The long yawn of Interim

So, like, where the frak have I been, eh?

Nowhere special (drags toe of shoe back and forth along the dusty pebble-path….). Just ‘around’, being all introverted and cannae-be-ershty. Plus I was like working and everything.

But now I am back and not working and wondering where the start of this new phase of blogging should be and what was the last thing I did of any substance anyway?

I was actually in a fantastic ‘ramping up’ phase heading towards some great unknowns: The Mauritius Marathon, The Speyside Way Ultra-marathon, The Most Beautiful Thing jungle-traily thing with nose-bleed ascents/descents and my first 12 hour event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There was a lot of eventing going on. That was in 2013! What happened in 2014?? Do we even care?

I remember getting to the end of the year and just feeling beat. 2014 was full of a lot of planning followed by a lot of DNS, either through lack of preparation or niggles, lethargy, life-stuff getting in the way of living.

But now it’s 2015, so time to draw the line in the sand (…………….) and start fresh!

Recap 2013

Longest race: KL Tasek Perdana Ultra – 66 Km (ca. 9 hours, not 12)

Best finish position: 3rd Lady KL Ultra, 17th overall TMBT (25 Km category)

Marathon – YES – Mauritius

Ultra-marathon – YES – Speyside (60K), KL (66K)

PBs – No (unless you count new distances, which I don’t due to the mad terrain being non-repeatable and therefore unchallengable in PB territory)

New terrain – jungle hashing, jungle hill Check-point event, looped time event

Recap 2014

Longest race: Berlin Marathon (42 Km)

Best finish position: none to speak of, glad to not DNF, feet condition was decent after Berlin

Marathon – YES – Berlin, Germany (World Marathon Major). Deferred a ballot place for New York Marathon

Ultra-marathon – NO – DNS at Tarawera 85K, Titi 50K

PBs – No

New terrain – No

2014 was a pretty poor year all in all; running just didn’t happen much once work started and I never really got into a groove with embracing the early morning cooler times or getting out straight from the office. I was in a FUNK.

So what’s planned for 2015?

JUNE/UK. Another crack at the spectacular Heb 3 Half marathon race series in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. I completed Benbecula, Harris and Skye in 2011 and the former two in 2012 (missing out on Skye due to a flooded road out of Achultibuie). Got an elusive place in Barrathon (it sells out in minutes) and plan to run Benbecula and Skye again to make the series.

AUGUST/MALAYSIA. Borneo 50K in the Northern Malaysian state of Sabah. This is a similar route and terrain to the TMBT and it will be a 12-15 hour event, all things being equal. Through jungle and remote villages, perhaps in the dark. With trekking poles this time. This is my 40th birthday event so I am going to enjoy it thoroughly and training has begun in earnest but will definitely rely on me getting back to the jungle hash on Labi road and maybe finding some long run buddies for off-road treks.

It would be nice to look towards a marathon near the end of the year but it really depends on how the old injury sites respond to training and how well I can motivate myself to do long runs. [I’m classing anything over 2 hours as long run territory]

More on that later. Maps, pictures and race reports may be retroactively inserted but one of my non-work goals is to keep up to date with things on Blog Island. At least until I get distracted again. [By the way, how good was that Maleficent movie? Man, I just loved Angelina in those horns………]

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 Maté …….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

Recruitment into the Gurkhas

ghurka pipersI attended the Brunei Military Open Day for the Gurkhas and I had great fun despite the tropical rainstorm in the final hours! A write-up in the local news paper can be found HERE and a report with ‘professional’ photos can be found HERE (copyright Gavin Goh). The photos in this blog are kindly provided by GEORGE.

The event was set-up deep in the Garrison/Gurka territory in Seria down in sector H, South of the Tuker Lines. The programme promised a fighting demonstration, mock-up hostage rescue, gun-run competition, food n drink stalls, tug O’war and an opportunity to speak with members of the garrison and Nepalese gurkhas.

I first watched the knife-fighting display which featured the Khukuri, a Nepalese inward curving knife which is used in day to day tasks as well as more violent means. I then checked out the helicopters and the river-boat used for training ops. I bombarded the pilot with loads of questions based on observations from my several hundred flights offshore in a variety of choppers. This dissolved into a discussion about alternate uses for the contents on the mini-emergency kit, the size of a tobacco tin, which infamously includes a condom and a tampon.

