Desaru 113 International Triathlon 2015

The Desaru 113 triathlon happened earlier this year (June) than it did last year (August), so it definitely doesn’t feel like enough time has passed since we last bundled ourselves into a car and drove many hours down to this little town called Bandar Penawar in Johor. With the memory of last year’s race still quite fresh in my mind, I had a bittersweet feeling this time around when I was Desaru-bound with Doc and Bryan.

Last year was painful, to say the least, with me bonking on the bike route, and crying as I went out on the running leg because I was in so much pain. But this year, I knew it was going to be different. I had put in a lot more training this year, and although still not quite enough for Ironman, I was confident I could do a lot better this year in Desaru.

So come Saturday morning, I was excited and raring to go. I remember making a mental note to myself that, it didn’t matter if the route is over distanced (as was the case last year), I was going to give it my best, because I felt I was strong enough this morning.

Swim
At about 7.27 am according to my watch, we were flagged off. The tide was much higher than it was last year. I ran towards the water, but held back a little to let the faster swimmers go ahead. Strangely, I didn’t have the same fears I had about swimming last time. Jumping into the water felt somewhat familiar, another testament to my training paying off! I begun my first few strokes of breaststroke, and then when it got a little too crowded, I switched to free style to get past some of the bigger slower guys. It worked last time, it worked ever more brilliantly this time round, as my front crawl strokes have gotten a lot stronger too. I should also mention that the water was SO CLEAR. THE CLEAREST  I had ever swum in in a triathlon event. I could see everyone swimming around me too. I saw Doc and Bryan close by. I tried to keep close to them. Towards the end of the first loop I saw Lini swimming next to me! However, throughout the second loop I kept kicking her with my breaststroke kicks! (Sorry, Lini!) Kept on swimming as hard as I could till I was turning around the final buoy and towards the finish! When I got onto the shore, I checked my watch and it was 8.14. YES! (Improvement #1)

Coming out from the swim leg, huffing and puffing. Photo credit: Shanaz

Bike
Ran into the transition area and despite feeling quite happy, I was also feeling quite spent! I told myself to take it a notch down, lest I end up bonking again. Grabbed my little sweet potatoes and 1 Accel gel, and off I went on my bike.

Heading out onto the bike leg, with my CO2 canistor adapter thing in my race belt, looking like amo. Photo credit: LifelineID

Legs were feeling pretty strong. I drew on the memory of my trainer sessions, and how hard I know I can push. averaging 28-29 kph was a lot more doable this time. This brought a smile to me. :) I drank my N8 Endurance mix from my bottle, and rode until I go onto the flat, straight road. I then proceeded to rip off the first Accel gel from my bar. I felt strangely full at this point, probably from all the water I had been drinking. But I was feeling really good about myself. Kept on going strong until the start of the rolling hills. Shifted my gears and tried to maintain my cadence on the uphill. As I rolled onto the downhill slopes, I pedaled with the momentum, and carried on strongly onto the next hill, and then the next. This felt so good, to finally feel that I am somewhat a cyclist now! I didn’t feel like I was a struggling runner, feeling extremely uncoordinated with this machine between my legs. For once, I felt like I was actually riding my bike well, and I felt so proud of myself. It wasn’t long before I saw the u-turn at the end of the loop. With a happy frame of mind, I continued to push hard on my pedals all the way back, and onto the second loop. Throughout the way I ate 3 of my sweet potatoes and drank almost all of my N8 Endurance. It wasn’t until I was halfway heading back that I decided to take my 2nd Surge gel. The weather slowly changed and it started to rain. My bike meter was showing 85 km and I knew damn well that there was definitely more than 5 km left of the bike route. This route was over distanced by at least 5 km! At this point Alvin came up next to me on the bike and offered to let me draft him. I took him up on his offer for a while, but soon decided against it because for a fleeting moment, I thought that maybe I could actually get a podium finish in this race (Drafting is illegal in triathlons, so I didn’t want to risk getting disqualified). I soon laughed it off, because that thought was hilarious, but I told Alvin to go ahead anyway because I was still feeling pretty strong, and wanted to see how well I can go without drafting.

In the rain, I knew there was not much to go, so I pedaled continuously. I checked my meter at some point and noticed the distance of 93km and at that time the timer showed 3:31 minutes! (Improvement #2) This was enough to spur me on till I saw the roundabout and then all the way to home base.

Run
Last year I had a giant knot in my throat as I went onto the run because I really wanted to give up. I was crying but did not have enough energy to actually cry, hence no tears actually came. This year, though, I was so excited to get on the run. I changed into my Saucony Virratas, had a quick swig of water, and off I went, smiling from ear to ear. Apple came and spoke to me and wished me good luck, knowing that this was my favourite part of the race! The rain has also stopped by then. Perfect.

