Four weeks of baseline training

So, this one time at run-camp, I got this injury and…wait, no wait! Where are you going? What do you mean you’ve heard this one a thousand times, ad-lib to fade?

Alrighty, let’s not dwell on the how, for now. Let’s launch right back into the what have I been up to the last few weeks. Well, I’m still not logging my miles or anything as I was before, so I’ve not cool diagrams or analysis to show you. Most of my time futering about with the phone Apps is divided between Instagram (my new pet and I love it so much, oh come here for a hug ye wee lovely thing 🙂 ) and the MyFitnessPal App, which is under-written by Under Armour I think. It is helping me to kick my own fat ass into some semblance of a body that can do runnering without wobbling more than a weeble mating with Mr. Blobby. It’s working, I tell you. And then I post a picture of my lovelier self (sometimes even without the FaceBeauty filter) on to said Instagram. And the fairground ride goes round and round…….

[Coughs. Regroups]

I committed to completing four weeks of basic training before doing anything else. Except, OK, I have entered some races but that’s by-the-by and totally necessary for motivation. Yes, I am still lying to myself. Ok……

I have started a training programme and committed to repeating th20160105_110325e first two weeks twice, to make sure my injuries do not flare up. There! That’s truthful. I don’t even know where I found the plan – it’s a page torn from a magazine from aaaages ago and it appears to be a 13 week programme for an off-road marathon. The good thing is, the sessions are mostly in time not distance and this works well for training in the heat where you just can’t expect to run at anything like the same speed as in the average UK ambient. Ok I’m sort of laughing at this statement as it is still snowing in places back home and everyone is moaning about weather and using the dread-mill. But at least this will improve. The heat here never ever goes away, so my usual training temperature is 24-30 degC and yes, that includes the lowest level I can get the gym to, even if I put the air-con on for hours beforehand. As far as excuses for training slow go, this is possibly a very good one. But I’m still working hard. My heart-rate is pretty high (160 BPM upwards), even at conversational type pace, since the bodies main job during any exertion is to try and cool itself.

This training cycle is roughly this:

Monday – 30 minutes easy [treadmill, practising getting my cadence up OR chatty beach run 5K with the girls]

Tuesday – 20 mins easy (run or turbo) plus strength routine and core exercises [hard day, lots of exercise ball, weighted twists focussing on back, hips, core. Always happy to finish]

Wednesday – 10 mins warm-up, 10-20 mins tempo OR 1 minute hard, two mins easy x 6, 15 mins warm-down [dreadmill, reaching the dizzying heights of 10 kph for the tempo or 12 kph for the hard bit]

Thursday – 15 mins W/U, 4-6 x 400m fast reps with 4 minute walked recovery intervals [dreadmill, more dizzying heights of 11.2 kph for the reps]

FridayREST

Saturday – 10 mins W/U, 1 minute fast, 2 minutes steady x 5 reps, 10 mins W/D

Sunday – 30 building to 50 mins easy. Just whatever I can manage, usually on the beach.

So I’m really doing no more than 5 or 6 K at a time. This is week four and at the end of the week I’ll do a little review before starting the next four weeks. I’m drinking my protein shakes like a good girl and staying hydrated. In fact I’m better hydrated when I get off the treadmill than before I go on. I probably need to look at that as I still can’t get above 47% hydrated according to the Tanita scales. An that is all. Check out my Instagram feed if you want more pictures 😉 Aye. Don’t all rush at once 😀 😀

 

Advertisements

Extra Zeds – back to back long runs

I really need more sleep. This week I’ve been forced to remember how difficult it is to do back to back runs and exist in the land of the living. A couple of days I have found beforeHarrisHalfmyself sitting in front of the laptop with my eye-balls rolling back in my head, fighting to stay awake. If I loiter anywhere for too long, I find my body starts to shutdown and urges me to catch a few zeds! Pass the Yerba MatĂ© …….Zzzzzzz

All quite normal as I am asking my body to run between 3 and 4 hours, followed by 2 hours with only 10 hours sleep in-between. When I write it like that, it seems ludicrous! But this is what week 3, 4 & 5 has entailed, so just as well I’m facing a step-back week where my longest run will barely be in double figure mileage.

As a reward for the longer runs, I treated myself to an aromatherapy 90 minute massage to pummel out those weary muscles. And some new ‘incentives’ from Sportpursuit. I’m so good to myself, you’d think I’d try harder.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So this is what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks, working towards The Mauritius Marathon, which will be my longest training run for the Speyside way ultramarathon in August and The Most Beautiful Thing in September.

