Food, Running

Chocolate As Running Motivation

Like the Ninja Turtle, some of you runners may have come across the article titled Would Chocolate Motivate You To Run? published a few days ago on Runnersworld online.

Now, unless you have an allergy to chocolate (in which case, our deepest sympathies), it’s probably fair to say that you, like the Ninja Turtle, are raising an eyebrow, wondering “Is rain wet? Is the surface of the sun hot? Is there anything one will NOT do for chocolate?”

Most importantly, has science really run out of important questions to ask, problems to solve, or creative expressions to… express, that they’ve resorted to asking self-evident questions like that? News flash: most runners are indiscriminate garbage disposal units, especially after a long run – anything that is not nailed down onto the table will likely find its way into our mouths. So asking if chocolate, just about the world’s favouritest food, would motivate people to run is inane, and conducting a scientific study on that is bad science because hello? Confirmation bias.

OK, now the Ninja Turtle’s vented on the premise of the study, she’s actually pretty excited about the study’s actual details. The participants of this RMIT University study weren’t just receiving plain old boring chocolate. No, the chocolate was to be 3D printed into fun shapes or names. Just look at that!

Better yet, according to the researcher himself, ““the more they exercise, the better the quality of chocolate will be printed out which they get to enjoy as a reflective reward of their physical activity’’.

Holy sh*t! Now the Ninja Turtle wants to know where she can sign up to be a test subject for studies like this. Getting 3D printed chocolate smileys for racking up the miles is cool enough for the Ninja Turtle to ignore the researcher’s almost-insulting question of whether using food as an incentive will encourage people to do more physical exercise (what the heck are we? lab rats?)

OK so fine, the Ninja Turtle thinks this is a pretty damn cool study, if only because 3D printed chocolates are involved, and she has only one modification to suggest: screw the quality and correlate the quantity of chocolate dispensed to the physical effort. It’s a scientific fact that runners fantasize about post-run meals while running, and the longer the run, the bigger, tastier and more elaborate the fantisized meal must be. Also, whoever heard of eating only 30g of chocolate? That’s just cruel.

Now, the Ninja Turtle is off to reward herself for this morning’s 10-miler with a nice block of Belgian chocolate she bought in Bruges last month.

To read the University’s press release on this research, click here.

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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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Running, Travel

Navigating the Health Perils this Festive Season

For this edition of Motivation Monday, the focus is on FUN in living a healthy lifestyle. It’s Monday, and it’s the first of December, which means it’s a great time to set oneself up mentally for the festive month ahead. With no game plan, it’s so easy to succumb to a mince pie here or an eggnog there, the office/club/family/old friends reunions, parties, gatherings and meet-ups start to fill the calendar and fitness takes a backseat, and before we know it, we’re waking up on 1st Jan with yet another hangover, wondering where the month has gone. Things get out of hand when we let go of the steering wheel, but really, all it takes is a little forward planning to ensure December doesn’t have to be an orgy of sloth and gluttony.

1. Some runners will be in various points of their post-marathon recovery period. Others may have already started another training cycle. Wherever you are in your season, it’s a good thing to review your previous month’s performance, and determine if the training plan you’re following is still suitable, or requires a minor tweak/major overhaul. Nothing psyches a runner up for a training run as much as visualising an upcoming race.

2. Fit in a training run (or whatever sport you do). Even if you don’t feel like it, tell yourself “just one mile”. Tell yourself “I’ll run/walk if I have to.” Tell yourself anything to just lace up and get out the door. You’ll feel better after that one mile, and who knows, you may go the proverbial extra mile in the end.

The Ninja Turtle woke up this morning feeling sluggish after yesterday's 14-miler, but decided that 1st of the month falling on a Monday is too precious a chance to not start correctly. Her one mile became four.

The Ninja Turtle woke up this morning feeling sluggish after yesterday’s 14-miler, but decided that 1st of the month falling on a Monday is too precious a chance to not start correctly. Her one mile became four.

3. Create a reward system to keep yourself motivated. This one is a very old trick, but what better time to do it than leading up to Christmas? If you want new compression socks, your 17th pair of shoes for the year, a cute set of earphones, or anything frivolous and slightly unjustifiable in the eyes of your loved ones, buy it for yourself. But work for it!

Create a point system and use stickers as point counters (yes, like in primary school).

Create a point system and use stickers as point counters (yes, like in primary school).

Reward yourself for each training run, and once you get to x points, buy whatever running apparel you desire. It's the best ever present to receive from your biggest fan: YOU.

Reward yourself for each training run, and once you get to x points, buy whatever running apparel you desire. It’s the best ever present to receive from your biggest fan: YOU.

By the way, for runners who have yet to commence a training log, and wish to do so, the above photo is one example of how to design one. There is no need to drop $30 on a pre-designed training journal; the Ninja Turtle paid 0,45€ on that cheap exercise book and jots down what she thinks are relevant details. As you progress as a runner, the things you choose to take note of will evolve over time, but a good place to start is always: distance and time.

4. Feed your body right. No, the Ninja Turtle is not going to start preaching/nagging here. Most of us know what to do, we just need to choose to do it.