My mind was so focused I even remembered to start my Garmin, let it calibrate, and then start the run mode. I felt like I was running on wind. I saw that I was doing a 5:05 pace in the first km and almost laughed! This is not good. I had to slow down. Next km, I did 5:10. Next one, 5:16. I wondered how long could I sustain this. Not long, though, I found. As soon as the my legs hit the gradual incline, my pace slowed down tremendously. I started to feel strangely weak. Soon after, I had the most uneasy feeling of my period coming. Shit, this cannot be happening. I didn’t know for sure, but all I knew was from the moment I suspected that had happened, everything changed. I started to feel cramps in my lower abs. I started to get a headache. My body grew weaker and weaker with every step and I was slowly feeling more and more pain in my feet. From here on, I tried my best to shut those feelings out of my head and focus on the run. Seeing friends on the run and getting little thumbs up, nods, and cheers helped me push through. I tried to maintain a pace of 6:00 but there were moments where I slowed to walk, especially on the big uphill. I would take about 10 steps before I egged myself on to run again. I saw Vignesh, Bryan and Indran finishing strong on the other side and kept telling myself to keep going so I can try and catch these guys. I knew it was far fetched but anything to motivate me right now would be good. I saw David stalling at a water station on the second loop and I said to myself, “Go catch up with him, and tap him on the shoulder. He’s gonna be so surprised to see u!” And that, I did. After that I said “Now don’t let him catch up!”. And that was what kept me running the next 6 km or so. Running by the Bunanamo guys felt good as well as Rupert, Alp, Yip and Jane cheered me on. :)

Getting cheered on by Team Bunanamo! Photo credit: Alp (I think)

One last u-turn, and then all the way back. I pulled up into Lotus Desaru, started running down the finishing route, and then I saw it. The clock. The timer. It was 6:59:47. I had less than 15 seconds to run about 50 m to make it under 7 hours. So I sprinted! As hard and as strong as my legs could, I sprinted and crossed the finish line just a second under 7 hours. Yue Jin was there to snap my finishing photo and I was beyond elated.

“HOMAIGOD I DID IT!” Photo credit: Shanaz

The Finish
What happened after that had never happened to me before. So, I continued walking after the finish line to get my medal and stuff, and then a sudden wave of weakness swept over my body. I leaned onto the table and felt my throat tightening. I thought I was going to cry again, and Yue Jin was next to me and asking me if I was okay. I nodded to say I was, but I actually couldn’t breathe. There was a huge ball in my throat and I couldn’t breathe at all. I started to hyperventilate and found that it was difficult to walk. Yue Jin started to call the medic, and I was led to the bed when I sat. Still gasping for air, the medic took my pulse and I saw 160 at first. They then put a bag over my mouth and asked me to breathe into it. They said “Miss you’re hyperventilating, please slow down your breathing”. So I tried to do that. Slowly, my pulse went down to about 115, and then to 90. I breathed a little deeper and slower and felt a lot better.

That was my little drama. Hahaha…I don’t know what happened, but it was kinda scary. I had never felt like that before in any of my races. I suspect it was an effect of the caffeine in the gel. That, coupled with the excitement of breaking my personal best, and the exhaustion of it all, and having my period at the same time, must have thrown my whole body out of whack.

Anyway, it was an epic race. I gave it a good shot, and am damn proud for doing so well, if I should say so myself. Thank you LifelineID for keeping me safe and giving me peace of mind. Thank you Compressport for my quad sleeves (for recovery) and calf sleeves (people now identify me with it). Thank you N8 ENdurance for preventing the bonk. Thank you Saucony for really good running shoes. And thank you everyone for the support and the inspiration!

Categories: Burn burn burn!, Muscles, Run!, What's happening inside my body? | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

twenty.fifteen.

It’s the last day of May and I do realize it has been ages since I last blogged anything. It’s the year 2015, so I guess blogging is considered vintage in this age. I’m sitting on my bed listening to a playlist called “Quiet Evening” on Spotify – something to show the kind of mood I am in right this moment. It has been a really long time since I have written a journal entry of any sort, and this is evident in my inability to let the words just flow through. I am constantly hitting the backspace key, something I really shouldn’t be doing considering I am simply typing out my thoughts. Anyway…I think I’ve written way too much to start with already. Getting to the point…

It’s the year 2015, and I am feeling gracious. I am officially 29 years and 20 days old. I am the owner of Kia Kaha Fitness and last I checked, my company is still making a profit, albeit a conservative one. I work with a fun and interesting bunch of people in the industry of my dreams. I am finally sitting at my preferred body weight, God knows how long I’ve been trying to get down to this. I am doing half Ironman triathlons, and on my way to achieving full Ironman status soon. I am wearing a diamond ring on my fourth finger. My man, the love of my life, is in some obscure part of another country right now, but he calls me every day and tells me he loves me. Life is good to me. And I can’t be more grateful for all the things life has given me.

I try to be humble. I try to be modest. But the truth is I feel so damn lucky to have all the things I have now. The road I have traveled isn’t one that was pain-free, but it is the road that led me to here and now.

So, resolutions…There are 7 more months in 2015, starting tomorrow. And in this 7 months, there is plenty on my plate to achieve. A full Ironman. A new camp project. Maybe get some new wheels (car as well as bike). Internally, too, I have much to work on and better. To be more disciplined, for sure. To learn more, each and every day. To give more to those who need it. To love more, especially the ones who love me. To do my best to keep in touch with my closest friends. And of course, to plan a kick arse wedding. :)

Categories: Because I love me | Tags: | Leave a comment

Being ID’d

I’ve always been a slow rider on my road bike and people tend to say, “You just need more practise, more mileage!”, which is probably true, except that I spend a lot of the time during these rides with these he-kudas and she-kudas (male and female horses…or stallions) riding by my lonesome because I struggle to keep up with them. This is something which deters me from riding as I fear a whole list of things that I imagine would happen to me in that lonely time. Stuff like, I could crash and nobody would know until probably an hour later when they have been waiting at the check point long enough and have not seen me. Or I could have been kidnapped or assaulted by a deranged motorcyclist and the nearest rider to me is nowhere within earshot of my screams. Or I could have just passed out from sheer exhaustion (probably most likely by my riding fitness level, when compared with these lot).

