The Straits Times Run

When I first signed up for this race months ago, I was envisioning myself to attempt a 4:15″/km pace for the 18.45km run. Why 4:15″/km? Because it has always been my greatest dream to go under 1hr 30min for half marathon and I had planned to attempt this pace for the upcoming half marathon on 4 Oct 2015.

Unfortunately, injury struck in August and my training was disrupted. I still train 4-5 times a week but at lower intensity and volume; switching to cross-training to replace some pounding on the roads. And just when I thought I was recovering well to head outdoors for runs, the haze came and interrupted my training plans too. I switched to running on treadmills.

So when I arrived at Sports Hub early at 4am for the race with Wong, Alan and Sew Hyong, I wasn’t ready to attempt 4:15″/km. Even 4:20″/km seemed daunting despite attempting this pace at Shape Run 15km in July. I wasn’t in top form and I decided that 4:30″/km might be a decent pace to start with. If I can at least managed a 4:30″/km pace, it will be a confidence booster to do a 1:35-1:40 half marathon for SCKLM.

Thankfully, the haze cleared. My plantar fasciitis is healing. Not 100% but at least no pain when I run now. I told myself to just enjoy the run and not to think too much about the time. To be able to run and breathe in fresh air, I should already be very thankful. With this mindset, I find myself relaxing at the start line.

When the race started, many runners zoomed past me in fast pace. I controlled myself and started at my own pace. Jasmine caught up not long after and was surprised I wasn’t chasing the front pack. I told her I’m taking it easy and asked her to run on. However, she held back the pace and I could no longer hear her behind me after a while. Boon Wee who was running alongside sped up to catch up with Trevor who was right ahead and they both disappeared into the distance. I continued running at my own pace, focusing on my form and breathing. My first km split reads 4:25″/km. At the first u-turn along Nicoll Highway, I counted about 5 females runners (a Kenyan, Japanese runner, Sakiko, two Caucasians and Jenny) ahead of me.

After about 4km into the run, we turned into Republic Ave and I saw Calvin from MF Safra not far ahead. “Good pace” I said to him as I caught up and ran alongside with him. I picked up the pace a bit and Calvin followed closely. “Nice to have company to run with.” I thought to myself as we found ourselves running together for the next 5 km to MBS, our pace maintaining at around 4:25″/km. I caught up with Jenny along the way and I cheered for her. But she was too focused in her run (and music) to hear me.

At along Gardens By the Bay, we spotted a small group of runners ahead, consisting of 3 men and 1 lady runner, all looking strong and moving at steady pace. (I came to know later one of them is Jon Cheal after he blogged his race experience and shared on fb. Nicely written article, read it here). Seeing the closely-knitted pack ahead, motivated me to speed up to close the gap in between. Calvin and I eventually caught up with them and we ended up taking the lead of the pack. Still feeling strong, we started to pick up the pace again as we approached Marina Barrage. At first, we could feel the group tagging along after we crossed the bridge. It was nice running in a pack and feeling the camaraderie shared as we preserved with our desired pace. I dare not slacken with so many of them hot on my heels too. Shortly later, Calvin and I managed to pull away from them and then it was just both of us again as we cruised along Gardens By the Bay East.

However, by the time we cleared Gardens By the East and entered Tanjong Rhu, I could sense Calvin slowing down and then I could no longer sense him behind me. A F1 runner ran on strongly and overtook me. I tried to keep him in sight.

