Monday, January 26, 2015

The love for travelling & running

Overseas runs can be quite addictive once you get started. The best thing is that you just require a pair of sports shoes to explore and sight-see (save money on transport)! Even strolling in the mornings can be really a exhilarating experience.

Personally, I love both holidays (who doesn't?) and running. Thus, a combination of both is perfect and kills two birds (& calories) in one stone! I used to run on the treadmills (Bangkok, HK etc) to try to burn off the excess calories but it got boring after awhile.

During our honeymoon, we jumped at the opportunity of running around Hawaii before we checked in and it then became our bonding activity every morning. We breathed in the morning air, ran hand-in-hand, took wefies around the island and had so much more fun than sitting inside coach buses.

For races, the first experience is definitely going to be an unforgettable one. The recent Skyhawk Nature at Malacca (21km) was my third overseas race, all thanks to RD for organising it. It was a  Sunday morning well-spent, running past kampongs, animals which was a refreshing change from the usual city route. The locals and volunteers were extremely friendly and via running, I saw a different side of Malaysia.

Blogs and forums have helped me alot especially for my first overseas race so I thought that I would share some of my newbie experiences (HKSCM, Toyko Marathon). Hope it helps for runners who are keen to try it out!







1) REGISTRATION

Registrations are done online so do take note of the registration dates! It pays off to be kiasu and camp in front of the computer as for some countries, slots can sell out really fast. For HKSCM, the full marathon category was sold out within three hours and I could recall tearing my hair out in front of my computer when the website refuses to load due to heavy traffic.

For World Major Marathons (Tokyo, Berlin, Boston, New York etc), registrations are usually done via balloting and it really depends on your luck! It often involves a small fee, like USD11 for New York Marathon which I didn't had luck for last year. For Boston Marathon, it is done via qualifying times and the dream for many runners out there. Slots are not transferable and it is required to present your passport in person during the rack pack collection.

Alternatively, there are travel agencies out there like Athletes' journey that offer packages (transport to race site, accomodation, race slot etc). It's more fuss-free but tends to be more expensive as compared to booking everything on your own.

Some races to consider:-
1) Gold Coast Airport Marathon (4-5 July 15) - Popular for its scenic view, flat route and cooling weather for personal bests.
2) TCS New York Marathon (11 Nov 15) - Balloting open till 15 Feb. Dream city to be in especially during winter. Crossing my fingers this year again.
3) Seoul Marathon (15 Mar 15) - Not a korean fan but to shop/eat after eating might be a good idea. (see article from runsociety here)
4) Standard Chartered KL Marathon-  The nearest country and the easiest to go with minimal leave required.
5) Tokyo Marathon - Favourite race so far and I can't wait to be back again this year after 2013 (blogpost here)! It's my first time running in such chilly weather at 2-5 degrees but what is most memorable is its flawless logistics, race route and full support (& food) from its locals.
6) The North Face Thailand - For trail lovers. I'm biased because I love bangkok! 
7) Mount Fuji Marathon - Held at Yamanashi Prefecture and the race laps both Lake Kawaguchi and Lake Saiko with the most breath-taking views.
8) BII Maybank Bali Marathon - For beach lovers. Various categories (10k, 21k, 42k) as well!

Full schedule here from adventure-marathon.

Good luck!

2) BOOKING OF AIR TICKETS

The exciting part after that is to CAMP (yes again) for affordable tickets based on the race date. It is recommended to arrive at the country at least two days in advance for the race pack collection and to prep yourself for the weather. Try not to pack too much activities (that involved intensive walking) in your travel itinerary before the race to keep the legs fresh for the run!


3) BOOKING OF ACCOMMODATION

I usually pick my hotel depending on the location of the STARTING POINT of the race to save some time in the morning. Or the ending point if the starting point is at some ulu area. Some prefer to stay at the ENDING POINT (if it's different from the starting point), it depends on the individual. For Tokyo, the starting and ending point are located at different ends.

Again, it is recommended to quickly book your hotel once you have confirmed your flight dates. This year, I tried booking a day after confirming the slots and most hotels that I wanted had no more rooms available.

Besides hotels, airbnb  is a popular choice especially for big groups. It is usually cheaper and you get to discover amazing places/apartments. Check out reviews (!!!) before booking as photos may not reflect the true picture. I'm trying it out for the first time this year, will review if it's good!