So, no, I don’t fancy riding very much when my head goes through this train of thoughts.

Something to calm my nerves a little though, is being ID’d. In other words, having an ID on me with my details, like blood type, and emergency contact numbers, does help me to feel a little safer, knowing that at least if anything were to happen, the people who find me will be able to contact a next of kin.

Lifeline-ID gave me the chance to try one of their ID wrist bands out and this was the one I chose – a Blue colour Lineline PRO. This ID band is a silicone wrist band which has a stainless steel clasp, and it allows you to customize the size to fit your wrist/ankle. I realised, after Yue-Jin (the owner) handed mine to me, that I have a pretty tiny wrist, so, a regular free sized- wrist band would probably have been too loose for me. I know what you’re thinking, all that metal clasp thingy, wouldn’t that rust or gather dirt or give your chaffing on your skin? I thought the same thing too.

LifelineID Karen

I took it out on several occasions; once for my daily work which is training people which means sweat from not only me, but other people can get to it. Once I brought it cycling for about 3 hours, doing an 80 something km ride (I told you I am slow). And just this past weekend I brought it into the trails at the Action Asia Otterbox Salomon trail run in Janda Baik, where the mud went knee high, and we crossed 2 streams that were about the level of my thighs and you can bet I sweat bucket loads. After each event, I would just give it a quick rinse under the tap and then leave it to dry.

And no, it hasn’t rusted in any way. The clasp still works perfectly. And there is not a single tinge of sweat or mud smell on it. It’s pretty rock solid! No chaffing either, as all the edges of the metal clasp and ID tag are nice and smooth and tapered down (don’t know how to describe it but it’s nice and smooth la).

I think that it’s a pretty sweet piece of gear to wear, especially in today’s world of endurance athletes. We are definitely pushing our limits every week, and nothing thrills us more than a nice heart pumping training session. Our family and loved ones are the people who sit at home and worry about us when we are out doing all this crazy, so I think it is important that we let them know that they are the first people who will be notified in case of an emergency. =)

There are many other ID styles, for more info, do check out www.lifeline-id.com. :)

Categories: Because I love me, Burn burn burn!, Run! | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

113K Desaru Triathlon

I am usually pretty rash when it comes to signing up for races. In the sense that I rarely give it much thought. But for this particular race, I think at the back of my head I somehow felt invincible. I had completed the Putrajaya Ironman 70.3 and although it was the most challenging event I had ever gone through, I made it to the finish line and I was so sure I can do it again. That was the gels and caffeine talking, though. Truth be told, I was signing myself up for a lot of pain I was actually not quite ready to take on again. Fast forward to Friday, 16th August. We’re in the car together, Rupert, Gary and I, along with Doc and Phuitin in the next car, making our way down to Desaru. If I could say what the second best thing about racations are (second to crossing the finish line, of course) it’s the company. Road trippin with a bunch of cool kats definitely makes things really fun and memorable.

20140815_145643Ending up in Johor Premium Outlet, “by accident”. Sure.

Saturday morning, Race Day. The tide was apparently low when we got there. the buoys have not even been put in place yet, and at this very moment, the sea looked calm. I was a little nervous, the usual race anxiety. I figured whatever doubt I had was useless at this point because it’s too late! I was already there, standing on a shore I was about to run out off and endure 7 hours of hardcore sweating subsequently. Meh. Let’s do this. A little bit before 8 am, 7.56 am on my watch, we were flagged off. Mass start, which meant that I was swimming alongside big, burly men who may or may not necessarily be very fast swimmers. I realised soon that in this race, many of them were pretty noob swimmers like myself also. Because after swimming tirelessly for 15 minutes, I was still amidst huge boulder arms and legs and getting kicked in the face and gut over and over again. Urgh. Dislike. The water also got a lot choppier out in the sea. On the plus side, I devised a new method of “crawling” through the big guys if I am stuck, that is to pull a couple of quick front crawl strokes and snake my way through them, just to get past them, before going back into my breast strokes. On the down side, I saw many cheaters! Ah, but they’re only cheating themselves. :) I submerged from the water next to Fook! :) I looked down at my watch as I was running up the beach and I saw 8.46 am. 50 minutes, for 2 km of open water swimming, I smiled in satisfaction. =)