By 14 km, I was beginning to feel the fatigue and my breathing got a little heavier. I was running alone and losing focus. My pace has dropped to about 4:30″/km pace, still within my target but I was getting a bit flustered as I was panting harder. As I passed by the 15km marker, Jasmine came running from behind. She was concerned and asked me if I’m ok. I told her I’m fine and asked her to run on. As Jasmine sprinted off, I have half a mind to give chase. But my fitness wasn’t there and with 3 more km to go, I have no confidence of keeping up with her at all. (weak mind, I know.) Anyhow, this was supposed to be a test run for me. So if 4:30″/km is what I have in mind, then I jolly well stick to it and not let the competition aggravate my heel pain. (excuses again =p)

The moment we turned out of the park, Jasmine was gaining speed and pulling away. I picked my pace and targeted to keep her in sight for as long as possible. Soon, we were approaching Sports Hub. It was still dark and there were a few twists and turns. I was grateful to have Jasmine ahead to follow. I could see her closing in on the tall F1 runner and running very strongly. I lost her as she turned into the stadium with the F1 runner.

“Press on, the end is near.” Finally, I was inside the stadium and pounding on the track. It feels good to be back here again. Completed the 18.45km (pretty accurate distance) run in 1:23:12. Average pace 4:26″/km (according to my Garmin) and finished 5th in the women’s open category.

Overall, I am satisfied with the run as I have bettered my target pace 4:30″/km by doing 4:26″/km instead. The pacing and run at the first two-thirds has went well.  It’s a confidence booster for my SCKLM half marathon next week to clock a decent timing. The only disappointment was that I was not mentally strong enough. I did not have the guts to chase Jasmine after she overtook me at 15km and I just watched her go. Time to buck up on training and hopefully I can regain my fitness soon.

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Down but not out (Wk 4)

(Just realised this post has been sitting in my draft for ages..)

5 September, Saturday

Encouraged that I no longer feel pain in my left heel when I run, I decided it’s time to start doing long runs on weekend again. I can skip all other training but surely not long runs cause they are the staples for long distance running. And with ST Run and KL Half marathon happening less than a month away, I’m getting a bit anxious. So on a lovely Saturday morning, I headed to ECP with Jackie, Peyling, Eileen and Claude. Ran 20km in 1:39:32. Average pace: 4:58″/km. Somehow I’m relieved and heartened to know that I’m still able to do an average 5 min pace for my long run just like my pre-injury days. Am taking this as a positive sign that whatever I’m doing is a step in the right direction.

6 September, Sunday

REST!

7 September, Monday

Back to Fusionopolis Fitness First for elliptical trainer (50mins) followed by RPM Challenge (60 mins) and some stretching.

8 September, Tuesday

Joined Jurong Safra for tempo run at Jurong Central Park. Workout was 3 loops of 1.2km x 3 sets, with 2 mins rest in between. Completed all three sets in 17:03mins, 16:40mins and 17:36mins. Could not sustain the pace for the last set. Nonetheless, I had quite a good workout and is contented to have push through the mental barrier and completed all three sets decently.

9 September, Wednesday

Attended the body pump class for an hour followed by RPM challenge class (40mins) and hardcore class (30mins). 6.30pm till 9.30pm. Gosh, seemed like I’m spending way to much time in gym these days. (>.<)

 

Down but not out (Wk 3)

29 August, Saturday

Participated Orange Ribbon Run as one of the sports ambassadors with Rachel, Raviin and Renuka. Rachel had a shin splint and was also nursing her injury. Haha! I must agree with her when she commented that we are really sisters, injured also around the same time. Anyway, we decided to just do a easy 10km run together. She suggested 5min pace. As I have no confidence in my stamina these days, I told her I will try to follow, and she can go ahead if I can’t keep up. It was hot and humid when the race started at 4pm. We started at an easy pace of 5:30″/min and gradually increased our pace. Rachel’s husband, Zili was still running with us initially but ran ahead after we reached Marina Barrage as he felt that it was too hot and wanted to quickly finished the run. I wasn’t really watching the time anymore after Rachel and I settled into momentum and started chatting as we run. The first half felt more tiring probably because I could feel the glare of the sun in my eyes. We found ourselves going faster at the 2nd half of the run and met a lot of 5km runners as we passed Marina Barrage. At the last 100m to the finishing line, Yvonne, who participated in the 5km category came running past and we witnessed her victory as she crossed the finishing line in under 20mins. And yes, we managed to complete the 10km in sub 50km run too. A very much enjoyable run and catch up with Rachel. Am also very encouraged that I do not feel any pain at all on my left heel when I was running. My pair of GT2000 really provides good cushioning and shock absorption. =)

30 August 2015, Sunday 

Decided to hit Fitness First gym at West gate for active recovery. As the heel pain has returned after I finished running, I decided not to run but to use the elliptical trainer. After that, I went for an hour of RPM Challenge (spinning) class and lazed by the poolside. I can get used to spending Sunday like this.

