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………]

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TMBT – the unpaved road unravels

The road to the jungle is by definition, unpaved and so my efforts to gain some more off-road training has had to be upped. After studying my training record, I am still very thin on terrain training and I think this is a great shame, given that I am mere miles away from forest, streams, steep jungle inclines and many other aspects which will be encountered during The Most Beautiful Thing.

In the UK, I could drive for 30 minutes in-land and hit all manners of running surface from muddy grassy slopes, to gravelly trails, to heather clad mountainous fell. Miles and miles of compacted earth along disused railways and many more of asphalt pavements gave me no excuse not to get as many miles of running as I wished.

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Here in Brunei, there are a couple of set-backs which I am trying to compel myself to overcome:

Temperature/timing: the coolest hours are before sunrise and after sunset. However, it’s not very safe or pleasant to run in at dawn/dusk due to

  1. biting insects,
  2. humidity,
  3. drivers using the cycle lanes,
  4. cyclists without lights using the pavements,
  5. men-at-work using the pavements,
  6. huge deep leg-breaking pot-holes on both pavement and road.

The beach gets rids of items 3-6 but has it’s own drawbacks

  1. pitch-black after 6.45 p.m.
  2. trip-hazards from beach debris
  3. camber of the sand sloping up from the waters’ edge
  4. limited exits onto main road
  5. nefarious activities after dark (!!!)

Never-the-less, I am getting out onto hillier routes, namely the Labi Road, which runs from the Seria by-pass turning South, towards the small village of Teraja. This tiny outpost has traditional long-houses, situated very close to the geographical border with Sarawak, somewhere in the jungle beyond the end of the road.

DSC_0632My first venture ended abruptly after less than 4 hilly miles. Following some great long-run planning, involving proper fuel, drink, change of clothes, SPF and other considerations, I ended up ‘sprinting’ towards my car after being pursued by several feral dogs! These mongrel hounds are quite a common sight around Brunei, with families adopting upwards of 5 dogs, perhaps as pets but more likely as protectors! The Labi Road does not receive mobile phone coverage and a bite of any kind would leave me with at least a 30 min drive before we hit the main road and further to go to reach the nearest medical centre. Not something worth risking….but this is really the only hilly area I have found that doesn’t involve full submersion in the jungle!

DSC_0643My second venture went slightly better. No dogs, just the relentless sunshine, 33 degrees Centigrade and high humidity coupled with the threat of sand-flies for any walking sections! My routine for the longer runs was to have my “support vehicle” driven by my husband, park up every mile or so along the road and for me to run to it, rehydrate and get any food or equipment needed before continuing. Although this doesn’t replicate race conditions, it does allow me to concentrate on good quality running without the extra weight of carrying a rucksack or duress from being dehydrated. I feel at this stage of training, I really need to tax my legs with 3-4 hours of running. I will definitely get this during the Mauritius Marathon next month, a key part of my long run and heat training.

And…..STOP PRESS. Before I have time to publish the above, I spend an afternoon having my (on-going) Achilles weak-spot assessed by a very experienced physio and am now resigned to two weeks of NO RUNNING. The assessment (of which I will undoubtedly write more later) uncovered some very interesting facts about my biomechanics and fills in a lot of the unexplained history about why I seem injury prone. This has come at a very pivotal time in my training regime and I am again faced with a choice:

Carrying on running for long durations and ‘maintaining’ my current conditions with rest, massage, acupuncture, bandaging and various liniments including Tiger Balm, Nature’s Kiss Herbal Rub and Chinese sprays OR

address the biomechanical reasons why I keep ending up injured. [Aside: I have been injured for 2-4 months for every 12 months of running, which isn’t a great rate of return for my efforts. I get to a certain level and then have to take time off only to rebuild to a similar level of fitness before I am reinjured…….repeat, repeat].

I really want to be in good shape for TMBT and some of the other endurance events which Malaysia has to offer BUT I have also signed up for (a) a marathon in only 3 weeks time and (b) an ultra-marathon in 9 weeks time. The physio seems OK with me trying to get back on track for (b) but I haven’t exactly told her about (a). I know she would discourage it profusely!

The problem with having to plan events far in advance is that you tend to have the hotels, flights and race entries paid up as you begin training with only the hope that you will complete adequate preparation. I have certainly had to miss a lot of events due to injury over the years but I think I have always been sensible about entering just to enjoy the journey and complete or with the aim of a Personal Best. I have, as yet, never DNF’d (Did Not Finish).

However, as I enter my 3rd day of re-hab and no running, I am pushing the boundariesdont give up of reality if I think I can complete a marathon in under 5 hours, with 2 full weeks off in the 3 week lead-up to race-day. Even taking into consideration that I can and am still ‘training’ with cycling (outdoors and gym turbo-trainer), pool-running and swimming as well as core, pilates, weights and the physios stretches, it’d be a lot to ask to just get through the full 42.2K without detriment. Or is it? I’ve decided to make the full decision after I get re-assessed at the end of this week. For now, my targets are:

  • Do fortnight of running-rest, under physio’s guidance & see what happens
  • Re-assess goals after that

I don’t think this is the end of the road for doing TMBT justice, but I think targets prior to that are definitely in jeopardy 😦 But if it addresses the source of my poor biomechanics it will be worth it in the long(er) run.

“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:

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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!