Running, Travel

Lessons from a DNF Race

On 2 May 2015, the Ninja Turtle attempted her first ultramarathon trail. The following video tells the story.

After a week of grieving and moping, the Ninja Turtle exhausted her emotional response to the disappointing outcome, pulled herself together, and made that video.

Six months of preparation, discipline and sacrifice; hundreds of euros spent on the trip, and her race was truncated by bad weather. She has cried, she has sulked, she has mulled over it. She has cursed the gods, her fate, and the ill-aligned stars. She has rehashed the event in her mind over and over, trying to draw some lesson from it – something, anything, to pinpoint her errors, her faults, her weaknesses. Something to blame, and to avoid repeating the next time.

The thing is, there’s probably none. She has followed her training plan to the T (save for a week after her accident of falling onto concrete from a loft 2.5m high), fighting against incredible pain on several occasions. She’d run in the heat of the Australian summer, the humidity of Singapore and the frigid winter in Europe.

She’d cut back on alcohol, modified her diet to become fat-adapted, sorely missing out on beef hor fun, curry puffs, Hokkien mee, sushi rolls… (it’s a list too heartbreakingly long to continue so she’ll stop there).

She’d trained in the prescribed heart rate zones. She’d done the mileage she had to do, and for a while, she celebrated PRs for her 10K, 10 miles and marathon distances all in the same racing season. It seemed as if all the fatigue, sleeplessness and ravenous hunger were worth it, promising a celebratory finish to an amazing race season.

The DNF was thus an incredibly bitter pill to swallow. The Ninja Turtle’s boss, an ultramarathoner himself, told her there are many reasons for DNFs, and indeed, the weather is one that’s truly beyond the scope of runners’ control. She’d trained well, toed the line in peak condition (no injuries, having tapered brilliantly), and stuck to all racing conventions: nothing new on race day, stay hydrated, poop before running, smile for the cameras, enjoy the experience and make friends with fellow trail runners.

She did all that and still she DNFed.

After 7 hours in the relentless rain, having covered 49.4km and about 1000m+ elevation according to her GPS, her clothes and shoes were soaked through, and she’d lost her gloves. Despite all the noodle soup, sandwiches, coffee, cake, tea, chocolate and bananas she’d eaten, her temperature dropped. With the winds picking up in the darkness of the night, the rain still pouring and the temperatures dropping even further, she suffered her worst defeat ever when a gust of wind blew just as she turned around a corner, making her feel so ill, like she’d been violently punched in the guts, and her knees buckled.

Thankfully, GodzillaPin was there to witness it all. He’d come to St Julien du Sault to meet the Turtle for a moral boost, and was in fact, holding her hand and walk/jogging alongside her the very moment she’d caved, remarking only 2 seconds before that how icy cold her hand was.

The volunteers arrived, and shortly after, the medics whisked her into a heated ambulance where her pulse and breathing were measured. She hadn’t stopped shivering, and was begin to feel slightly drowsy and a little confused. Her bib was removed and she was declared out of the race, and brought back to Sens in the vehicle, with GodzillaPin following behind in his car.

The heartbreak came slowly, in waves. That night itself, the Ninja Turtle was simply numb with cold and the only thought she had in mind was: DNF. Sitting in the hot bath back at the hotel, having washed away the mud, she could only console herself with the thought that at least she was not passed out in the forest between St Julien du Sault and Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, in the rain, in the middle of the night.

Over the following two days, the physical ache of running almost 50km of muddy trails was frequently matched by the emotional devastation of failing to finish. The Ninja Turtle felt betrayed by both the inclement weather, and a constitution too weak to handle the rough elements. Mentally, she was certain she would have made the 85km, but physically, despite the 1000 miles she’d logged on the hills of Moselle, in the valleys of Meuse, along the coasts of Sydney and on the sandy beaches, in gorges and ravines of South Australia, along the highways of Frankfurt and Marseille, through the villages on the outskirts of Paris and on the country roads of Lorraine, the canal networks of Singapore and Metz, morning, noon and night, she was still unable to support the cold rain in wet clothes and shoes. She had found her limit.