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I was dying to pee. Try as I might, I could not pee in the sea. HAHA! So I decided to be all lady like and run to the restaurant’s washroom on the way to the transition area. Then it’s straight to my bike. I was a little thrown off balance, maybe by my toilet pit stop. Legs a little wobbly, I tried to unload my bike from the stand and lost my footing, almost crashing on my bum. Then I realised I have not even put my shoes, sunnies, or anything on. Smart, Karen. Racked my bike again, quick towel off, socks on, bike shoes on, sunnies on, gloves on (yes i take time to wear socks and gloves), stuffed my potatoes and one gel into my pockets, squirt of water, and off I go! I was dreading the bike leg as it had 3 loops! I hate loops. But there’s no room for hatred. Energy better spent cranking em wheels! Riding out felt good and strong. I waited till I had ridden about 8 km before I started to eat my potato. Like I had imagined, it tasted delicious! :) It kept me happy. Going out I was going really fast and I realised it was because I had lovely tailwind to thank. Got to the u-turn, and made my way back. This was hard. Headwinds from hell made it a loooong ride back. And I got to do this 2 more times? Oh boy. At the U turn to get back on the second loop, I saw Gary snapping away and felt happy. In so many ways, this guy is my rock :) Helped pushed me on to my second loop. It was during this time I was starting to feel uneasy. My tummy was starting to feel bloated and a little upset. Hm…ride it off, I thought. Downed a gel, and tried to ride on the tailwind out, getting as much good time as possible. On the turnaround point, I was feeling pretty weak. I don’t know if it was my tummy, or the fact that I was already feeling pretty exhausted, either way I didn’t know how I was going to survive the 3rd loop. I decided to eat my last potato, hoping it would keep me going a little further. Riding in loops has one advantage though, seeing your mates, whether faster or slower than you. Encouragement is found where encouragement is given. I managed to steal a short ride in a peloton (Although it was illegal to draft, but I was so slow, it probably didn’t quite matter, I was not stealing any podiums). Onto the 3rd loop and my tummy was giving me a lot of grief. I could almost feel something coming up my throat, so I stopped by the side to see if I could throw something up. A lot of retching happened but nothing came up of it. So I hopped back on the bikeand just pummeled through. 5 km later, I started retching on the bike. Again, i hopped off and tried to get it out. Nothing. Annoyed and feeling really uneasy, I hopped back onto the bike and made up my mind to just pushed on till I see the end. I shall decide whether or not to carry on when I reach base.10476091_10202624056626221_8893712908357974058_o It was showing 90 km on my bike meter when I could see nothing but a looongg steep hill up ahead. I was so disappointed at this point. My body was shivering in pain and exhaustion right now, and yet the finish was no where in sight. Nevermind, ride back and u can complain to them! Pedaled and pedaled and pedaled, and finally at 93.8 km I was back at Lotus Desaru. I was feeling really crappy. It was Putrajaya all over again. I wanted so much to quit. Tears started to flow as I sat on the floor and put my running shoes on. But I knew quitting was the stupidest thing I could do right now. Just get back on your feet, Karen, it’ll all be over soon. (I talk to myself a lot in races). I saw some friends as I walked out of the transition area. My throat was tightening up because I was crying, so talking to them was a challenge. I don’t even know why I was crying. To be honest, I was crying not because I was sad, but because I was in pain, and it was an involuntary cry. I needed to get started again, but somehow my legs felt like concrete bricks and it was just not happening. So I think I walked for about 500 m before I decided to slowly start jogging again. Gary was next to me and he was my only source of strength at this point in time. Had he not been by my side I doubt I would have started running. Anyhow, running is my favourite leg, and if I did not try to savour it, I would’ve missed the opportunity to enjoy the best part of triathlons, that is, overtaking other runners. I am a hopeless swimmer, an ever more pathetic cyclist, but my legs are my best machine and in them, I trust. Slowly but surely, I trudged on and eventually I found my pace – the speed at which I knew that there was no stopping. To me, I said, let’s bring this home, Karen. The amusing thing about my run was meeting Jimmy, who recognised me as the girl with the devil horns in the Standard Chartered marathon 2 years ago. He had sent me a message that time to say he drew motivation from watching me run past him then, and I remember being very touched by his message. So when he came up next to me in Desaru and said “Where is your devil headgear?” I was really surprised! We chatted a good 20 minutes after that, he was entertaining me with his interesting stories. It was good! We covered good distance in that time, so thanks Jimmy!
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In the 3rd and final run loop, I was numb to any pain there was. The scorching sun didnt even matter anymore. I was ready to go home. I had a peek at my watch and figured if I ran fast enough I could possibly make it under 7 hours. I tried. One last push, Karen. I tried. 10575158_10202624501597345_152859742150202516_o

I came in at 3.01pm. Which meant I took 7 hours 5 minutes. Well, considering the bike and swim routes were overdistance by 100m and 4km respectively, I managed to finish in a better time than I did in Putrajaya, I guess it is safe for me to say I have improved. =) Ah, the joy of crossing the finishing line! Nothing ever feels sweeter! :)10514418_10202624501917353_4381893341598644822_o10541424_10202624502437366_2280514190569438003_o

So I’m done with triathlons for this year. And I honestly feel super glad. I think I would really like to go back to my other fun hobbies. Like shopping or something. HA!

Categories: Because I love me, Burn burn burn!, Muscles, Run! | 1 Comment

Ironman 70.3 | Putrajaya

Despite feeling antsy all day the day before, I slept like a baby from 10.30 pm till 4.30 am. I woke up feeling pretty good, calm and chilled out. As if it was just another day. I think at this time, the thought of doing a whole 70.3 Ironman has not quite sunk into me. Not even when I was carrying all my stuff that I packed the night before into the car – the bike pump, bike shoes, swimming bag, everything. Not even when I was already IN my trisuit. I felt nothing.

Got to race site, and started arranging all my stuff at the transition area. I was still so sleepy and blur that I had forgotten my race belt and number when I left the transition area. I was chit chatting with Gary and my parents. Even took potatoes from Gary (the sweetie made me race snacks!) and placed them back next to my bike. Then only had a last minute look in my bag pack before handing it in to baggage storage, and noticed my race belt sitting in there. Ran back to transition and placed it there. Phew!

It wasn’t until Gary wished me good luck, and I said “See ya later” to my parents, did I suddenly realise, “Holy Sh*t, later could be more than 7 hours from now!”. I put my swim cap on and suddenly felt a whole lot more nervous than I did in the morning. All of a sudden I wished I trained more, I wished I ate more yesterday, I wished I slept more, I wished I DID NOT SIGN UP. #sweat

But friends were there, all happy and jolly and rearing to go, so I tried to soak it all up and brace myself for what lay ahead. Little did I know, I had NO IDEA what I was in for.

