abuse/torture.

 I'm slowly easing back into running and everything else this week. With swimming, cycling, karate, in-line skate, there's just so much equipment and rules you have to chug along or abide to. I always have to diligently pack the equipments for all the above sports the night before and my workouts could be ruined (or canceled altogether) if I forgot even one of the things. Running requires so little that I always feel so so so relaxed when it's my running day instead of any other day.

 I've discovered my pit-stop refuel: Magnum Almond. Ever since starting running slowly and really working on my meals and upping up my yoga, my appetite's been ravenous. Whenever I go for a nice run, especially with hills, I always reward myself with a stick of Magnum Almond. I couldn't believe it - when I was in university I couldn't even finish ONE. And now I could eat 2 in a row! Well, after a tough workout, that is. 

 I discovered the heavenly power of these Magnum Almonds in the middle of my bike rides with the uncles. It was scorching hot and I was downing plain water to no avail. A stop at the rest and relax had me beelining to one of the stalls for a nice mug of Milo Ais and what is this... Magnum Almond? Looks tasty.

 AND YES it is. Yum yum yum.

And now I have it all the time, after a swim, after a tough yoga class, kickboxing, what have yous. I even have it on the couch watching The Good Wife bonked on my cough medication. Simply eating it relives the moment when I worked hard to conquer the hills, the last km, the final lap, the excruciating pose, the tough kick punch combo. It tells me that I deserve this, every single tasty sweet, creamy drop of it.

 Damn.... I'm craving for one right now. Thank God I have the Magnum Minis in my fridge.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bad Bad Fever

Today marked the 7th day of my fever, and despite everybody's concern, as I'm writing this I feel - for the first time in a week - pretty damn good. So my mom's fears about having to jet me off to Hospital Sg Buloh for the dreaded H1N1 or Denggi test are put to rest.

 I have been basically out of the loop for more or less 3 weeks. And unlike resting form runner's knees where I was free to do everything else but run, this time I couldn't do anything at all. At first it was all about resting my shoulders and knees and then the last week was about being tethered to the living room sofa, feeling very drowsy and weak. 

 But I did go for a run on a Thursday. I went to work that day knowing that I would finish the day with a nice run. My fever seemed to be breaking and I felt like running would be no problem. On the way back from work in the train there was this hot Chinese girl with the most awesome pair of legs ever. And I was not the only one who was staring at her long legs. I noticed almost every female were eyeballing her stems. I'm sure they all wished they could own the same pair like that. I was looking at her legs and thinking, "Damn, those are one pair of strong legs... what I wouldn't give to bring those legs out for a run," I have turned a pair of legs into a pair of shoes. I guess I was feeling sorry for my own pair of genetically disabled legs hehehe.

 Anyway, this time around I took my time with the warm up, putting in about 10 extra minutes into my routine. The sun was blazing and shining, just my kind of weather. I told myself I wanted to go longer, as long as I could go without hurting my knees or ankle. 

 The run was good. I took it real slow, wasn't really hard on myself, kinda a nice zippy jog around the neighborhood. I took my time to look at the houses and saying hello to aunties I knew all my life. On a whim after completing my usual loop I decided to go further since I felt quit strong, so I did a second loop and it was nice. I went to my old neighborhood, felt a little bit nostalgic when I hit my old running route, remembering all the times when I was 15 running with my dad or friends, with no worries in the world.  

 I think I did about 6-7km. Which was quite ok for me. Actually, it was a great run. I enjoyed it. Came back home with the sniffles and aches.

 It was worth getting sick all over again after that, all the way until today hahaha.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Active Rest

I like the concept of active rest. Especially when you make it subjective.

 I was off for a week because my ankle and knees hurt even when I'm just standing brushing my teeth. My shoulder seemed to be okay but I did not want to force the training just yet. But I get so bored and restless not doing anything that I decided to make use of the 'active rest' term and use my weekends for sports.

 The last 2 weekends were good. I had awesome workouts. I knew I was improving, and that I am getting better. Training in a group pushes me more than anything. At one point, I was breathing so hard and I could feel the pulses pounding at the side of my neck. I wanted to stop, but I was working hard I couldn't even strangle out the words. I wanted to cry Uncle! but I told myself to bear through the pain. And at the end of it, I felt proud I survived the worst, and held on. I LOVE working out... I mean, active rest.