Week 3: Long run 27K, 2 x 5Ks, jungle hash, HIIT and reformer Pilates

P1000465Week 4: back to back runs of 5 miles, 9 miles,10 miles (38K) plus HIIT and Pilates.

One of these runs was run along the beach wearing full length Salomon EXO compression tights. Although I’m sure my legs liked the additional support it was WAY too hot and the extra burden of running in sand and having to navigate beach debris and river inlets meant it felt a lot longer than it was. My Achilles was really stiff afterwards but following the piriformis exercises, I had absolutely no repercussions for my 10 miler the next day 🙂

Week 5: back to back runs of 5 miles, 18 miles, 5 miles (45K) plus HIIT and Pilates

and then this coming week is a step-back or drop-down week, with a cheeky wee 10 mile race called the Mizuno Wave Run near Kuala Lumpur. I have so far been really impressed by the organisation, local hospitality and excellent quality of race goodies provided by the Far East’s Road racing circuit. Let’s hope this one maintains the standard. I need to get back to the jungle hash though, as the terrain training will really benefit the hillier part of SSW as well as the overall conditions of TMBT.

Week 6 – 3 miles /10 mile race/3 miles (26K) and the shorter runs will be more or lessi_love_plodding_along_mug-rfbae3764c5024b4eb8602fbdb84a62b3_x7jgr_8byvr_152 ‘speed work’ involving 400m reps with short intervals. I can’t really expect my legs to like upping the pace even for these short runs but it’ll be good for them to have a change from all the plodding. If I don’t watch out I’ll be growing donkey-ears 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Week 2 ultra-training: farther down the hot tarmac road

With three weeks until my next road race-training session, I was checking on my distance versus pace training. Basically I am doing no faster paced sessions due to running in the heat. I’ll have to do a couple of tune ups before the 10 Mile Mizuno Wave Run in Kuala Lumpur, otherwise I’ll not get back before the proper heat comes on at maximum (about 7.30 a.m.)

Here’s a graph of my pacing since I’ve been in Brunei which shows that over 50% of my training runs have been in the 10-11 minute mile bracket. This is all I’ve really been able to do, given that temperatures are normally around 30 degC and in excess of 90% humidity.

bloggraph3

According to VDOT calculations, this is actually bang on for the long easy running pace. Unfortunately, not all of these distances have been classically long runs, but it’s still early days yet and I’m happy to take a full 6 months to allow my body to heat adjust, before worrying about getting faster.

blogdistance

Distances covered vary from 5K through to 15 miles, with a recent maximum of 27 Km. (I’m trying to switch over to metric in my head but I am still dumbfounded by min/Km and Km/hour. I’m OK with converting total distance though: my 1.6 times table is coming along nicely).

Some more stats from the nine weeks of running in a hot climate

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Saturday– REST

Sunday – RUN 27K (pm)

Monday – RUN 5K (am) – at MRP (marathon race-pace)

Tuesday – 30 min CIRCUITS (am) /  Massage (pm)

Wednesday – Run/BIKE/Run BRICK (pm)

Thursday – REST

Friday – Reformer Pilates (am) / Long BIKE (pm)

Every other day I’ve completed one of the following: HIIT / Glutes / 8 min workout (x 3) and practised rollering, including the piriformis stretch which I’ve been advised will help (eventually) to loosen off an area which may be linked to my on-going calf and Achilles strain. I found this guy on youtube and liked his quirky wee demo. Runners will be familiar with the last stretch, usually performed in a standing crouch position after a run.

Also have a quick look at this guy (who kinda reminded me of a Skinny Marc Jacobs in lycra 😉 ), I mean, look at his form on the rollering techniques!

http://www.youtube.com/user/WorkTheFunkOut/videos

Next week brings a long run of 30K and hopefully a return to the jungle hash, followed by a step-back week with shorter runs. Happy Days 🙂

Hot weather training – distance running goals

Last week we moved from the temporary accommodation provided by my husbands company, to our new permanent home – a rented terraced townhouse, not unlike the one we left behind in Scotland! What this means as far as training is concerned, is that I now get to have my very own gym, on the top floor, with balcony. The luxury! Well, it’s far from luxurious and is really just a mish-mosh of gear at the moment but I am hoping to pimp it up a bit with mirrors, storage and maybe a barbell. For now, it is functional and allows me to run, cycle, stretch and cross-train: what more could a girl need?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The treadmill is an inexpensive lesser-known brand Powertech and suits all my current needs; it is very good at dealing with a vast amount of sweat pouring onto it! The cycling set-up is basically a duff old stainless steel framed mountain bike I won as a safety award from Baker Hughes, a new rear road-tyre from Wiggle and a Riva Tesla Turbo-trainer trainer from Sport Pursuit. No proper computer on it but I am training for X duration at < 130 bpm, so I just wear my Garmin Heart-rate monitor and I’m all good.