31 August, Monday

REST!

1 September, Tuesday

Joined Jurong Safra Running Club on JW stadium for intervals. Workout was a pyramid: (400m, 800m, 1200m, 800m, 400m) x 2 sets.

Compared to the same workout I did a week ago (which I struggled through), I find myself more in control of the pacing and effort this time. Very happy to complete the workout feeling strong. Splits for the two sets: 1:35; 3:13; 4:55; 3:10; 1:31 and 1:30; 3:12; 4:53; 3:14; 1:28.

No pain on my heel when I did the intervals, but the pain returned once I took off my shoes and started walking. What bothers me is that the pain lingers and doesn’t go away till hours later. I find that icing the affected area helps. So I continued to ice my heel at night before I sleep and in the morning before work.

2 September, Wednesday

Active recovery at Fusionopolis Fitness First after work. I tried running on treadmill for 5 mins but my heel has yet to recover from the workout the day before and there was discomfort. Switched to elliptical trainer and I spent 45 mins on it before attending a 50 mins RPM class. Realised there was a 30 mins hardcore class after the spin. Curious what the class is about, I decided to try it out. Gosh! Hardcore indeed. It was high-intensity workout consisting of 15 mins cardio and 15 mins of conditioning. I was breathless and panting hard after just one set of cardio workout. This class activated all those muscles which I have been neglecting for the longest time.

3 September, Thursday

Still feeling discomfort on my heel so I decided to skip training with Safra Jurong and did deep water running instead. 45 mins of deep water running follow by 20 mins of swim. It’s really not the same as running outdoors, but I guess it’s the only way to avoid pounding and get fit while I’m at it.

4 September, Friday

REST! =)

Mileage for week 3: approx. 20 km

Down but not out (Wk 2)

22 Aug, Saturday

Woke up to a cool morning with light drizzle. Zhilei has kindly offered to teach me deep water running upon knowing that I am down with plantar fasciitis. Thankfully, the rain stopped and Jurong Safra pool re-opened just in time after 9am. Zhilei has also brought along a float (to be belted around the waist) for water running since the feet should not be touching the floor. After watching how she ran in the water, it was my turn to practise while she watched and corrected my posture. A few laps up and down the pool, I could feel the ache in my arms from all the swings, fatigue in the legs and even started panting a bit. We had to pause for a short while though as it started raining again and had to get out of the pool. Resumed running in the pool after the lifeguard given the greenlight. I practise a few more laps before we call it a day. Not quite the same as running, but it was closest to running with low impact. Thanks Zhilei introducing me to deep water running and spending your Saturday morning with me. =)

24 August, Monday

I decided to activate the 3 months complimentary gym pass at Fitness First which I won for winning Shape Run.(timely, isn’t it?). By the time I cleared the administrative work, I was too late for the body pump class. So I decided to try working out on the elliptical trainer for 30 mins. I have forgotten when was the last time I used this machine but I recall I don’t feel like I had a workout the last time I tried. How wrong was I. It’s really just a matter of the resistance and how hard you pushed. Within 10mins, I was perspiring and enjoying every single minute of it. Stepped off after 30 mins to get ready for the RPM (spinning class). One full hour of very satisfied workout as the instructor Lay Yen pushed the class to reach our limit.