Swim

The SWIM start was delayed. So what was supposed to have been a 7:41 am start became an 8:01 am start for my age group. It was a deep water start, and considering I had not traded in water in centuries, I quickly took note of the fact that a bit a practise, even trading water, could be handy. It took me a while to realise what I needed to do.

Ready, set, GO, and we were off. I caught a glimpse of my watch and it showed 8:02 am. One of the good things about starting with all the women is that less of these big burly men will come slapping me in the face and kicking me in my gut. But that being said, it didn’t take long before the guys from the next wave caught up with my tortoise speed and started jabbing into my sides without so much as a “hello”. haha…

Anyhoo, I kept swimming, swimming, swimming. This was a distance I have NEVER swum before. I repeat, NEVER. the max I have ever done is 1.5 km and that was probably once in a triathlon some years back. In training, I’d be lucky if I got 1 km in. I just dread it. But there’s one thing I am quite good at, and that’s keeping going during race day, so as not to “lose face”. Heh. It was a LOOOONGGG swim. I remember seeing the buoy and thinking to myself, “oh, that’s not too bad. I can totally do this” before realising that was the buoy to turn back to the transition, and that the second and 3rd turnaround buoy were so far away I could not see them yet. This is where I go “Happy thoughts, Karen, happy thoughts”.

Some time later, I finally make my final right turn at the 4th buoy and it was all hi-speed strokes from now on. (A least as hi-speed as my arms could manage). I swam as hard as I could and got myself, clumsily, onto the pontoon at the finish. Checked my watch and saw 8:54 am. Boy, was I pleased!!

BIKE

Onto my trusted bike! Strapped on my shoes and guess what? The velcro strap on my left shoe breaks. GREAT! Haha…nvm, at least still got one strap, just strap on, eat gel, wear glasses, wear gloves, wear helmet, stuff gels and potatoes into pockets and go, go, go! With my shoe’s velcro strap flapping in the wind…

I felt good! A little winded from the swim, but good. Can pedal well. Weather was great! I drank my Gatorade and went on my way. First loop was good. I was almost at the end when I realised I was finishing it well under my 2 hour target. I knew then I was going to do my bike leg in under 4 hours. I was determined to do so.

The second loop wasn’t so forgiving though. The sun was high up in the sky and my back was starting to hurt. The soreness in my lower back was becoming more obvious and I was starting to suffer. I was chewing on my second potato and had already taken my gels at 60 km and I was on the verge of giving up. I felt a strange feeling coursing through my body – a sudden weakening of my limbs. I think this must be what Gary calls “Bonk already”. I bonked. Hard. And I had freakin’ 25 km to go.  I kept bouncing back and forth between giving up after my bike ride, or carrying on. I was so sure I had no more energy left to run. But I tried my very best to push those thoughts aside and concentrate on finishing my bike.

Slowly and painfully I finished off the clicks one by one until I finally came back to the transition area. I was still unsure about running. Until it came to me. I spent 200 freakin USD on this race so I am going home with a damn medal! And that decision was final.

Seeing Gary at the end was definitely inspiring and it made me push off on a strong run!

RUN

Running has always been my forte. Or so I thought. Running AFTER swimming 1.9km AND riding 90 km was a different story. Throw the scorching mid day sun burning at about 40 degrees C above your head to top it off and you got yourself a long, painful 21km to go. I started off okay, with my new Garmin watch showing me that I was doing an average of 5.40 to 6.00 minute pace. Right up till about 4 km. Again a wave of fatigue started to wash over me and I recognize the horrible feeling of “hitting the wall”. My feet felt like bricks. I found it difficult to even hold my body upright, I was dragging my sorry bum through the route and it felt miserable. I chugged down isotonic drinks at the next drink station and ate another gel and found temporary relief from the pain after that. It worked for about the next 4km or so but soon after that I felt sluggish again. I pep talked myself all through the way, hoping to see friends I know so I can divert my attention away from the pain.

Finishing the first loop was tough, but the second loop was a nightmare. My only motivation was getting that medal and seeing my parents and Gary at the end. My feet were in so much pain. Just. A. Little. Bit. More. was all I could chant to myself. I spotted Phuitin and tried to egg her on, motivating myself in the process. I then spotted Warren as well, and they ran with me for a while. I tried to chat up some European guys (unfortunately the slow ones aren’t the best looking ones :P). And finally I saw it. The bridge. The 20km sign. The FINISH LINE.

Oh the sweet sweet smell of VICTORY! I could not describe with mere words how I felt when I ran through the Finish. It was heavenly. I saw my parents, I saw my friends, I saw Gary. It was the best moment ever. :D
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The Ironman 70.3 was an extremely humbling experience. I now know the amount of hard work needed to complete and excel in this sport. I now look up to full-blown IronMen (My brother being the God of them all) in awe and admiration. Will I attempt the full IronMan? At this moment it feels like that’s asking for too much. I don’t think I am mentally prepared for such an event. I can’t even figure out what I would like to train tomorrow, let alone for the next whole year. I will leave that race for a time when I am mentally prepared, and have got about 15 grand lying around to buy a new TT bike :P

Categories: Burn burn burn!, Muscles, Run! | 3 Comments

The Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2013

This year’s Standard Chartered KL Marathon signified my 11th full marahon. I had big hopes for this one, seeing that I recently managed to clock just a minute over 4 hours in the Malaysian Women’s Marathon. I had never been able to do a sub 4 hour marathon time in my home country Malaysia, but have managed to achieve it twice in New Zealand. Thus, I had a goal to do a sub 4 hour marathon in the KL Marathon this year.