IMG-20130513-03254I’ve been trying to do the majority of my running outside; only taking to the gym when I had no available time in the cooler hours between 6-8am or 5-7pm. Now that it’s time to start upping the distance towards the 20+ mile mark, I had hoped to run outside for ~2 hours and then finish off the distance inside on the treadmill, although I worried that these later stage miles would not be as affective if they were run in cooler conditions. Not to worry! The top floor of the house has an ambient of 29-33 degC, so although there is an air-conditioning unit in the room, I have been keeping it switched off, thus getting a full “hot climate” work-out!

The furthest I have run in the home-gym has been 10K straight through and one 10 mile session carried out in 5K/6K/5K chunks with a water re-fill in-between. The black fridge/freezer we brought from the UK is now the designated “beer” fridge, which would be fairly incongruent in the gym, save only for the water dispenser in the front! I also keep my electrolye tabs and TORQ fuel in there too.

Because of the high temperatures, the running is slower and I lower and raise the speed on the treadmill or my own pace when outside, to keep my heart-rate constant. Maximum heart-rate is desired as 165 bpm and an average of 140 bpm ideally. I am noting duration, average speed versus heart-rate in my training diary and will be looking for trends in fitness as my mileage and conditioning progresses.

Meanwhile my remaining running goals for 2013 are:

  1. Acclimatise to running in high humidity heats of 30+degC
  2. Remain injury free
  3. Become au fait with off-road jungle terrain

I have ear-marked a few key races for me, which will be a helluva lot of fun but also strategic to these and longer term goals.

  1. Marathon D’ile Maurice (July, Mauritius, 42 Km) – as a training run for (2) and also to try and run under 5 hours in 25+ degC conditions. Plus of course, Mauritius is a beautiful place and will be another island off the bucket-list. It also happens to fall on the weekend before my birthday.
  2. Speyside Way Ultramarathon (August, UK, 58 Km) – determined to finish an ultra without stomach or derrier issues! I completed this last year after a fairly horrendous but also extremely full-filling experience in just under 7.5 hours; I’d like to think I could do something different/ better in 2013.
  3. The Most Beautiful Thing (September, Malaysia, 25-30 Km) – to experience some local hills, valleys, forest and scenery around Kota Kinabalu and associated forests. Officially called Colourcoil TMBT Ultramarathon, the 100K runners who finish in < 30 hours earn 3 points towards UTMB. That means the course is challenging (hence why I’m starting with the short distance, did I say “starting” there? 😉 )

So it’s going to be a fairly intense few months of training, leading up to a few months of eventing (I shake my head when I try and call these “races”). As ever, the planning phase for my training has been intense, profuse, detailed and because I know I am a ‘planner’ by nature, I’ve allowed myself to draw up schedule after schedule, move things around, prescribe every aspect……so now I’m ready to RELAX and commit to my long distance runs as well as a few things which have ‘just happened to come my way’, so I’m not going to knock the Universe on that. So, having said all that, my week looks like this, with a couple of step-back weeks of low intensity for development. I’ve also started incorporating short HIIT and a glutes work-out wherever/whenever I feel like it, which currently, is most days 🙂

Monday – 10 miles (am)

Tuesday – 30-40 minute sprint session with local ladies running club (pm)

Wednesday – jungle hash ( 1-1.5 hours) (pm)

Thursday – MASSAGE (am)

Friday – reformer pilates (am) / bike session (pm)

Saturday – REST

Sunday – long run (various distances)

Borneo Half Marathon – the Unoffical Night Run

The Borneo Half Marathon was due to take place on May 5th in Kota Kinabalu (KK), in the Malaysian State of Sabah – to the North East of Brunei. However the race was cancelled (I’m not getting paranoid yet, but this is becoming a familiar story in my race calendar) due to local elections. Like many of the runners, we had non-refundable air and hotel bookings so decided to go anyway and a few ladies from Panaga were also due to run, so we all made our various routes towards Sabah; ours being an early morning drive across the southern border to Miri, Sarawak and a flight with AirAsia. [I sat beside a tiny ultrarunner who had previously competed the HongKong 100K- he and his friend ogled my Dean Karnazes book ‘Ultramarathonman”].