So that’s it. Life isn’t fair; if it had been sunny like last year, no doubt she wouldn’t have cracked, but there is no point speculating. She couldn’t possibly have trained for these conditions, so she’s not sure she can regret anything. That’s the lesson out of this race – she’s given her 100% and she has failed through no real fault of her own. Sometimes, we cannot seek to blame anything or anyone, but rather, we must simply accept how things are, learn to let go, and move on.

Above all, her spirit has not been beaten by this experience, and she shall rise from the ashes to try and try again. One day, the stars will align in her favour and she shall be ready to claim the victory of daring to chase a dream.

In the meantime, all that’s left to do is to turn away from her grief, and properly thank every single person who has supported her on this remarkable journey with their faith, confidence, and words of encouragement when the Ninja Turtle needed them most. Rod Lowe, Baby Turtle, Sonic the Hedgehog, Krazy Cow, Yellow Jersey, and above all, GodzillaPin.

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Running, Travel

Running with a Pro

The Ninja Turtle is still basking in the afterglow of yesterday’s amazing run at Singapore’s MacRitchie Reservoir.

For the Ninja Turtle, MacRitchie used to be synonymous with the torturous "cross-country run" back in high school. Believe it or not, she used to hate it.

For the Ninja Turtle, MacRitchie used to be synonymous with the torturous “cross-country run” back in high school. Believe it or not, she used to hate it.

Since then, it appears that the place has undergone some upgrades, and is now a full-facilities running destination.

Since then, it appears that the place has undergone some upgrades, and is now a full-facilities running destination.

It's even got a sheltered cafeteria area for post-run meals!

It’s even got a sheltered cafeteria area for post-run meals!

Once she was done snooping around, it was time to hit the road.

Thankfully, MacRitchie is full of shade, because running in Singapore at 2pm without trees could possibly kill you.

Thankfully, MacRitchie is full of shade, because running in Singapore at 2pm without trees could possibly kill you.

And oh, how she has missed running on the trails!

And oh, how she has missed running on the trails!

A little rustling in the undergrowth revealed... a dinosaur! No but seriously,how often do you get to see a dragon mid-run?

A little rustling in the undergrowth revealed… a dinosaur! No but seriously,how often do you get to see a dragon mid-run?

Every once in a while, life throws you a spectacular opportunity that seems too good to be true. This was the case for the Ninja Turtle, who got to run with The Road Runner. The Road Runner is officially the Ninja Turtle’s new hero. Not only is the Road Runner an ultramarathon runner, he has also placed 12th in an IronMan triathlon! Swimmer, cyclist and runner, rolled in one!

What is it like to run with a multi-talented sportsperson? Well, it’s just as well that the Ninja Turtle didn’t know what she was signing up for before she actually showed up, otherwise she might have just crapped her pants. Yet, at no point did the Road Runner make the Ninja Turtle feel uncomfortable, and he would check in every few kilometres just to make sure she was feeling OK. Of course, since they were talking nonstop during the run, the Road Runner was clearly not cracking the whip on the Ninja Turtle. When she started getting winded, they simply slowed the pace and of course, walked a couple of the steeper stretches of the uphills. Before they both knew it, they were back to the starting point, and the run was over.

The Ninja Turtle ran this circuit with a pro.

The Ninja Turtle ran this circuit with a pro. Clearly, they were going at her pace, not his.

It was as much a humbling experience as it was an inspiring one. While others may be weekend warriors with a penchant for collecting race medals as Facebook bragging rights, this guy actually truly loves his sport. Through the course of their conversation, the Ninja Turtle learnt that the Road Runner is in fact, a proud father of two young children, who had recently quit a well-paying job the corporate world to pursue his dream of developing the running scene in Singapore. To truly appreciate the significance of this move, one must understand that Singapore is a country in which cash is king, and money talks the loudest. It is, after all, a country where 17.1% of the population are millionaires.

And yet, the Road Runner has very courageously decided to turn his attention to developing not one, but two websites for runners. He’s only made the move back in June, so the websites are still in their infancy, but they are slowly and surely growing.