  The best thing is that when I do the Vinyasa yoga, I didn't really get tired. I think my fitness, although not at its best form, is at least, maintained. 

 I pushed myself so hard, that I am nursing from a fever and flu :( I think squeezing all 4 sports in one weekend is sorta masochistic. I'm taking Monday off and starting again tomorrow. I can't wait!!

 Anyway, here's a favorite quote I want to share with all of you:
"Anytime you add that structure to something, for me, it kills it. Think about the word 'amateur': It has its root in the Latin word 'amare', which means 'to love'--you do it for the love of the sport."
--Charles Carlson, Bicycling June 2008
I totally love it. It outlines what I've been saying all along - the pleasure to do your sports just because beats out anything else. I've been doing karate for 6 years, and I am still wearing a white belt. I have yet to go for a single belt test and yet I am doing their brown belt work. I never liked the stress and pressure of sports. I just love getting sweaty and the challenges of pushing yourself. The same thing goes to all the sports I do. 

 I chatted with an Ironman who entered the competition with his brother. He told me that his brother completed the Ironman in 13 (or was it 12) hours and totally suffered through it, whereas he completed his in 17 hours but took the time to totally enjoy the race. He freely admitted that he wasn't a fast anything - not in running, not in swimming, and also cycling. He said that he had paid a hefty fee and wanted to make his maiden Ironman (and the exorbitant price) worthwhile by cheering on others, taking pictures, instead of being pressured to finish it fast. 

 Not many people would agree with this. To some, the hours of training will definitely go to waste if they can't see results. Why bother suffering through the training if it weren't for getting an amazing time? I understand their reasoning and I am proud to see anyone of my friends who completes any race in good timing. You worked hard for it! 

But my school of thought lies with the 17-hours finisher. Not all of us are meant to be a fast finisher. Might as well enjoy every single second. I am happy to be an amateur.

 Starting again tomorrow!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Of Waterproof Music and De-Stressing Month

I'm moving back and forth the past few days between feeling extremely frustrated and relieved.

 Some days, after waking up every morning at 530am feeling tired from last night's hard workout, it is a relief to be freshly awake due to a completely rested nighttime of watching downloaded movies and a lot of icing on ankles, etc. Some days, when I try to do a light jog or yoga poses, they're frustrating when I could feel the ache in my knees and at my shoulders. My body is simply not co-operating with me and I'm exhausted of the word 'recovery' and wondering when I could be free of the aches and pains. 

 But also at the same I tell myself that I should be grateful. Grateful that I still have legs to walk, arms to type on keyboards and flip magazine pages, ankles I could flex and somewhat write alphabets in the air with. I try not to be too consumed by my training thoughts that I couldn't see what I still have as opposed to what I don't have currently. The point of training is to get better and I have to know that it's okay to lose a lot of my fitness and strength - what I have worked for the past months. The whole challenge is to start over again, right?

 Anyway, found this gem when I was surfing the internet. This is called Xtrea MP3, and it's a swimmers dream. MP3 player for doing laps. I don't listen to music when I run or swim or anything, but I know a lot of people do, and this is a great gadget to give to a swimmer in your life:
"Take your music anywhere with the durable and completely submergible XtreaMP3 player. The shockresistant and skip-free MP3 player plays up to 240 songs (1GB memory) in high-quality surround sound. The small XtreaMP3 player attaches to a comfortable neoprene arm strap, allowing you to enjoy your favorite music hands free. Specialized waterproof earbuds secure tightly, making for clear listening in any extreme environment. The player is USB compatible and completely waterproof up to depths of 15 feet (4.5m)."

What have I been doing? I have been resting - no running, a lot of yoga, but also some cardio as well. I can't help it, but it might have cost me a longer recovery time for my ankle and shoulder. I know I have to come at a complete standstill but seeing the hot sunny evenings with my old pair of skates I feel a dying urge to break a sweat. Well, can't do anything about it.

 I have a slew of races coming up and paid for... waiting patiently to start running again.