Breakfast: starfruit! One of the best things about travelling is eating all this crazy, weird things that you won't normally find back home.

Breakfast: Starfruit! One of the best things about travelling is eating all this crazy, weird things that you won’t normally find back home.

Lunch: A giant alfalfa sprout salad with red rice, cherry tomatoes and yellow capsicum.

Lunch: A giant alfalfa sprout salad with red rice, cherry tomatoes and yellow capsicum.

5. Find a role model. It could be Usain Bolt. It could be your high school literature teacher. It could be Daffy Duck. Whatever. As long as you can draw your inspiration from that person, hold him/her/it as a shining beacon of light through this annual test of your willpower and resolve.

This is the Ninja Turtle's beacon of light: Zheng He. Explorer, nagivator, commander of various fleets, a man with many names, sometimes known as "the dude who brought a giraffe back from his travels".

This is the Ninja Turtle’s beacon of light: Zheng He. Explorer, nagivator, commander of various fleets, a man with many names, sometimes known as “the dude who brought a giraffe back from his travels”. To travel far, to see the incredible, and to do the impossible.

Don’t lose sight of your dreams and goals this festive season. Stay fit, healthy and strong, everyone!

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Running

The Importance of Rest Days

Lately, the Ninja Turtle has been toying around with her running schedule. She recently made a new friend, who conveniently is a fellow runner and lives on the same street as she does, hence, a shining new running buddy (who is not the reluctant GodzillaPin). It’s marvellous to run with an intrinsically motivated runner, but more importantly, it gives her some much-needed female company.

The Ninja Turtle would lay down her life for her pack of male wolves, but there are many times when she misses the company of Ducky, Baby Turtle, or any woman actually.

The Ninja Turtle would lay down her life for her pack of male wolves, but there are many times when she misses the company of Ducky, Baby Turtle, or any woman actually.

As a result of fiddling with her running schedule, however, she exceeded her weekly mileage by about 10% last week. On top of that, she’s found herself doing some back-to-back key runs (LSD + tempo, or tempo + hill sprints anyone?).

Wait a minute… she hears some readers saying. How is that a bad thing? More running = WIN, right?

Well, in the running community, there is something known as Rest Days, or Recovery Days. It’s days when one takes a break from running, to either cross-train or do bugger-all. The idea is to prevent burn-out, overuse injury, and most likely, boredom. Actually, it’s probably to prevent boredom because even runners have a limit to their insanity. At any rate, they are just as important as training, proper nutrition and sleep if one wishes to improve performance. Somewhere along the cheese and cured meats aisle at the supermarket yesterday, the Ninja Turtle felt her legs suddenly turn to jelly. She knew she had to back off the running for a day or two.

Some very diligent people cross-train, but the Ninja Turtle very much prefers to do this instead:

That may or may not be the Ninja Turtle's third glass before 5.30pm. And she is known to eat upwards of 8oz of cheese at a time. Screw the pizzas, bring on the REAL deal.

That may or may not be the Ninja Turtle’s third glass before 5.30pm. And she is known to eat upwards of 8oz of cheese at a time. Screw the pizzas, bring on the REAL deal. In this picture – Gorgonzola, Camembert de Normandie, Jeune Cantal, Ossau-Iraty of the Basque Country and chèvre.

The biggest upside of taking a proper break is maintaining sanity and by extension, motivation to continue running. You know you’ve crossed a line when you start having dreams/nightmares involving running/food. If you have already experienced such debilitating symptoms, the Ninja Turtle prescribes a hot bath, a glass of red wine and a good mystery book, either separately or all together, depending on your ability to multitask.

As for the Ninja Turtle, she started the day foam-rolling, and ever since, she’s been indulging in documentaries of the Hundred Years War, drunk-enrolling in races, drunk-booking accommodations in the proximity of said races, and pissing herself laughing at readers’ comments on The Guardian.

Rest days are necessary. One should come out of a rest day feeling rested, recharged, replenished and raring to go. If not, you haven’t rested enough, in which case, the Ninja Turtle says, take another rest day. In the long run, this small investment of self-care will pay incredible dividends.

Shout-Out: Happy belated birthday to both our dear Swiss Chick and Runner Bean, who turned 29 and 32 respectively, both on the same day. May your birthdays have been beer/wine/cake/pizza-fuelled orgies in which we wish we had participated in.

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Arts and Culture, Running

The Essence of Running

What is the essence of running?

To run is to be fearless
Listen to the multitude of voices on the web
From all types of runners in this world
One community
One common trait – fearlessness.

Runners are not afraid to try –
And fail
Runners are not afraid to cry –
They will.

Runners are not afraid of the elements
The sun, the wind and the rain
The snow, the sleet and the hail
Are inconveniences, not barriers.

Runners are not afraid of pain
DOMS, blisters, chafing
MTSS, ITBS, plantar fasciitis,
Are just some risks we are willing to take.

To run is to say: I am not afraid
Of setting out in search for more
Of finding myself along the way
Of challenging my pre-conceived limits
Of humbly respecting myself
Because I wasn’t afraid to give 100%.

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