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

KK will be the stepping off point for the TMBT in September, so we checked into the Hyatt Regency which was very plush and had lovely seaview rooms, delicious buffet lunch with traditional drum and dancer display and a luxurious spa.

There had been talk about meeting up for an unofficial night-run round the proposed routes and I quite fancied that, so I took my stuff and kept an eye on the website for further updates. Meantime, the Brunei ladies all met up at the race expo which was in this huge shopping mall called Suriah Sabah – a monstrous L-shaped multi-layered complex with higher end shops like Coach and Levi through to local style supermarkets and cafes in the basement.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We bumped into lots of other runners, since we all seemed to have had the same idea of changing into our race tee-shirts. I got directions to the local outdoor survival shop from one gent and bought a snakebite kit and a small torch.

We spoke to a couple from Taiwan, whilst I was buying my very bright Adidas race leggings (as per the cover of last months Runner’s World magazine) and Wan (spelling?) had studied a year at Herriot-Watt and he and his girlfriend Avalyn (sp?) would be running the full marathon that night. There were various rumours about start-times for FM/HM but my plan was to just turn up at 21:30 and use the course map to navigate round. Wan thought 9pm, others were going for 10.30pm. Hmmmmm

Back near the hotel, Liz, Rachel and Marie ‘s other halves had ‘forced’ my OH to drink beer and therefore, I knew I was on my own for the race (the ladies had all had a run and were looking forward to a nice dinner/drinking in an actual pub, since Brunei is a dry country). I decided I would get a taxi but luckily, a local runner Hazazi offered to give me a lift. Well now, my Mum would have a hairy fit if she knew I was accepting a lift to a remote location in a foreign town and country, from someone I had met only days previously through FaceBook (!!) but I went with my gut and runners are usually a genuine, friendly bunch, so I said OK and we headed out to the Lika Stadium at 08:40pm.

Hazazi was meeting numerous friends and I was introduced as we started amassing in the car-park near the would-be start. The KK runners were handing out red bicycle lights for clipping on, as we would be running on open busy roads, in the dark. I had worn reflective, bright clothing and we would be running in groups for safety. So it was not to be a race. I hoped there would be some people at my pace, although I didn’t care about time I just wanted to complete the distance as a training run.

After some discrepancy in start-times, with foreigners who didn’t know the route being paired up with cyclists, I discovered the half runners had left already and the next bacth wouldn’t be going until 10:30 😩 Luckily someone let me use their phone and I rang OH to tell him I would get a lift home. Hazazi was looking after the orphaned Scottish girl and would also give me a lift back to town; how nice was that? Especially as he was due to run the 10K so would be waiting for hours…….so we agreed that I would run with him to the 5K turnaround point which was roughly at a Shell petrol station (an unofficial toilet/water station).

We started off in 2s and 3s and ran towards the sea, via some roundabouts, it was vaguely down-hill so I noted that for the return, as the course was a ‘lollipop’ (out and back route with a loop at mid-way). I was at conversational pace for the first few Ks which were along the coast-line but eventually H urged me on, so I tried to catch up with one of his friends Jasmie who was just ahead. I ran with him for a few more roundabouts and then another friend, Burn, appeared from an impromptu toilet-stop, so the three of us started a slight ascent on the main carriageway towards the University, where the hill-challenge lay. borneo water stationLuckily there were some volunteer water stations which also had 100Plus dotted along the course, some with tables, others from the back of a truck! So many thanks to everyone who manned these. The race might have been at night but it was still melting hot. I know now to just watch my heart-rate and slow down if it gets high, regardless of pace. We were pretty steady, speaking in clips and taking turns running on the outside. I was sweeping the hand-held torch I’d picked up in the outdoor shop, in our paths when the street light waned and occasionally swept it along the tree-line. The frogs were really loud! I held my precious electrolyte drink in the UltrAspire Handheld which is fast becoming my new race-buddy, despite saying after the Crathes Half 2012 that it was too heavy for just a half marathon (when I’m presumably meant to be running fast as opposed to an ultra-distance where I’m just bimbling along “enduring”).