At this point LIZ had to go home to give a language lesson so I returned with George, armed with camera and knowledge of previous years’ events and we took the tour from the other side, starting with the reimagined Nepalese village, with examples of traditional day-to-day life. Here I am trying out the rice grinder a dhiki [Dee-kee], operated by foot, which in turn pummels a long wooden lever into a kernel sump containing the rice grains. The milled product is then scooped out by hand. gurkha diki

Here I am trying my hand, erm, abs in the Gurkha recruitment tent. I chucked in a couple with bent legs but was informed the moves must be performed with straight legs. After successfully crunching out five inverted straight-leg sit-ups (and feeling quite pleased with myself), I was told that the entry level is 35 in under 1 minute! The solider laughed when I said “Maybe next year”. I proved to be substandard at the hit-the-stone-as-it-flies-out-of-a-tube demo. Small children seemed to prevail at this, presumably due to their ability to see the stone coming down the shoot. I did not get a sweetie for my efforts; Gurkhas do NOT reward perseverance if it results in crap-ness!

gurkha situp

I seemed a bit more adept with the stationary equipment, including night vision tracking camera and various rifles. I can aim on target, no bother but then when the safety is clicked off, I have to refocus all over. I probably shouldn’t attempt an alternate a career as (the worlds slowest) sniper.

I honestly didn’t really bat an eye-lid when they loaded me up with the double back-pack – a sort of vest with a low lying bulky hip package, topped off with a stocky waistcoat cum rucksack. It just goes to show me how much I am probably over-packing my running gear! The weight is mostly water which I usually process as sweat so the pack weight decreases over time, but I usually have allsorts of other goodies in there including first aid kit, phone, head-torch and food. You can see me here ‘cheekily’ slinging my handbag on over the army ensemble: give me MORE!gurkhas bag However, I did not try to run in the get up which definitely explains my nonchalance. Talking of food, there was a temporary mess set up just passed the surveillance room and I got stuck in to mashed tatties, beans and pasta. As I tried to pay I was told there was no charge and that it was part of the opportunity to sample the emergency rations (often provided in freeze-dry form). I thought it was very palatable and I quite fancied some of it for my ultra-kit-bag!! I suppose that details like having a small sachet of mayo makes all the difference when you’ve been hauling ass through jungle for hours and your chow is one of the greatest incentives to keep going. The luxury of a spoon! I have been known to scoop up pasta salad using the lens of my sunglasses……..

gurkha rations

My favourite tent had to be the map reading and tracking hut with loads of surveillance equipment. Think GPS Disney and then some. The lack of satellite coverage over Brunei (and available to us mere mortals via mapmyrun, google Earth or runfinder) has proven frustrating when trying to plan run routes or places to explore. The Gurkhas were intrigued with my fascination with maps (maybe they thought I was a spy 🙂 ) until I explained it was for running and then we talked about the hash and their jungle exploits. Maybe they thought it was daft to WANT to go in there if you didn’t have to go, for say, military training! I got a few tips and possibly the best running compliment I have received since (a) 2010: wee girl at Nairn shouts “Mummy She’s made it” as I bimbled in, in last place at the Highland games half marathon (b) 2011: During the Fetch Mile event an unknown spectator was overheard to say “She’s a lot faster than she looks” :-P.

So…drumroll….the compliment was when the Gurkha telling me about a map app for the iPhone said (whilst looking me straight in the eye)

“Running, hmmm, that’s why you look so fit”.

That one will stay with me for a long time. A loooooong time. Legendary!

A bit more about Gurkhas from the MOD website:

The First Battalion is currently based in Brunei, a small kingdom in the north west of the island of Borneo. The battalion forms the largest part of a British Garrison near the town of Seria. The majority of the battalion’s time in Brunei is devoted to jungle training. Most officers and senior NCOs will attend the Jungle Warfare course at some stage in their careers. The Bruneian jungle is a fantastic training ground. The terrain ranges from close thick set swampy jungle, to virgin primary rainforest, intersected by steep mountain ridges. It is the perfect environment to hone skills such as tracking, ambush, patrolling, survival, navigation and many more.

And some army kit ‘humour’ at ARRSEpedia

Reformer pilates – an assault on injury

This week saw another first for me, a session of reformer pilates. And it was surprisingly enjoyable. I had always shunned away from both yoga and pilates, despite knowing that both would help me with breathing, posture, flexability, strength and ultimately, the on-going battle against injury. As you do!

women-pilates-reformer-semi-classNow, I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know much about yoga or pilates; I have experienced a random drunken Hogmanay reveller perform a seal-pose on the livingroom floor of my very small flat but that didn’t exactly endear me to it.