25 August, Tuesday

Have not been running for 11 days. I decided to join Jurong Safra for short intervals as a test drive. Workout was (400m, 800m, 1200m, 800m, 400m) x 2 sets. Timing as follow: 1:26 (too fast), 3:14, 4:58, 3:16, 1:29. Over ambitious and I struggled through for my 2nd set and could not keep up with the rest. 1:31, 3:20, 4:56, 3:14, 1:28. Though timing was quite decent, it was demoralizing to be so far behind the pack and to feel the discomfort on my left heel once again. This was even despite wearing my most cushioned shoes. A sign that I still need to lay off from running for a while. =(

26 August, Wednesday

Am so glad I can still hit the gym to use the elliptical trainer and attend the RPM class to get my endorphin fix. Once in a while, it does feel good to just exercise, do what you like and not chase for timing at each training session.

27 August, Thursday 

It’s Jackie’s day off from work and he wanted to join MF Safra for their run. So I decided to check out the Fitness First at Alexandra since it was the closest to the clubhouse. Just nice there’s a Aqua Fit class in the evening and I managed to get to the class just in time. An enjoyable hour spent in the pool doing some runs and jumps; and squats, reverse crunches, push-ups etc by the poolside. I went on to swim a few laps after the class until the time is up for me to meet Jackie for dinner.

Mileage for week 2: approx. 10km

Down but not out (Wk 1)

Since I am supposed to layoff from running for 3 weeks, I decided to use the Fitness First 3 day trial pass from Shape Run race pack to start a new exercise regime. Visited the gym on Sunday afternoon and tried the RPM (spin) class. It has been a long time since I join a spin class and it felt really good to race against the tempo of the music and work my quads. Not bad when the instructor is an eye candy too. =p

Rest on Monday and I returned to Fitness First to explore more classes on Tuesday evening after work. It’s great that the gym is so near my workplace at Fusionopolis and I get to save time on travelling. Attended the Bodyjam class and it was quite fun dancing to the rhythm of the music though admittedly I could not really keep up when the steps got more complicated =p This probably explains why I did not perspire as much as I would like to after the one hour class.

After the Bodyjam class, I went for the RPM class. I was looking forward to the spin class as I knew I would get quite a good and hard workout out of this class.  The RPM class feels much tougher than Sunday’s class. I could feel my quads burning with each push and pull of the pedal. Never have I pedaled so furiously before and it was satisfying to spot small puddle of perspiration on the floor after the 50 mins class.

The third class I tried was the Bodypump class, a barbell class to sculpt, tone and strengthen the entire body. I felt daunted when I first entered the class as everyone look so proficient in setting up their equipment. I was feeling slightly lost as it was the first time I attend such classes and have no idea how to select the appropriate weights for my bar. Thankfully, the instructor Andre noticed that I’m new to the class and patiently guided me to set up of equipment and select the weights and also a quick run through of some of the movements.

I chose the lightest weight available to load on the bar for warm up and gradually load more weights following the instruction of the trainer. As it was my first time doing strengthening and conditioning with a barbell (and I have zero confidence of my arm strength), I was caution with the load. Despite the minimum load, I was able to feel the fatigue in my arms after a few repetitions. The 1 hour class leave me feeling quite satisfied and toned. This was the last class for the day and I hurried to shower before the gym closed for the night. 3 days in an evening. Seemed like I had fully utilized the pass.

As the trial pass was only eligible for 3 consecutive days and I missed Monday, I went back to Jurong West Sports Complex’s gym on Wednesday and Thursday to continue with my gym regime. Hopped onto the stationery bike and cycled for 40 mins, followed by using the Nike Training Centre app to do some core workout.

Friday is my rest day. And so this marked my first week of zero mileage. Feeling a bit down since I can’t run, but I’m glad I’m still able to get my endorphin fix from the gym.

Injury Woes

The heel pain on my left foot was so worrying that I finally called Singapore Medicine Centre to fix an appointment with a doctor. The schedule was fully booked so it was more than two weeks later when I finally arrived at SSI for my appointment on 14 August 2015 morning.