borneo halfJasmie fell back a bit, so I was running now with Burn, who told me he had completed the TMBT 25K option last year and was moving up to 50Ks in September. Interesting, so I started asking a few questions and, well, we had a little race up the hill ! I wanted to see if I still remembered how to run a proper gradient as I hadn’t done so for a few months since I left Scotland. As we came through the campus, we hit the first of 3 inclines. Burn had a slight advantage in that he knew where we were going and how long the hills were whereas I was just striding with my head down; we both notably picked up the pace up-hill and I started to breathe hard for the first time. I was glad when we crested the top of the hill and then……suddenly we were lost! Looking back at the route map, it seems we should have gone right at the University but I think we went left and up another hill. Burn asked a passing student but we had no idea which right turn to take. J had easily caught up by then (humph! all our hard work on the hill was lost) and we all agreed that it would be better to do too far than be under 21Km, so we eased down towards the far right turn, knowing that what goes down must come up. I let gravity take me and coasted down but I think this is where the other two suffered the most- downhill hates quads, luckily I am poorly developed in that area 🙂

bim route half

Another ramp up, turning us back onto our original route and we were passed the half way mark and on our way home. I suggested we took a short walk to allow J to join us (and to get a breather) but after a minute or 2, Burn had had enough and we started jogging again and enjoyed the downhill we had previously attacked! We didn’t wait for Jasmie but Burn assured me that he knew the way alright and I gently reminded him that I did not (ie stay with me please).

By now the full marathon guys and gals who had set off at 9pm, were starting to come up towards us. I asked what the Malay for “Well done” was but was too chicken to say it, so just clapped or gave some encouragement in English. Everyone was so smiley and happy, like any run, some were struggling, some were coasting; we all waved.

I was glad to see the Shell garage as we excused ourselves amongst folks who were gathering on the pavements, probably wondering what was going on. Cars were tooting and shouting at us and we got a few more water stations before the final roundabout.

I was pushing quite hard now as my heart-rate had been slowly rising from mile 10 and I felt the lethargy of my 6am start, flight, expo. The last food I had eaten, being 8 hours previous, was a distant memory and hunger started itching at me to finish! We both speeded up and as I mounted the pavement over the last bridge I felt something go click in my right ankle. “No! The Achilles site, please don’t let it be the Achilles”. I didn’t want to sustain an injury on such an optional non-race as tonight (or at any other time for that matter) but there was no further pain and less than a mile to go……then suddenly we were finished! Only 12.65 miles. I said to Burn “I need to go on and complete the half marathon distance”, he understood and ran with me- a few laps around the complex until my Garmin said 13.11 miles. DONE!

Then I rested. I thanked Burn profusely for running with me (he looked like he could have sprinted off at any moment) and whilst I was topping up on cooler water at the running clubs’ van, Jasmie came in and had some pictures taken with Burn, Hazazis and a few others. Thank God no one wanted my picture as I felt quite gash, queasy and like I wanted to lie down. Of course I couldn’t, but I sat on the grass until we were ready to go. I felt very tired and light-headed and sick with hunger. I thanked Hazazis for everything – basically I probably wouldn’t have gone if he hadn’t offered me that lift – and made my way to the hotel-room. Luckily my OH hadn’t stayed out drinking so he got me some full fat coke and a huge bag of crisps from the mini-bar 😉 I collapsed into bed after a quick shower.

IMG-20130513-03254Next morning I went for a full-body massage and asked for them to be careful around the Achilles area. Time will tell what’s actually happened there. I felt yet again much better and had some delicious noodles for brunch at the Mosaic cafĂ©. Spoke with another few runners in the distinctive race tee-shirt and felt pleased to be able to say “I ran it”. I also got a little present for my efforts – a Suunto Vector watch –  to help me with my hiller running and it includes a temperature gauge as well as altimeter. I’m looking forward to using it in the jungle hash.

We were also fair chuffed to get to Miri and find that the car was in one piece. The OH took another opportunity to stock up on beer before we crossed the border. So, another hot  race experience, in another part of the world. Unfortunately I can’t make the re-scheduled date as I’ll be in the UK (running) but I WILL be back to KK for the trail event in September and hopefully a few recce runs with my new Malaysian buddies before then.