No, I started as part of the ignorant masses, happy to file yoga practitioners under “hippy bean-eaters” and scoffed at the ohm-ing and meditation. This scoffing gradually gave way to feigned interest as more and more of my friends embraced yoga and laterally pilates and the different ‘brands’ of yoga – Ashtanga, Bikram, Hatha, Vinyasa etc. Eventually, as I succumbed to injury and repeated diagnoses along the lines of having a tight this or a shortened or inflexible that, I realised…….I was going to have to check this stuff out.

Yoga – I got as far as googling my nearest class and having a few in-depth talks with Deek (a yogi who had used his knowledge & practises to overcome a broken hip after being told to apply for a wheelchair license) and TARA, herself a competent runner and yoga instructor. It never went any further and I think the terminology along with the mental imagery that “it just wasn’t me” made me body-swerve it.

Pilates – now this seemed a bit more my cup of tea, with the focus on strength and core, or so was my pre-formed opinion. I attended one class. And struggled. And felt the stigma of being in a group where everyone seemed like an expert, whilst I rolled around uncontrollably, with my hands gripped around my ankle. I know everyone has a first time, but I wasn’t feeling the love and so went back to my foam roller, static and dynamic stretches and traditional crunches and planks.

reformerUntil this week 🙂 I was offered a spare place at a one-on-two session with local yogi and Queen of the Flex, New Zealander Jayne who is an ex-runner and has been resident in Brunei for over ten years. [Aside: I met Jayne at a newbies coffee morning and having sworn not to be a complete bore and talk about running, she got me onto subject within 2 minutes of meeting!]. So I was keen to find out more about this pilates business once and for all and take advantage of the kind offer made by EMMA, to buddy up in one of her booked sessions. We met before lunch and drove to Jayne’s home which has a room set-up especially for reformer, with two of the reformer contraptions, including over-head leg/hand pulleys.

2pilatesBefore we started, there was a question and answers session about my exercise background and any injury’s or weak spots: this took some time 🙂 Jayne made some notes and was really nice about leaving the session open as a taster and if it didn’t suit me, fair enough but if I liked it, I could come back for a weekly class. This was good as I felt no pressure either way and entered the reformer room eager to learn more about my weak spots.

Following some clear explanations and extensive demo’s by Emma, we went through a variety of guidelines, breathing and movements. Some went well (although I had very little weight or tension on the machine) and some were a real strain to keep the small ball or ring in place between squeezed knees(!) or to keep my legs under-control. Theresuperfeet_body-alignment were some very bouncy juddering legs, especially when I needed to use my adductors. I was quite wary of using my right (injured) leg on it’s own for weight-bearing exercises but all in, it held out well and I had a very enjoyable session indeed (save for the running capris I’d worn, having a zipped pocket on the back which became increasingly uncomfortable, as we were on our backs on the machines a good part of the lesson).

After almost two hours, I emerged as a complete convert! I still don’t know very much about all the moves and sequences and yes, I am quite prone to breathing out on the in, but I’m sure that’ll come in time. The fact that the piriformis stretch I performed so inadequately during pilates, has already shown benefits is very positive.

stretch pilatesJayne has recommended I have an assessment with a local physio, to see where I’m at with the Achilles and everything else. I had been avoiding this (as basically I probably won’t want to hear what they’ve got to say) but I know I should book some sessions, especially now as I have started increasing my mileage towards the 30K mark. I’m working hard to include core, strength and stretching into my routine and I continue to roller even though it can be excruciating. Frequent massages and strapping is maintaining my form, despite my ankle being achy after a long run. Pilates can surely only help and the reformer pilates seems like something beneficial which I will actually enjoy. Time will tell 🙂

“Love what you do, Do what you love!”

“On-On” – Running the Hash

Well!

hash picture hashers2

I’d been eagerly awaiting the chance to do my first jungle run and rather than thrashing through the nearest mangrove, armed with a machete and leech socks, I coerced a new friend from Seria to bring me to the local ‘hash’. I had been told about the tradition of hashing by DOUG, who was part of the inaugural Hash House harriers (or 3H/HHH) in Kuala Lumpur during an ex-pat posting. On further research, I discovered that Brunei was the very first female-only hash in the world, so all in, it was sounding like a good opportunity (and perhaps the safest option) for exploring the off-road terrain. Read HERE for a bit more info on the Brunei chapter.