But alas, luck was not really on my side as I came down with a bout of salmonella poisoning a week ago which made me sick and unable to train for a whole week. Add that to the fact that I was given the amazing opportunity to open a booth in The Heart exhibition (more on this soon) the whole weekend of the race. I was pretty drained of energy come Sunday morning 4 am at Dataran Merdeka. I knew that a sub 4 was going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

I was spot on. Cut short, I felt like the only fuel source I was running on were from the energy gels that I consumed every 10 kms. Even then, the energy I gained from each pack drained up within 7-8kms of running, leaving me to drag my feet along for the remaining 2-3 clicks before I consume another pack. I’ve never felt this exhausted before, my legs were heavy as bricks and my mind was weak as well.

Nonetheless, I was determined to finish it anything under 4 hours and a half, and so with every ounce of will power I had in the last 15 clicks or so, I pushed through and came in in 4 hours and 20 minutes. Crossing the finish line felt extremely bittersweet. :)

The Marathon has once again humbled me. The last few clicks were terribly agonizing but the satisfaction of not giving up is eternal. :) My Malaysian PB will just have to wait till next year.

Photography Credits: Mr. Chan WK

Categories: Run! | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Treading on eggshells. Very very sharp ones.

You’ve been getting into all that running. 10k DONE. Move on to 21. Train train train. 21k DONE. Move on to 30. Train train train. And then you realise something. The bottom of your foot is sore. It’s getting more sore each day. No longer can you “run it off”. It stays. And the pain is magnified especially when you take your first few steps in the morning when you get out of bed.

You probably have plantar fasciitis. This is not new to me actually. I’ve suffered from plantar fasciitis before a few years back when I was in Auckland. And as I type this right now, I have an ice pack to my right heel, after aggravating it yesterday while running. It’s back! So I thought I’d share a little bit of what I have learned about this very annoying injury.

What is your plantar fascia?
Underneath your foot, there is a sheath which covers the bones of your foot. It starts from your heel bone to your toes. This is your plantar fascia.

What is plantar fasciitis?
This is a condition whereby the plantar fascia gets inflamed due to injury or trauma. Often a change in routine can cause this:
1. Sudden increase in run mileage
2. Sudden change in running style
3. Running too much in a show that’s not broken into slowly.
However, some people are more predisposed to plantar fasciitis:
1. Flat or high arched feet.
2. Overweight or obese.
3. Tight Achilles tendon/calves.

How do we fix this?
Don’t worry you don’t necessarily need surgery. It’s just an inflammation, so lots of stretching and icing can help a lot! There are different levels of severity, though, so if the pain persists for longer than 1 year, I would suggest checking it out at your nearest Sport Clinic.

This is something I personally think is quite helpful. Take a 500ml plastic water bottle. Make sure it’s quite uniformly cylindrical. Fill it with water and then freeze it. When it is frozen, roll your foot on it with a little pressure. This is massaging your plantar fascia, and applying cold compression at the same time. Do this 2 times a day, every day and you’ll realise a vast difference! 

How do we prevent this?
Try not to increase your mileage too quickly. Do everything gradually, especially if you fall under any of the high risk categories (flat/high arched feet, overweight/obese, have very tight calves). Always break in your shoes slowly, and never ever wear anything new on race day.

Images and content from these sites:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0004438/

http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/plantar-fasciitis-topic-overview

Categories: Injury, Muscles | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Journey to Fit & Fab

I have had some clients who have been training with me for longer than a year. If you compare the person they are today with the person they were a year ago, the improvements are vast and amazing. But yet, their journey is not complete. There are still milestones they have yet to achieve, and things have yet succeeded in doing. If you asked me, I would say the Journey to Fit & Fab is long. Take the longest ultramarathon you can think of, multiply that by a 100. That long. In fact, I would even say that that journey, is and should be never ending, because you can always be a better, fitter, faster, stronger version of you. Always. But let’s face it, a “never-ending journey” does not sell well, and not everyone wants to invest with no end in sight. So to set some expectations right for some of you, let me lay the cards on the table for you. This is your journey.

1. Push Start.
You start thinking about adopting a healthier lifestyle. For whatever reason (health, weight loss, sports) you know that you need to start doing something about your lifestyle for you to gain some changes. This is step number one. Pressing the start button. Making a decision to get up and go.

2. Shopping.
You start asking around. Make some appointments with friends of friends. Ask about gyms, classes, bootcamps, diets, the works. You join your friends on Sunday runs. Whichever choice makes the most enticing offer, you go for it.

3. Obstacles.
The first week or so, commitment is that damned word these trainers keep throwing at you. Your body is sore, you can barely walk normally to work, every painful step yells out to you to quit. This is where you must push through. Make yourself go. Keep calm and carry on.

4. Smooth sailing.
The dog days are over. The muscles are slowly forming, your stamina is worth bringing up in conversations, the runs, or the workouts don’t get easier, but you enjoy them more. You love the feeling after each session. A month into your program, and you finally muster the courage to step on the scale, hoping to see a drop in your weight, AND……your weight stays the same. You wonder why, because friends and colleagues have been telling you, that you look slimmer. You, yourself, feel great! So why isn’t it showing any difference?