Distance: 13.11 miles / Time: 2:23:50 / Race-pack contents: Newton technical tee-shirt, Newton sports socks, PowerBar, various money-off tokens / Race shoes: Purple Nike Lunarglide+ 4 / Race cothes: Adidas capris, 2XU socks (bought at the expo), Black Ron Hill reflective Fetch Everyone vest, Black Fetch buff

Brunei Half Marathon

How long does it take a frequent runner to acclimatise from Scottish winter to Equatorial summer, where the mercury hits 30+ degrees? Longer than three weeks, you betcha….and here’s how I know.

The Brunei Half Marathon was entered at the start of 2013, as I rejoiced at finding a distance race in my new home country. I would run the same distance in the UK as a benchmark and then train on heart-rate until I was at a similar fitness and voila, everything would be hunky-dory. As time passed I was beginning to think we wouldn’t even make it over for the race, so 3 weeks to get used to the heat and humidity went something like:

IMG-20130318-029825K at 10:30am=beetroot and dying, 6K at 8am=still cream crackered and lung-less, 5K at 7am/5pm=almost bearable at a barely jogging pace. Longest run of 7 miles and 21 days in country …..oh, OK then.

But it wasn’t that bad. Race strategy was (a) don’t race (b) don’t exceed 175 bpm unless it’s a sprint to the loo or the final 10 metres (c) keep salted and hydrated (d) enjoy the city. I managed (nearly) all of those, slowed down when I had to, jogged all the inclines and had a tough but steady event, finishing in a not-too-slovenly 2:13:34 and I can honestly say, I was pleased with that.

Pace splits/heart-rate (the last 3 miles after the morning hotted up were very tough)

5K in 30.55 / 10K in 63.05/16K in 1.42/21K in 2.13

So roughly: 5K/5K/6K/5K in 31, 32, 39, 31 minutes, so you can see where the hills were but it was still pretty even. OK, important to me for this first hotter race but I promise the stats are over now for the descriptive and pictures.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We stayed at The Empire Hotel in the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan and I enjoyed being go-karted around between our wing and the main building. The complex is mahooosive and I look forward to a more exploratory return. I endured another highly painful foot torture-massage but felt brilliant the next morning for our 4 am start.

We arrived at the Hassanal Bolkiah stadium (named after the current Sultan of Brunei) P1000301and the place was buzzing with athlete’s, media and rows of food stalls serving rice and noodle dishes, fruit punch and water; all at 5 am. No queue for the loos and soon we were huddling behind the start-line, waiting to stride out into the dark. I opted to run with the Ipod in 1 ear and carrying an UltrAspire Handheld full of Aquarius sports drink, which is widely available in Seria. The race was sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank who have a series of marathons and half marathons throughout the Far East, including Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore. We all got very nice turquoise/green tee-shirts and an over-sized mesh cap in our goody bags and can I just say that the expo and registration, although not well attended, was well organised and very friendly, with a personal smiley welcome and good-bye from their meet n greet team (this is proving typical of Brunei hospitality).

Back to the race! I was slightly taller and much paler than 90% of the participants and I felt there were at least twice as many first timers as there were regular runners (evident P1000295later when most of the 10K race was walking at the point where the half route merged). Of course this is fine until the last few miles when you’re tired and it’s hot and you’re weaving in and out of groups of walkers! I was in awe of the amount of fully clad head-to-foot in black, compression wearing folks, some with two layers on, including long sleeves and long socks. I saw one wheelchair entrant and at the 5K mark passed one single-legged blade-runner. There were a smattering of ex-pat types as well and I spotted a Dutch flag at the start-line. I tried not to stare at the Bruneian lady runners who were attempting to run in their Muslim headscarves: how hot would THAT have been (shudders). NIK6696_250_1Fair play to them! We were united in our goal though and we eased into the race start at 5.30 am and I waved at the cameras and tried to settle into a pace to the background noise of insects, feet falling on tarmac and ‘The Climb’ playing in one ear! I had opted to run in my grey/blue Nike+ Lunarglide 4s as they matched the outfit and also hadn’t done a long race; I wore the purple versions for my last half marathon. Rest of the attire was my usual garb: Nike dryfit shorts over Skins compression shorts, X-socks run (men’s version), Shockabsorber B4490 in turquoise, new BASIC charity tee-shirt, Scotland Buff, Worm sunglasses (not needed) and Lunarglides.