I took the whole day off from work for this consultation. Had an ultrasound and the doctor confirms that the heel pain to be due to Plantar Fasciitis. To elaborate, it involves pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes.

My ultrasound imaging showed a 4 mm thickness. Anything more than or equal to 4mm is consider plantar fasciitis. Doctor advised me to cut my mileage by half, and it would be best if I could lay off for three weeks. He also recommended me to see a podiatrist who can customise a pair of insoles for me.

And so the medicine centre pen me in for an appointment with a podiatrist (who comes only in the afternoon) on the same day. The podiatrist made some marking at the back of my foot and then asked me to walk up and down the corridor while he assessed my pronation.  Thereafter, a mold of my feet was made and I was asked bring along two pairs of running shoes when I return at my next visit.

Will be going back to see the doctor and podiatrist in 3 weeks’ time. Shall be good and cut my mileage for the time being. Hope to be able to recover fully in Sept so I can kick start my training for year end SCMS soon.

ASICS City Relay

1 August 2015

I was feeling quite excited about the race as ASICS is the title sponsor for this running event in Singapore. Adding to the fun element, it’s gotta to be a team event across all categories. However, unlike Sundown team event, Asics City Relay is an Ekiden format whereby team members take turns to run 10.5km one after another to make up the full marathon distance. Representing ASICS Running Club, Rachel volunteered to be our first runner as she prefers to run when it’s still bright. Claire opted to be the 2nd runner and Brittany chose to be the 3rd runner. And that leaves me to be the last runner for the team.  We called ourselves Team Asics Charlie Angels. =D

By 5.45pm, all the first runners of each team were already ushered into the race pen. There was a short briefing of the race route and a run through of the change over. At 6pm, the horn sounded and the race was on.

Having fun at photo booth after all the first runners were flagged off.

Having fun at photo booth with Claire after all the first runners were flagged off.

And with Jackie, who eventually decided to participate in this event. He was the 2nd runner for another team.

And with Jackie, who eventually decided to participate in this event. He was the 2nd runner for another team.

There was a tracking board available on the event’s website which shows the time of the runners when they crossed 5.2km mark, which is the u-turn after Gardens By The Bay. It also shows the time when they returned to stadium for the changeover. Rachel ran an impressive first 5km in under 19 mins. By the time she returned to the stadium for change over, her time which was sub 41 mins put us in the lead by more than 3 mins from the 2nd women team.

Claire took over the wrist band and set off looking strong and focused. I looked out for Jackie, who is running the 2nd leg for his team and then went around taking pictures with friends, at the same time find out more about the race route and learn from the experience from the first runners who has returned.

A picture with Brittany (in black) and Rachel after Rachel completed the first leg. She is so amazingly fast!

A picture with Brittany (in black) and Rachel after Rachel has completed the first leg. She is so amazingly fast!

I was feeling hungry having had my last meal at 1pm. Was still contemplating if I should get some food when Wong offered me a small piece of hotdog bun which was enough to fill my stomach. Maintaining our first position, Claire returned in about 48 mins and off Brittany went. I was feeling more jittery by the minute and decided that it was time to get myself a cup of coffee to calm my nerves. Sat down to enjoy the cup of coffee while I listened to Claire as she shared her race experience. It’s gotta be quite messy, she said as the running path is narrow and shared by runners running to and fro. She reminded me to turn left after I see the overhead bridge as she made the mistake of going straight towards marina barrage, only to backtrack after she realised it was not the correct route. Claire also warned me to look out for cyclists and park-goers too.

I finished my cup of coffee and got ready to warm up. At close to 8pm, I proceed to the changeover pen to wait for Brittany’s return. I estimate her to be coming back at around 8:20pm. I was feeling nervous by the minute as I saw more and more runners returning and still no sight of Brittany. While waiting, I spotted speedy Yvonne Lin, 3rd runner from Team Trackstar running past and heading towards the next changeover pen. It was then I realised we have fell to 2nd place. There was nothing to worry about though as Trackstar was under Running Club category which means Team Asics Charlie Angels still remains first under Women Open’s category.