Interjection: Let me shed some light here. You are getting fitter and stronger. You’re building more lean mass. Your heart is getting stronger. But the weight will only go down if your whole metabolism changes. Metabolism = The usage of energy in your body. Changing your metabolism takes time. It requires a whole lot of physiological change to happen. I’m talking more blood capillaries, larger muscle fibers, increased mitochondria, blabla-scienticgibberish-blabla. The bottom line is, a lot of stuff have to happen and it’s not like you can buy these things from the supermarket. It takes time.

5. Fine-tuning.
About 5-6 months into your program, you are now extremely dependent on exercise. It is your must do every day or every other day. It is THE feel good factor. You like it, but not as much as you need it. It sounds negative, but it actually isn’t. You’re just habitualizing it. This is your lifestyle now. It is part of you. Every workout you do would not bring about big changes anymore, but you’re fine-tuning yourself within. You’re working on the details now. Getting that 1 second faster, lifting that 1 pound heavier, pushing that 1 push up more in a minute. To keep yourself motivated enough to keep on pushing your limits is going to be tough. But lucky for you, motivation can now come from other things. You fall sick so much less. You’re no longer panting from running around with your 5 year old. You can go up the stairs and down without breaking a sweat. You start to change your shape. Dress sizes are dropping. Many things in your wardrobe now cannot fit you.

Interjection: You can now see bigger changes. Physiologically, your resting heart rate should be significantly lower. This shows that your heart is way more efficient. Your blood pressure is at a healthy number. This shows the arteries and vessels are cleaned up. There’s now a spring in your every step. This just shows that you’re feeling pretty darn happy about yourself and what you’re able to do! And of course, you’re finally looking like the young, fit person you aimed to be. This just shows that you have made your body go through all the necessary changes to make it a lean efficient energy producing machine.

6. Destination.
You’re finally there. You’ve completed that marathon in under 4 hours. You’ve climbed Mount Kinabalu without getting air lifted down. You’ve gone for your high school alumni dinner and wowed everyone. You’re there. You feel fantastic about your achievements. You look back and realised it was hard, but definitely not impossible. You look forward. Where can you go from here?That’s your choice.

 

Your journey would vary from your peers. Everyone goes through a different journey, with different scenes. Even the length of your journey might vary. Many things come into play throughout this journey. Your will power being the most crucial. You decide how you want your journey to pan out :)

Categories: Because I love me, Burn burn burn!, In your head, Muscles, What's happening inside my body? | Tags: , | Leave a comment

“You’re so lucky!”

I get it. It’s tough. It’s hard work. I have it easy because I actually love exercising. I love the adrenaline rush. Fat does not run in my family.

I can go on and on and I can make you feel worse about yourself. Right?

People say I have it easy, and that I am lucky because I love working out and I generally have good genes. Yeah, I guess you can say that. And that’s all great if life is only about vanity and appearance. But life isn’t about just that. Life is about so much more!

Life is about living long and good. It’s about being able to meet your grandchildren and watch them get married and have children. It’s about being able to dance and sing and laugh over dinner together with everyone else, and being able to feed yourself and go to the toilet by yourself. It’s about watching many sun sets and many sun rises and witnessing change and progress.

Life is about fulfillment. It’s about the sense of achievement, the victory, the glory, the euphoria you get when you reached the peak. It is about knowing how hard you’ve worked and how you finally got there. It’s about the millions of times you felt like giving up but you did not. It’s about achieving that 10 km when you could barely run for 5 minutes. It’s about wearing the kind of dress you’ve always wanted to wear. It’s about success and 100% hard work done by you.

Life is about moments. It’s about rejoicing the simple things every day. It’s about how a cup coffee tastes so good, it’s about snatching a good deal on things you want to have. It’s about seeing your loved ones laughing.

To me, staying fit and healthy allows me to achieve all those things. It allows me to keep the diabetes, and heart diseases away. It allows me to travel and see many things for days on end. It allows me to go out and meet people and enjoy a pint or two. It allows me to see a future for myself.

I guess what I want to say is, exercise and work out because you want all that too, and not just to lose weight and look good. Do it for quality of life. Do it for moments to treasure. Do it because it will make you feel good. Do it because you love your body, not because you hate it. =)

Categories: Because I love me | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Why men, women, kids, seniors and everyone SHOULD run.

Recently I’ve been tagged onto different articles on Facebook which claim that steady state cardio is bad for you, and that running on the treadmill for long durations every day will mess with your metabolic hormone, T3, and that if you’re aiming for weight loss, you should do no cardio at all. It’s interesting to read the different views on exercise by other “fitness professionals”. I do agree with a couple of points here and there, but I think that they have a very skewed view on people’s exercise goals. Not everyone is in it purely for weight loss (Not everyone should) and not everyone is in it purely for vanity (Yeah, some of us actually train to be fitter, faster and stronger). But since I am an avid marathon runner myself, this is my comment and humble opinion on cardio exercise. Before I begin, let’s just be specific. Assuming the goal is Weight Loss and the cardio workout is Running. Read on…

What is steady state cardio?

Steady state cardio is a term coined to describe a cardio workout that goes on continuously at a steady state of heart rate for a long duration. For the majority, the only steady state cardio one can achieve for a bout of 30 minutes is simply walking (~40-50% of max HR). To be able to sustain a steady state of 60% of max HR and higher, one would definitely have to train for it for quite a while to build up endurance. In one of the articles, spin class was given as an example, and I would definitely have to disagree with this one. Have you ever been in a spin class? There is NO WAY you maintain a steady state heart rate throughout that hour, if you were following the instructor correctly.