With local hash names (given, never designated by the member) like “Yackie fackie”, I didn’t know what to expect from the outing but I made BEN promise not to leave me to be swallowed up by termite mounds, overcome by fire ants, tousled by a bearded pig etc. weehashersThis picture is a bit more akin to the Labi Road hash set-up; you turn onto the 50 Km stretch, which has a cluster of local housing but which gradually gives way to jungle either side. Basically drive until you see a collection of cars randomly parked along the verges and voila! that’s very likely the hash. I had worn head to foot clothing cover. Ben was in shorts n vest! I am far far too tasty to the local fauna to risk that and expecting the odd stumble in highly undulating terrain, I chose baking in the heat over having my blood sucked and believe me, once inside the canopy, the atmosphere was oven-like, as you would expect. We said some hellos and discovered there was another “virgin” there tonight, a first-timer like me.

imagesCAH2H2X9Following roll-call and payment of $5 to cover post-run refreshment 😉 Ben explained a few protocols about registering where you are and if you’re following the right trail. No sooner were we off than the hoots of “on-on” and “on-up” (signifying that the route is ascending) started and boy, there were some calf busting near scrambles! arm jungleI’d been warned to look before I grabbed and I followed this advice as trees and shrubs assisted our movement through the forest. I was toasty in my long sleeve neon top and glad of the Camel bak tee-shirt I had worn underneath, allowing me to drink on the run whilst keeping my hands free. I’d also brought a waist-pack containing gloves, a head-torch and a CLIF bar and I’d worn my Suunto watch and tested out the compass and altimeter quite a few times. I was also very glad of my INOV-8 Roclite’s, which aren’t a kick in the pants different from the authentic wellies (same sole) or rubber sticky outer of the professional hashers gym-shoes. See what you think:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In total I was in the forest for about 75 minutes and as I was setting the pace for myself and Ben, I ended up notably “off-paper” twice, which was more to do with having found a previous trail (white loo-roll with yellow dots in comparison to this hash, using plain white) and not checking….but that’s why it was great to have an experienced hasher alongside and I’d recommend buddying up with someone sympathetic to your pace, ability and novice status. The paper was draped, mostly at eye-level but sometimes on the ground, usually within glancing distance from the previous markings. Occasionally the path would be scattered with shredded paper. Quite amusing having to examine toilet paper to ascertain the direction  of the hash 🙂 The going was pretty good underfoot, a mix of deep leafy trail, bush, gnarly root systems, crumbly sandy embankments and equally crumbly verticals, trees and leafy undergrowth at all angles and a couple of (thankfully) dryish waterways,

DSC_0236Interestingly enough, after using hill-walking and running techniques including hands on hips and hands on knees to push up through some very steep little sections, my instinct was to break into a jog as soon as I was able and found this really shook off the ascents before the next one was upon us. And I only got one fly in my gob! I was starting to lose my breathe as the compass began registering East, showing that we were on our way towards the road. Following a couple of boggy crossings over make-shift log bridges (I took a slight detour to use a lower, wider, more girly log) and making a couple of easy leaps, very like jumping from one pile of rushes to another when running through wetlands, the clearing came into view.

I was quite tired from continually scanning the ground for over an hour but as we met a hasher walking back down the route, I urged Ben to ‘pretend to sprint’ into the clearing, as if we had been running the whole time. As if! But it was apparent that many of the local hashers had taken a shortcut (which is entirely allowed) and almost everyone was home and already stripped or changed and quaffing a Tiger beer! To a few cheers of “the virgin is back”, I treated myself to an ice-cold 100Plus as the second virgin and the sweeper emerged from the canopy. It seemed like the night was just getting started – as the darkness closed in, a small fire had been built, there was talk of food and the beer buckets were being re-stocked. But we couldn’t stay.

It’s about a 30 minute drive back to Panaga, so we headed off to shouts of “See you next week”. Too right! Although one gent stated that tonight’s was a relatively easy, short one with no check-points [where the front runners have to hunt around for the trail continuation and then mark back towards the cross, for the subsequent slower “hounds”], this hasn’t put me off one bit. I *did* see some rather large ants on my travels but made it home unscathed by The Biters.

bugs blog

This time 🙂

Kit List: The North Face merino socks, INOV-8 Roclite GTX 212, Sugoi compression tights, Camelbak hydration vest, Long sleeve Neon Brooks top, Ben Fogle Buff, Suunto vector Altimeter, Pete Bland waist-pack (containing) Blueberry CLIF bar, Ron Hill gloves, Petzl Tikka2 headtorch. Cologne of choice: DEET spray called OFF!