Just Run Lah! is the one-stop running website specifically for Singaporeans, with blogs, articles, competitions, a forum, and race listings that include races from around the region.

Ministry of Run is global, with articles and highlights from all around the world, and an international race database. Membership is free, and as the website continues to grow, users can access some pretty cool features:

ministryofrun

To read the Ninja Turtle’s contributions to Just Run Lah! simply click here.

Thank you, Road Runner, for being an amazing role model to this aspiring athlete!

Thank you, Road Runner, for being an amazing role model to this aspiring athlete!

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Travel

The Main Purpose of Your Trip Is…

Although GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle have had a real blast being tourists in Australia, the primary reason they flew halfway across the world was not the sunshine and the beaches, nor the food and the shopping (although these are pretty good reasons too). No, they made this long trek for a much more important reason – to recognise the Ninja Turtle’s baby sister finishing an important stage of her life, and moving on to the next.

Baby Turtle graduating from the Hogwart's...

Baby Turtle graduating from Hogwart’s…

Mother Turtle was here too, and so was the boyfriend. It was a family event to witness a Miss T turning into a Dr T, as she is now officially a veterinarian.

Mother Turtle is super proud of Baby Turtle

Mother Turtle is super proud of Baby Turtle

It is a relief as much for the family and friends who act as pillars of support, as it is for those who undertake many years of hard slog in chasing their dreams. And that’s what it is – dedication and commitment towards realizing what we really, truly want. It takes a lot of effort, and often times, when we stumble and start doubting ourselves, we need people around us to love us and believe in us.

The Baby Turtle had always wanted to play and work with animals, so it was essentially a childhood fantasy we witnessed being fulfilled at her graduation ceremony. We will never forget the late night phone calls with a stressed voice on the other end, just needing a chat to soothe her nerves, or the tone of pride in her voice as she described her first surgery on a dog. We will remember the sacrifices she’s made along the way – spending her birthday one year all alone in rural Australia for farm work, missing the shop’s closing time and having absolutely no birthday cake, nothing but the memory of that one day’s hard work to remind her she was still alive.

As Baby Turtle ran around sorting out her transcripts, Mother Turtle and GodzillaPin followed the Ninja Turtle back to one of her old favourite hangouts when she used to live in Melbourne – the Queen Victoria Markets. Not only an iconic tourist attraction full of touristy souvenirs, the QV markets primarily service the locals by selling the most beautiful array of fresh fruits and vegetables at a far better price than in the supermarkets. The trick is to wait until the end of the day, when the vendors are trying to clear their goods and one can buy produce at a heavily discounted price. As the vendors yell out reduced prices in a competition to clear their wares, one experiences a slightly surreal moment of witnessing a fruit and vegetable auction.

GodzillaPin is in carrot heaven.

GodzillaPin is in carrot heaven.

Later, Baby Turtle caught up with the group once more, and took GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle back to her place, to check out her pad. Another thing that surprised the Ninja Turtle about Baby Turtle was her getting a driver’s license. They all just grow up so fast these days…

GodzillaPin and Ninja Turtle holding on for dear life at the back of the car.

GodzillaPin and Ninja Turtle holding on for dear life at the back of the car.

Although the Ninja Turtle is allergic to cats, she took an antihistamine which kept the symptoms at bay, which was just as well since Baby Turtle not only has a cat at her place, it is literally one of the cutest cats ever.

Newman in his naughty box for a time-out.

Newman in his naughty box for a time-out.

This cat was adopted by Baby Turtle and her three other housemates – all veterinarian students. It is stone deaf, so calling it is useless, and it cannot hear itself, which explains the most ridiculous miaows you hear from it. Between the four students, they managed to rehabilitate what was once a paranoid, anti-social, fearful cat (as it was deaf, it was hard to get along with the other cats) from the shelter, and turned it into a loving, tame and trusting white ball of fur. The Ninja Turtle is not a cat person (really, she’s not), but she could not resist Newman. It was also the first time she had seen a cat on a leash.