How do we lose fat?

Plenty of ways. We all know that the road to a slimmer, leaner you is a combination of exercise and good nutrition. The nutrition part of it is a bit complicated. I, myself, would refer to a dietician or a nutritionist every now and then to get my information right. But the exercise part, I can help break down for you.

Cardio is short for cardiovascular (anything relating to heart and blood vessels) and cardio exercises are any workouts that works out your heart. Your heart, like your other parts of the body, is a big muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. Unfortunately, it is buried deep underneath our ribs, so we can’t do dumbbell lifts with it. The only way to exercise it is to move your body fast enough so your heart starts to beat faster and you can imagine it contracting like a pump.

Resistance training encompasses any exercise using a load. It could be weights like dumbbells, barbells or machines, or it could be your own body weight (push ups, sit ups, squats). These exercises are aimed at increasing strength by working out your muscles. The more resistance training you do, the bigger the muscles your body will produce (via amino acids) to cope with the load, thus you become stronger.

Both types of exercise raises your heart rate. It all depends on intensity and repetition and duration. And as long as your heart rate is raised, and your muscles are contracting, you’re burning fat. Work yourself out hard enough, and you’ll experience Excessive Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). Cardio – do short bursts of sprints. Resistance – either increase load or increase repetition and speed.

The T3 hormone and thyroidism

Some articles claim that long term steady state cardio impairs the production of T3 hormones. These hormones, coupled with T4, are thyroid hormones, produced to regulate your body’s metabolism. Hypothyroidism is a state of too little T3+T4, whereas hyperthyroidism is a state of too much.

I have personally been through hyperthyroidism. Twice. The first time it hit me, I was 20 years old, and it came quite suddenly. I couldn’t run. I was perpetually sweating and feeling hot. I lost plenty of weight. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t run. It was quite a stressful time for me because I was not performing well in any of my races and I felt extremely flustered. Have I been running consistently before I got it? Yes. I ran almost every day, ranging from 4 to 8 kms depending on what I felt like. If steady state cardio impairs the production of T3 hormones, how did I get hyperthyroidism from running every day? I read a few articles online and asked my doctor about it, and T3+T4 hormones, as hormones do, can be triggered by many possibilities. Diet, change in lifestyle, genes, stress…anything. My grandfather has the same problem, so I think for me it was in my genes (skipped a generation though) and I was in college then so possible stress and lifestyle change played a part too.

Running

Here’s where it gets interesting (to me, at least). Can running make you fat? I really think chances of it are unlikely. Science has every proof that running, fast or slow, does not make you fat. Whether you’re going at 50% of your max HR or at 80%, you’re burning SOMETHING, how else do you get your energy to move? Newton’s law of conservation of energy states that energy cannot be created nor can it be destroyed. Your body has to burn something to get energy. And sure it may be burning up some proteins (muscle mass), but only if you have no other fuel to burn! Plus that takes forever to break down so you’ll be running very slowly if your body is fuelled by only protein. To run, your body burns up a mix of carbohydrates, fat and protein. The rule is, eat a well balanced diet and your body will know what to burn.

Is running a steady state cardio exercise? Only if you want it to be. I know a girl who beats me in every run since 2 years ago and when I asked her how she trains, she told me that because of her busy schedule, she can only do interval running. She trains about 30 minutes to an hour every other day, and when she runs a full marathon, she aces it at 3 hours 45 minutes. Is she fat? Far from it.

Where heart rate is concerned, I once wore a heart rate monitor on one of my marathons. (Many runners do actually, so you can ask them). I was told by my lecturer in Auckland university that marathoners run at about 85-95% of their max. I did not believe him. It seemed impossible to be running at such intensity for so long. So I tested myself. Wanna know what my heart rate was throughout the whole marathon? No lower than 165 bpm. That’s about 84.6% of my max at that time and I sustained it for a little over 4 hours. I didn’t believe it myself, but it’s true. Train hard enough and your cardiovascular endurance will amaze you.

High heart rate = high caloric burn. May not all be fats, but a good portion of it definitely was.

So lose weight, how?

As a personal trainer, if you tell me your goal is to lose weight, then I strongly believe in a a well balanced diet and cross training. Your body is amazing at adapting and finding the optimum efficiency so doing just one type of exercise will do you no good. Do a mix of cardio and resistance training. Throw in some weights if you like, or dance or yoga every once in a while. Build your fitness and strength up gradually and keep challenging yourself.

Don’t run for 2 hours on the treadmill at a fixed speed and gradient every day. Your body will adapt to that intensity and duration very fast, and when that happens, your caloric burn will be less (Not zero). Do that for a month and then raise the bar. Increase your speed, or throw in an uphill. Then go and do some burpees or squats at the side for some added resistance training.

But for the record, weight loss should NOT be your only goal in mind. Maybe you started off with that, but when you feel the difference and see the changes in your own strength and abilities, you should shift your goals to bigger things in life. Maybe you want to hike Mount Kinabalu? Maybe you want to travel with your partner for months and do plenty of walking? Maybe you want to go bungee jumping? I have always encouraged my friends and the people I train to enjoy their workouts. Running is the easiest sport to get in to, because all you need is a pair of shoes. And with the abundance of runs organized in Malaysia throughout the year, anyone can set a goal to run a 10, 21 or full marathon at any point in time and work towards it. The feeling you get from crossing the finish line for the very first time is priceless. Not to mention, addictive ;)

Categories: Burn burn burn!, Muscles, Run!, What's happening inside my body? | Leave a comment