4) PACKING

The most important part is to PACK enough, especially for winter countries! And more is better than less.


I monitored the weather before that for updates besides visiting the related forums/facebook pages. The key thing is the layering:-

1) Cap - I usually wear it to shield against the wind and sun. It can get really cold especially when you are waiting at the starting line for flag-off.

2) Heat-packs - Found in Daiso at just $2 and the BEST THING ever to keep your hands cold! I had two of them inside the pockets of my jackets and they kept me alive.

3) Disposable Jackets - From Daiso as well! Perfect for wearing it and throwing them off during the run when it gets hot (when sun comes up). A better alternative as compared to holding on to jackets throughout the run.

4)  Thermal Compression Tights - Available at 2XU / SKINS / Lululemon, to keep your legs warm while compressing the muscles during the run.

5) Heat-tech gears - I wore a heat-tech leggings from Uniqlo under my compression tights as it was way too cold to just wear one layer. And the heat-tech camisole works very well under the bra-tops as well!

6) Light-weight jackets - Final layer above your race singlet/long sleeve gear to protect your arms against the direct wind.

7) Lip-balm - This was in my pockets throughout the races and saved me from having chapped lips. I applied it once every 5km when the lips got too dry.

8) Thick socks - Feet that cannot be neglected as well!

9) Gloves - optional. I wore it throughout the Tokyo Marathon coz my hands were freezing.

And the usual gears during races like Gopros (for those taking pictures), GPS watch, shades, energy gels, race belts etc.

5) ENJOY!

I love the post-race experience as well - mingling at the race site, checking out the booths, photo-taking and fuelling up after the run.

Hope that helps! Do share with me on your experiences/tips as well! :)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

thank you 2014.

This entry came a little late since it's almost the end of Jan 2015. But well, better late than never haha! I've been wanting to jot this down for ages (so I could refer back in future) and somehow, even the bit-sized dayre update while travelling can never replace a blog entry like this. :)

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. goodbye 2014 .


2014 has been one of my most exciting and busiest year so far, with all the major chapters inside one. I'm thankful for good health for my family which was the only thing I wished for on the first day of 2015.


Started the year with my virgin trip to Tokyo with dearest Kat for Tokyo Marathon. The trip marked many firsts - my first FM overseas (since I fell sick during the last HKSCM), first World Major Marathon, first time running at a sub 5 degrees climate, first time witnessing snow, first time seeing Sakura flowers. I also got an unexpected personal best and improved by 45 minutes, all credited to the enjoyable race that made the distance felt so much shorter. The friendly locals left such a great impression that I told myself that it will not be my last time visiting Japan.

The next few months were busy preparing for our #racetcyt wedding. Ticking off items by items, preparing the logistics, going for food-tasting, staring at our guest list and endless visits to the bridal shop. During the final two months, everything was almost settled thanks to the awesome brothers and sisters. However, the only thing missing was the red cheongsam for the bike march-in which I have yet to see a piece that I really liked. I was panicking after all the wasted trips around town and luckily, the bridal shop offered to customize the design which was ready just days before the wedding.



Almost a year of preparation work for just one day that flew just like that.. which was all worth it. It was the best race in our lives and marked the start of a lifetime of happiness after tying the knot with my favourite man. The wedding was simple the way we like it and most importantly, we were blessed to be surrounded by all our loved ones who were genuinely happy for us. 5 years of relationship and we officially got promoted to Mr & Mrs Sue!

After which, I shifted into his place while waiting for our BTO to be ready in four months time. The initial one month wasn't easy while battling with the perpetual home-sick feeling which drove me nuts. Other than that, marriage life has been more beautiful than the actual wedding - waking up to his face every morning and the daily discovery of friendship and love.



(thanks to medalsnbibs for the medals holder)

It was also a relatively good race year (means injure-free) with a couple of pbs despite not squeezing enough time to train hard enough like the last. Every race is a learning lesson and this year, I've learnt how how to pace myself better to finish strong. I've also contributed race articles to Run Society with the combined love for blogging & sports and also joined my first running group - Running Department. Not only have they fuelled my enthusiasm for running, they made me feel that I'm not weird/alone - talking about running all the time, having withdrawal running symptoms during rest-days, lugging sports wear overseas. It's all normal, everyone has something they are passionate towards. Know no limits and run while you still can.




Also, I had my first trip together with my sister at the Land of Dimsum! And also,our BFC trip to BKK after 12 years of friendship - shopping and eating till we drop, dressing up and pillow fights.