The day ended on a high note with the first non-restaurant meal since they left Metz. It was wonderful to have access to a kitchen at Baby Turtle’s, where she put her knowledge of chicken anatomy and surgical skills to carving up the roast chicken in a most equitable division (there were four of us fighting to have various cuts). Mostly, it was just lovely to finally sit down with one’s sister to a quiet meal, and just chat, after having spent a whole year apart.

Roast chicken and peach salad.

Roast chicken and peach salad.

Baby Turtle, we are all so proud of you. Spread your flippers, and may you glide through this world with ease and grace, using your intelligence, skills and compassion to make this world a better place for both animals, and the people who own them. This is only the beginning of your journey, and we hope you know that we will always be there for you.

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Running, Travel

Enjoying Time Together and Apart

Although the Ninja Turtle managed to cajole GodzillaPin into running a semi-marathon with her (so they could put to rest for once and for all how she had a valid reason to feel too tired to clean the house), there is no denying that he is not as mad keen about running as she is. In fact, he isn’t really keen on it at all.

That’s OK. There is no rule to say that partners must be interested in the same things, although of course it certainly does cement a relationship when there is common ground. We prioritise being active and eating well, but we go about it in different ways.

GodzillaPin focuses on the ritualistic aspect of dining so deeply ingrained in the French culture (not snacking outside of proper meal times, dragging out a meal and not rushing through it, partaking in several courses each meal to achieve balance and satiety, etc). The Ninja Turtle on the other hand, pays more attention to what actually goes into each meal itself (minimising added preservatives, macro- and micronutrient contents, origins of ingredients, etc). Alone, they would probably never see further than their little scopes of focus, but together, they come a little bit closer to their goal of eating well.

Likewise, when it comes to playtime, they don’t necessarily have the same idea of fun. In fact, it is not unknown that couples go on holidays together, only to end up bickering over decisions on what to do within a limited timeframe. That’s a real shame – holidays are happy time! Don’t sweat the small stuff, and if a compromise cannot be reached, there is no reason why each person cannot go his/her own way, do whatever they want, and come back to reconnoitre.

GodzillaPin insisted on coming to Surfers Paradise for one obvious reason – he loves surfing. As they normally live nowhere close to anything bigger than a river, this trip to Australia is his chance.

GodzillaPin chasing the waves.

GodzillaPin chasing the waves.

The Ninja Turtle on the other hand, can name at least 20 top reasons to come to Surfers Paradise that does NOT include surfing, but that’s just her. She’s not a strong swimmer, and while she’s not all that afraid of dying, she’s certainly scared of pain, and drowning doesn’t seem like the most ideal way to go.

So, early this morning – and it was certainly early, for they were down at the beach before 8.30am – they kissed each other goodbye, and wished each other fun.

Yup, running is fun. Running barefoot on hot sand is even funner, until you get a blister.

Yup, running is fun. Running barefoot on hot sand is even funner, until you get a blister.

By the time they both came back, happy and exhausted from surfing/barefoot running, they were in tremendously good moods and went off to enjoy lunch, where they both moaned about old age catching up and fatiguing too quickly.

If there is a lesson in this anywhere, it’s not to wait till later to do whatever it is you wish to do. If you have the financial means to do it, GO. Don’t wait until you have the time – life will always get in the way and excuses roll in quicker than waves on hot sand. We didn’t just have the time, we had to make the time, and boy, are we glad we did. Because too soon, our bodies will betray us, and when that day arrives, whatever dreams we have not yet fulfilled will forever just remain as that – dreams.

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Your Weekend Inspiration

Although one cannot argue with “better late than never”, it is not an excuse to procrastinate unless you’re confident of your longevity.

105-Year-Old Man Receives His High School Diploma.

Seriously, jokes aside, chapeau to this gentleman for an incredible life story and his achievements. It’s humbling to be reminded that we, the lucky ones, have no good excuses to not get out there and chase our dreams. Men like Mr Mohr fought for the liberty we were born into, and we owe it to them to make something of our lives too.

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