P1000309 P1000310

At around the 5-6K mark, the sun started to come up just as we passed the large gold-domed mosque and the heat wasn’t any worse than I’d experienced over the prevailing weeks. I was drinking frequently, had a short-lived twinge right knee and had some crystallised ginger and some Neurofen stashed ‘just encase’. My fellow runners were friendly, smiled and I felt confident enough to tap a local gent on the shoulder to tell him his shoe-lace was undone. I managed to ditch a rather annoying girl who was overtaking me and then slowing in my line of sight continually, by running through the second water station. My other half was made to jog alongside me to capture these pictures at the next water-station 🙂P1000311

The cheering bands were very enthusiastic as we came through the main town and by now, there were people on their way to work and it was getting warmer with every passing minute. Then someone turned on the heat and day broke over the streets just as we made our way to the first of three substantial fly-overs. The gradient would be manageable on it’s own but the addition of the camber as well as the amalgamation of walking HM and 10Kers…it was getting tougher. My strategy was to adopt the classic hill running mentality of lift from the thigh, take very small steps and let gravity put your foot back down. Only stop running if someone walks passed you faster…so I continued, snail-like but steady, taking tiny steps, working my arms, lifting from the thigh and you know? I was passing people. No one around me was jogging the hills! The crest came in sight and I tried not to bomb down the far side as the camber was killing my right leg. Repeated this pretty much 3 times and by then the 10 Mile mark had passed, so mentally I was on my way home.

One last fly-over onto the main road and by now the sun was beating off the tarmac back at me, people were slowing, very fit triathlete looking guys were bimbling, blinded by their own sweat. The water stations were now handing out DEET cream and the flies from the drains as we re-entered the main town, were quite something else. I’d slathered on SPF30 with insect repellent incorporated and just hoped I hadn’t sweated it all off.

My heart-rate was now over 180 BPM but I felt a greater urgency- to get out of the heat! I pulled my buff off my head, wound it round my wrist and felt a momentary relief as my head literally let off steam. The last 2 miles were all about trying not to blow up, keeping form (I could feel my head roll back and my middle start to collapse a few times) and dodging slower runners and 10K walkers. I saw a smaller lady up in front who looked like she was slowing and I just aimed at catching her and passing her. P1000350This pre-occupied me as we turned for a very decent 150m straight to the line (although I almost ran into the 10K funnel because a group of guys were cheering right in the finish-stretch). Luckily the Other Half has seen me lose direction near the end of races before (!) and shouted me over to the 21Km mat. I did speed up at the end but it wasn’t a massive push. I passed the girl though 😉

I got over the mat and immediately walked up the steps whilst taking my medal, water and can of 100Plus There were 100s of runners lying out in the sun, stretching, some flaked out and I sat and drank in the rehydration and the atmosphere. I’d completed my first half marathon in the hottest and most humid P1000358conditions I’d ever experienced and I had no “issues” – blisters, bad belly, energy dip (and like the Lossie Half in February, I didn’t use carb gels, just the carb drinks and water). Although the time was nothing special (to me), it was apparently representative of the 13th place in the non-local Open Female category and although they don’t publish the full results, I reckon it was a top 30 finish. It makes me wonder what further adaptions I’ll gain in the following weeks and what I can do next time? Mind you, I quite like the feeling of constant effort, sight-seeing and not being dead at the end…….. Brunei is beautiful and friendly and I look forward to running here again 🙂

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When the rain comes

It’s raining today; how I miss this weather and I want to shove on my trainers and get out in it, get soaked through, feel that fresh and salty wash down my face and enjoy the cooling effects. But there will be no running in the rain today. The rain is torrential and my windscreen wipers barely blink fast enough to keep visibility up. Then comes the thunder, loud enough to crack park benches and then too, cIMG-20130330-03089omes the fizzle of lightening- so severe that there are warning sirens sounding, telling people to get inside and particularly away from open spaces. No, the rain will not be a running friend for me over here. In other news, the weather is normally too hot to go without sunblock Factor 30 (bearing in mind, I’m not exactly Scottish blue-skinned, having earned my sock n vest lines on the West coast last year). The humidity makes consuming Oxygen very tough and I run with a gawping fish mouth, valiantly sucking at air but gaining little for my efforts. Its anoxic exercise at best and completely knackering at worst.

