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.

Advertisements
Standard
Running

Race #5: Boucles de l’Acier

Spring has finally sprung! After two miserable races in miserable weather conditions (both being marathons no less), the Ninja Turtle finally lucked out and got some sunshine for her 5th race of the season, a 10K run in Florange, not far from the Luxembourg border.

This time round, GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle invited their neighbour Mickey Mouse to come along for a fun day out and extra moral support. Secretly, it was the Ninja Turtle’s strategy to make sure that GodzillaPin would be there at the finish line this time, instead of missing her YET AGAIN.

The race started at a local stadium, which was very convenient for warm-ups. Mickey Mouse helped pace the Ninja Turtle to make sure she was going fast enough to get the blood pumping, but not toe the line wasted.

The race started at a local stadium, which was very convenient for warm-ups. Mickey Mouse helped pace the Ninja Turtle to make sure she was going fast enough to get the blood pumping, but not toe the line wasted.

It was a small-town race, and only into its 3rd edition. The name Boucles de l’Acier literally translates to Loops of Steel, as it was 2 laps of 5km, and a reference to the local steel industry. There was a really dreadful smell as they drove into town, which was a cross between dead fish and chlorine. It was little consolation when they got accustomed to the smell though, because there were visual reminders of heavy industry.

How to die of black lung: run a race in a town which pumps out this much smog. Breathe. Enjoy. Keel over.

How to die of black lung: run a race in a town which pumps out this much smog. Breathe. Enjoy. Keel over.

It was a pancake flat course, and with the sun and light wind, conditions were perfect. The Ninja Turtle employed her usual “strategy” of going slow for the first 70% before picking up the pace at the end.

She even had time to stop for a mid-race kiss from GodzillaPin.

She even had time to stop for a mid-race kiss from GodzillaPin.

She finished the race in 54m 13s, which is a PR for a 10K distance. Save for the 7th to 9th kilometres, which were held at a constant of 11.05kph, this was also a perfect negative split run, meaning each kilometre was run progressively faster than the last. She started at 10.49kph and worked her way up to 12.93kph for the last and final 1000m.

Crossing the finish line strong and happy.

Crossing the finish line strong and happy.

There’s an observation that the Ninja Turtle wishes to make. Progress takes time. For some people, it takes a very long time. When the Turtle first started running in September 2012, she’d lost all fitness, and couldn’t imagine running 10km without dying of an asthma attack.

She remembers when she first ran a 10km under an hour, some time after the New Year of 2013. She cried happy tears.

It took her one year and a bit to bring it down to 57m 54s (summer 2014)

This race time of 54m 13s in spring 2015 is a new 10K time for the Turtle.

Undoubtedly, there are lots of people who improve much faster than she does, but there are also others who’ll need more time. The Turtle has no running coach, and isn’t part of a running club. These are not excuses, these are just facts, being stated simply and plainly. It’s to say that whatever your personal circumstances are, whatever your financial or temporal limitations, just work with what you’ve got. It takes determination, discipline, patience and trust to happen.

Also, progress isn’t linear. Sometimes we stagnate, or we regress, but as long as we keep at things and give it all we’ve got, magic will eventually happen.

You’ll just have to check back in a year or so to see improvements with this Turtle (who knows, she may have even upgraded to a Sloth by then).

Standard

154513_971397919539619_4676009620664824097_n

Stories

The spirit of a nation

Image
Arts and Culture, Running

The Landscapes of a Long Run

What happens when one attempts an LSD run of 24 miles? Several things, actually. On the outside, the landscape offers a visual feast that increases in direct proportion to how adventurous one is feeling. You can run 24 miles around a track and see the same thing again and again, or you can choose to venture somewhere unknown and see this:

Also on the outside, the weather is liable to changing over the course of several hours, and in February, it’s very fickle. One moment there were gusts of 45kph, cloud cover gave way to bursts of sunrays, and from nowhere, hail (seriously?! what the hell, Weather God?)

On the inside, it was a rollercoaster ride. The Ninja Turtle is getting less scared of her LSD runs now (OK that is a blatant lie, she finds them stressful, but is learning to enjoy them, especially when she explores trails of such magnificent beauty). She still psychologically fears the 30km mark, known to some runners as the point where one hits The Wall. However, in slowing her pace dramatically, the Turtle has learnt that she does not need mid-run fuel. Zilch. Nada.

And today, miraculously, no Wall. Or rather, she ran right through it. By the 28th kilometre, her mind was beginning to ramble, and by the 31st kilometre, she had to use some tough love on herself. “Wanna cry? Go ahead, cry. Cry. What, no tears? You can’t be in that much pain after all.” Each step was a mechanical one-foot-in-front-of-the-other. She could only focus on her breath and the ground beneath her feet. All that sole-sucking mud not only clung to her shoes as additional weights to lug around, it was also slippery as hell. Her brain blocked out all sensations, and she stopped feeling the mud in her socks, the niggle in her hips, and the music on her playlist was as good as a static buzz.

Come the 35th kilometre, something clicked and shifted. The Ninja Turtle suddenly found her second wind, and picked up her pace just a slight bit. She ran the last 3.5km as if the last 35 did not happen. She stopped dragging her feet, straightened her pack, and was suddenly smiling and saying “bonjour” to everyone she passed once more. She made it home with the happy thought that she not only survived the long run, she thrived towards the end.

Why do long distance runners run long distances? Sometimes, it’s to find a side of ourselves we never knew existed.

Standard
Arts and Culture, Running

Why Do You Run?

When the thermostat falls below zero,

And the world is blanketed in ice and snow

What reasons do you have to lace up for a run?

I run to embrace the hardships and the beauty of Life

The fresh air that both stings and elicits tears of joy

The movement that jars the joints but loosens the spirit.