3 more minutes past and I was happy to see Brittany running towards me, her arm reaching out to pass me the wrist band. Grabbed the wrist band and flicked it across my wrist and off I went. I do not have high hopes of catching up the last runner of the Trackstar but was hoping at least I could close up the gap. Spotted Rachel and her husband, Zili both already showered cheering for me as I exited the stadium.

I focused on following the runners ahead of me and gradually overtaking them one by one. Switched on the LED light of the wrist band and it shone brightly in the night. At about 2km mark, I arrived at Tanjong Rhu Park Connector. It was the path whereby the already narrow path was further divided into two to cater for runners returning to the stadium. Spent some effort weaving in and out of the crowd. Also saw Gen, who was the fourth runner for team Flying Doctors flying past me, on his return route to the stadium to finish the race. He and his team mates, Baoying, Joshua and Derek would later went on to win the top position under the corporate category.

I continued running and was glad to catch sight of the overhead bridge, which means water point is near. Turned left and grabbed a cup of water for a sip and pour the rest over my head to cool myself.

It wasn’t difficult to figure out where to turn as I have many runners (mostly runners running the 3rd leg) ahead to follow. Crossed the road and I continued running on the park connector (which leads to ECP). That’s when it got messy and dangerous as this time we also have to look out for cyclists who were sharing the same running route as all runners.

I have yet to reach the u-turn and I managed to catch a glimpse of a female runner running past me on the other side of the route. Her race bib indicated that she’s the fourth runner and I sort of guess she was the anchor runner from team trackstar.

Soon, I reached the u-turn point as well. Time check: 21:31 mins for the first 5.2km. I pressed on, hoping to catch sight of the girl from team trackstar ahead. It took me a while, but I eventually catch up with her after a few hundred meters. She quickened her pace the moment she sensed that I was running alongside her. I pushed the pace, and took the lead shortly after. We continued pushing the pace and got a scare when an oncoming cyclist ride towards us. I let out a scream before I swerved to the left to avoid the cyclist. Thankfully, no one was hurt. With no time to lose, I continued running, hoping to pull away from the girl who was still hot on my heels. But she was quite determined to keep up and I could hear her breathing hard behind me. She was already pushing hard and I knew if I can sustain the pace, I can definitely pull away from her.

Alex Tiong from Safra Tampines came flying past me. Motivated, I tried to chase after him. But he soon disappeared and was out of sight in a flash. By 8km, I could no longer hear footsteps behind me and knew the trackstar girl has dropped behind. I pressed on, not daring to take any chances, in case she sneaked up from behind at the last minute.

The last 2.5km back to the stadium was tough. I was getting tired and my pace dropped back to 4:15″/km. There was more twists and turns as we ran around sports hub before we were eventually directed into the stadium. I sped up again at the last 1km upon seeing that the end point was near.

Made a right turn for the finishing line as I entered the stadium. There were many cheers from the crowd as the emcee announced that the first women’s team has returned. Elated and feeling super high, I crossed the finishing line, and lift the finishing tape up high. Yeah! Team Asics Charlie Angels did it! We won not just the Women Open’s category, but we were the overall winner for the female category too.

Time for my 10.5km was around 44:43mins. Combining all the time taken, we finished the “marathon” in a total time of 3:08:19.

Team ASICS Charlie Angels. =)

Team ASICS Charlie Angels. =)

Super proud of my team mates who have given their all for the race. All in all, we had a great race and truly enjoyed ourselves. It was so much more fun and meaningful to win this as team. =)

A photo with Andy, our

A photo with Andy, our “team manager”, who coordinates and get us together to form a team.

Looking forward to the next series of Asics City Relay!