IMG-20130403-03096

The one dry piece of teeshirt after a 5K run

And the efforts have been monumental. Try three miles in 32 degC with your heart-rate hammering at 181 bpm! Now I’m not the fittest person out there but, for context, a sub-8 minute mile back in the UK requires the same effort as a 10+ minute mile in Brunei going on heart-rate comparison. Not that really worries me. It’s to be expected and I will get better as I acclimate.

But there are other things that nag me. Apart from the SPF, there’s insect repellent to wear – DEET on any available flesh and remember, don’t wipe your forehead with your hand once the rivers of perspiration start- as that’ll clean the DEET off and will sting your eyes once the sweat carries the chemical there. So running vests are great for keeping as cool as possible but also highly likely to return two outcomes- sunburn and/or insect bites. I’ve experienced a couple of sand-fly bites on each hand.IMG-20130404-03114 I was bitten on the Monday evening but the bites didn’t swell until Wednesday lunchtime. My hand was puffed up and tight, pulsing red and white and the bite sites were yellow and puss-filled, requiring both anti-histamine and topical antibiotic cream. Prevention being less itchy
.I am also swatting Buddhist principles to one side and if something flies, buzzes and could remotely bite me, I am squishing first and asking for forgiveness later. There are mosquito repellent plug-ins in the bedroom and living-room and the air-con is kept at goose-bump level. I sleep with full length pyjamas and my ears beneath the covers (even though it’s too hot), which I haven’t done since the farm days, when there would be ear-wigs in the bed room during summer. I will no longer laugh at (German) tourists who wear both socks and open toed sandals; keeping the feet protected from the sun and the biters, is essential. I wish I had brought more long sleeved tee-shirts.

Humidity is constantly 80% +/- 5%.....

Humidity is constantly 80% +/- 5%…..making things a bit ickier and warmer than temperature alone might suggest

But running continues- of course it does! From my fool-hardy 5K on that first Monday morning, wearing a too thick tee-shirt, buff over my head, out and back on the main road at 10:30 a.m. thinking to myself that if this was how it was going to be, that I would never manage

P1000388to starting out earlier and earlier or leaving the run until an hour before sundown and running the gauntlet with the Biters. That’s when people run, there are so many runners here, both ex-pat and local, 7 am or 5pm. The ex-pats Panaga club has a group called the Panas Runners who go for a beach run on Mondays and Fridays and also have a session on Wednesdays, although I don’t think you get to go to that until you can keep up with the main group on the beach-runs. The first Monday I ran up the beach for 1.5 miles and luckily had some buddies who were happy with a 10+ min/mile. P1000489The beach is compact and more importantly, flat with no camber issues although there is a varying degree of litter- both natural (logs, Shells, crabs and crab-mounds) and man-made (bottles, plastic tubs). There’s a light breeze as well which although not temperature cool, does have a cooling effect. To get off the beach there is a scramble up a steep concrete sea-wall, drop down on the otherside onto long grass near some nodding donkey oil-wells and then a fairly quick section along a sandy trail onto the Jalan Utara to avoid lingering in Biter territory near stagnant waters. The route continues down passed the Lapan Puluh apaP1000437rtment and onto the cycle-paths, which weave their way through the Shell housing camp and back towards the Panaga club. That route is about 4 miles and there is some shade on the return journey from the canopy which intersperses all the housing in sections F9 and beyond. The Friday runs are a variation on this by heading firstly down passed the school, onto the cycle-paths and down towards F1 and the roundabout towards the town of Kuala Belait (KB). Across through sector E1 and then onto the beach, this time running up towards the Panaga club – always with the sun behind you. The sun-sets are really beautiful here.P1000460 The sun seems to set almost within minutes and the sea and beach turn from yellow to red and then it’s night. Like a light-switch. The mornings are the reverse, although I have only seen the sunrise once during the Brunei Half Marathon
.seconds after lights-on, someone turns the heat on too and that murky bathwater feel becomes over-whelming, forcing blood to the surface of my skin and the heart-rate goes up and up and up. And that’s how running is now. Slower than normal but not the slowest I’ve ever been 😉 I have a new set of base-lines to improve upon and any previous times and efforts are not forgotten but are meaningless in this context. I still strive for fitness, for improvement and for running to be more fluid, easier on the lungs and not so exhausting. I am enjoying it despite these so-called frustrations and I look forward to chipping away at my pace, upping the mileage and lowering my heart-rate a beat at a time.

NEXT UP- The Borneo Half Marathon, in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, which will now be run at midnight on 4th/5th May due to clashes with the local election voting!