I run to marvel a world so vast, so different, so wild

I, who was born in a warm cradle of the tropics

I now flow through a landscape locked in ice.

I run to see the world, and to look inwards

To tackle a daunting distance, I still the mind –

The road. The cold. The pain. Me. We co-exist.

I run to seek the Truth, whatever it may be

Today I uncovered the ugliness of my soul

The excuses I too quickly and willingly make

So I ran to surmount my fear of discomfort

I  surrender myself, vulnerable, to the harsh exposure

And survived. Today, I learnt how strong my mind is.

I run for I no longer fear the darkness or the sun

Neither the humid heat nor the February frost

I am a child of the elements

The wind, the snow, and the cold

Whispered in silvery voices, calling me

To return home, to return to the Truth.

Standard
Running

Measuring Progress as a Runner

A while ago, the Ninja Turtle came across a few blog posts of runners showing off their impressive collections of running medals. While this blog occasionally features a race that the Turtle had participated in, the truth is that she blogs about 100% of all her races. They aren’t a selection of the “Best of the Best” – if you can count the number of posts about her races, you know how many races she’s participated in.

This got the Turtle thinking about how or what she’s got to show for her progress as a runner, if anything at all.

Like all relationships, runners have a love-hate thing going on with running. From the first step on the treadmill back in September 2012 to the present, the Ninja Turtle’s relationship with running has profoundly developed, and her identity as a runner has thus, evolved. What started out as a necessity has grown into a compulsion. The Ninja Turtle has transitioned from running for the sake of good health, to running as an interesting hobby, to not being able to imagine her life without running.

As with all good and lasting things in life, the changes came gradually, of course. Initially, she spent 6 months on the treadmill, working towards her first ever marathon. Believe it or not, it took another 2 months after that for her to dare to venture running in the local park. To be fair, a large part of this was being so unfamiliar with the dreadful climate in Metz.

Once at the park, she developed one running route, and stuck with it for another 6 months. It was a sort-of lap that came to a beautiful 1 mile (1.6km) exactly, and she simply ran the loop multiple times to make her distance for the day. On days she was feeling adventurous, she ran the route in reverse.

Fast forward a whole year and she’s added various cities around France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the UK, Singapore and Australia on her list of places where she’s completed a run.

While she likes to measure her distance on her RunKeeper GPS, she sometimes has no mobile data on her phone when crossing borders. Her sense of direction is atrocious, but she’s learnt to memorise street names in foreign tongues, and recall the route when she goes back, to plot it onto RunKeeper manually.

She used to be pedantic about running first thing upon waking, for it was the only way to make sure running was crossed off her to-do list in the day. Now, she’s willing to remedy insomnia by commencing a 20-mile run at 3am, or pushing the workout back till midday to suit the schedule of a running buddy. Basically, she’s comfortable with lacing up any time of the day.

She’s seemed to make a reasonable transition of running at 6am on holidays in Australia and Singapore to avoid the heat, to running at 11am back in Europe to catch a glimpse of sunlight (except the two runs in Paris and Frankfurt, which were executed at 6am in complete darkness and the freezing cold because she wanted to run while GodzillaPin was still asleep, and free the rest of the day for sightseeing).

She used to spend hours ensuring she’s got the perfect running playlist, and not so long ago, she just completed a 32km run listening to nothing but the sound of her footsteps and breathing. (To be fair, she didn’t really want to do it, but her mobile phone only had enough juice for either GPS tracking, or music, but not both to last that distance.)

The first week back from halfway across the world, she completed 5 runs (one on the treadmill, most reluctantly, but she wanted to do some aggressive hills).

She has found herself running in weather like this:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Still, the Ninja Turtle is human, and there are just some days when running is a struggle. GodzillaPin has been ill with the flu all week, and the Ninja Turtle’s been functioning on jetlag and interrupted sleep as GodzillaPin coughed through each night like he had tuberculosis. Worse still, upon returning from Frankfurt last night, poor GodzillaPin suffered a dreadful bout of gastro, and spent 4 hours projectile vomiting. Even the rice porridge that the Ninja Turtle boiled up for him was promptly brought back up.

This morning, with a weekend backlog of work to be done, the Ninja Turtle found herself staring at the computer screen at 7am. By 11am, she’s decided to take a break, and get that 10 miles in. Of course, with full concentration on her work, she’d forgotten all about breakfast and tried to remedy the situation with a cup of black coffee (thankfully, she ate a LOT over the weekend). There was no rain, but the wind was gusting 65kph (40mph) outside. She knew at that moment that all the odds were stacked against her favour, and it was easy to throw in the towel and say “you know what? nah…”

Instead, she laced up a brand new pair of trail shoes, and was determined to get them filthy. She found herself shuffling into those awful headwinds – yes, of 65kph – and hated every single second of it. Her eyes watered and her vision was blurred. Her lips were numb with cold, and her nose was running faster than she was. She no longer felt her legs, nor her feet, nor her hands. All she sensed was the mighty roar of the wind as she ran through a naked field, and she never felt more alive.

It’s not always possible to measure progress, but sometimes, progress cannot be measured, it must simply be felt.

Standard
Arts and Culture, Running

Ode to Running

Feet and metres, laps and miles
A weary shuffle but a happy smile
It matters not how fast or slow
So long as I just GO! GO! GO!
The others may be bullet trains
Shooting past me at speeds insane
Yet some others, cargo freights
Who may be envying my own gait
Cheetahs, gazelles, sloths or snails
Small as mites or big as whales
If you run, you can relate
A mile’s a mile, there’s no debate
Each step we take’s a victory
Of the mind over the body
For nothing in this world shall last
Not even the pain of going fast
So each day brings another chance
To execute our peculiar dance
My friends, today, let us go farther
Just put one foot in front of the other.

Standard