2014 also marked my 3rd year at my second job which I'm thankful for. Got close to my colleagues, went for races together and I also got my first promotion.

The last quarter of the year whizzed past before we knew it. It was a hectic but fulfilling one, juggling between a full-time job, renovation works and 12 weeks of pacer trainings for Great Eastern Run. We collected our keys somewhere in August after lots of anticipation. The rest of the weekends were packed with discussions with our id, sourcing for furniture and running endless errands.



12 weeks flew pass and soon, it was November 9. The trainings have paid off and team 2:20 has finished our mission! Thanks to RD for the great opportunity to be able to run for a meaningful purpose to lead the awesome ladies back to the finishing line. It was my first time pacing and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process.






And finally after 3 months, we finally concluded our renovation process! No words can describe that sense of satisfaction upon witnessing the bare space transforming into your own first home. And I've also fulfilled my dream of having a walking wardrobe - thanks to the hubby for approving it and my id for designing it.






Just a day after we have shifted in, we had our first house-warming for our first group of friends before we go for our honeymoon. The 24 hours was a mad rush, trying to unpack our stuffs (!!!) and to clear the endless dust everywhere. At that point, it felt really surreal having your place and hosting your friends without the need to seek permission from your parents. 

A day after the house-warming, we finally embarked on our long-awaited honeymoon trip. It was a dream come true to spend our Christmas in Hawaii and NY countdown in the States. And honestly I wasn't as excited as I thought I would be, probably due to the crazy activities before that. The break came at a perfect time and it was also our first holiday together in this year. <3




For now, we are still happily getting used to this staycation home for our first month. And getting busy with the daily chores which come at a price of freedom and own crib. Looking forward to having our friends and families over before CNY! :)

Thank you 2014. The tougher chapters have made me & my family stronger while part II of the happy chapters will continue in the new year.


Come 2015, may it be a year of happier chapters for everyone.

No new year resolutions once again. The only change I want to make is to try slowing down my steps and not to rush through daily activities (like i always do). For an impatient/hyper-active individual, it's something that I have always failed to do. And to give deeper thought to more issues, not to pack my day with so many activities and most importantly, not taking the small bits in life for granted and to love myself more. I never knew how to say no to people but I've learnt not to ignore the inner voice in me.

Live for the moment and everything will fall into place.

Be happy and healthy, that's all it matters. 

Happy 2015 to everyone out there!

(& thank you for checking back this humble site and the encouraging emails. i will keep sharing on the things that i love.)        


Monday, January 12, 2015

Standard Chartered Marathon 2014

Hello all!

Sorry for the hiatus, just got back from my honeymoon! And finally, here's a late entry on my last race of 2014 (which happened almost a month ago) before replying my personal emails. There will be a couple of entries coming up which are still in my drafts!

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This year, I was hesitating whether to participate in SCM again since it was afterall the same route every single year. I realised it was a run that I couldn't miss for good so I'm glad I did my last minute registration!

The race pack collection was held at Expo this year and the pacers from Running Department were there as well. It's the first time I've joined a running group and throughout the last one year, it has been a really feel-good experience. I love the fact that there are all so enthusiastic about running and supportive towards each other. Also, I picked up the pace band at the pacer booth which proved to be very useful throughout the entire race. Hoping to use it again for Tokyo Marathon as well :)








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That first Sunday of December heralded the biggest running event of the year – the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2014! This was my sixth consecutive year participating in Standard Chartered Marathon ever since it marked my first full marathon in 2009. As usual, I had trouble falling asleep the prior night due to the pre-race jitters and yet, immense anticipation to lace up my running shoes.

I took the train that morning all thanks to their extended train hours. As usual, the cabin was packed with runners cladded in blue that calm me down knowing that we are not alone haha.


It was a beautiful sight at Orchard Road with the glistening lights of the Christmas decorations looming over the sea of blues at the familiar starting line. First in line were the Kenyan and Ethiopian elite runners who were all ready to dash. The hovering helium balloons and bright neon gears complemented the infectious laughter and high spirits of the official pacers from the Running Department. These are the crew whom I have been training with on Saturday mornings that made long distance runs seem so much shorter.

On my wrist were my trusty Garmin watch, a 4:30 hour pace band, and the yellow community wristband. This year, coloured wristbands were slotted into the race packs for fun rivalry amongst the respective communities (North, West, North East, East and Central). This means that you can immediately identify your neighbour based on the colour of their wristband!

After being stuck for thirty minutes at the baggage deposit counter, I hastened anxiously to the starting pen of the Full Marathon which was located outside the Mandarin Gallery. This was my first time depositing my items and I made a mental note to reach at least an hour earlier in future. At 5.25am, it was finally my turn to be flagged off.

A picture just before heading to Wheelock to deposit my baggage since I had to bathe after that. Lesson learnt!

Only upon crossing the starting line did I feel slightly more relaxed and tucked all the nervousness and sleepiness to the back of my mind. Jogging through the human crowd at a comfortable pace, I told myself to stick to my race plan to finish strong by persevering till the event split. The morning breeze on my face cooled my sweat down while I feasted my eyes on the picturesque city scenery that took me through the distance with a smile.

As I continued running, I quenched myself at the hydration stations which were manned by friendly volunteers. The adequate and strategically located water-points were my energy-boosters and small milestones that kept me motivated throughout the run. I was delighted to finally spot the colourful balloons and catch up with the energetic pacers. These are the selfless ones who have pushed the runners forward towards their desired timings with their blasting music, loud cheers and encouragement.

The revised route this year was a pleasant surprise and I definitely did not mind the opportunities to take in the magnificent sights around the Sports Hub. Besides that, the amendments to the race route were targeted to reduce congestion especially at the last 3km which was traditionally a bottleneck concern in previous years. The Half-Marathon runners now get off the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) via Robinson Road at 18km, effectively separating from the Marathon and 10km runners.

The easy first-half of the race flew by and soon, we entered the familiar East Coast Park which many have a love-hate relationship for. The gorgeous sunrise distracted me from the U-turns and monotonous flat route stretch. It was a heart-warming sight with runners offering their cheers for the elites and top local runners who were pounding effortlessly on the right pavement. I was enjoying myself so far while keeping check of my pace against the useful pace band that was offered at the race expo.


My stomach started to growl after the 25km mark and I started to look out for the bananas booths but it was in vain. It didn't help that I missed the first gel station as well. Coke and oranges slices that were offered at the unofficial stations by generous volunteers were the best things I have sunk my teeth into that morning.

The blistering heat and lack of trees ahead were the real challenge and showed no mercy at all with the sun sapping all my remaining energy. Most of the runners around me started to walk while some stopped to stretch or sought for muscle rubs from the race volunteers. At the 30km mark, I started to slow down my pace with the race getting increasingly arduous. To beat the heat, the only thing I could do was to keep running towards the ending point and resist all urge to walk or give up. A step forward means a step less to walk.


The quotes on every distance marker contributed by the running community were what kept me going. I was determined not to give up and was simply thankful that there were no cramps or aches in my legs at that point in time. As I hit 35km, I realised that my timing was 15 minutes slower than the targeted time and decided on aiming for a sub 5 instead.

It was a constant cycle of wallowing in self-pity at certain points and then continuously persuading my mind that the finishing line was just ahead. While struggling with the scorching heat, I managed to continue running till the 38km mark. The upslope at the Benjamin Sheares Bridge was not a welcoming sight and I decided to just drag my weary legs up before the final home stretch. And true enough, there were no bottlenecks at all due to the new diverted route.



I couldn't agree more when a fellow runner beside me remarked, "This seems like the longest 42km ever!"

This was not the time to give up, we were so close to completing this arduous marathon! The loud music at the finishing line spurred me on and I picked up my pace towards the finishing line.

"You are a finisher!"

With open arms, I ran past the finishing line with all the remaining energy I had in my aching legs. That was the best feeling that morning! I did it, with my grit and aching legs!

Time check: my watch displayed 4hr 49min.

The medals and isotonic drinks collection went by smoothly though I was disappointed by the lack of energy food. Also, the baggage deposit collection for the full-marathoners was at least 2km away, something which could be looked into next year.




Official results out! No personal best time achieved this round but still, I am proud of myself for pulling through the tough race and braving the broiling sun that morning.


This race marks my tenth marathon to end my running calender in 2014 on a high. Once again, I'm humbled by the distance and all the external factors that make victory so bittersweet. I will definitely be back for next year's edition.

And meanwhile, it's time to pull up my socks for Tokyo Marathon in about a month's time!



(Article at Runsociety here)