Running

Race #1 of the season: Course des 3 côtes, Nouilly

Before they proceed to the main part of this post, the Ninja Turtle and GodzillaPin would like to wish their readers Happy Chinese New Year! May the year of the Goat/Sheep bring you all happiness, prosperity, success, abundance, wealth, joy, good grades at school, great progress at work, etc etc etc. ~fin preamble~ (The Ninja Turtle really missed home this year for CNY – it was freezing cold, foggy and there are so little Chinese people in Metz, the only celebrations were discounts for exotic food in her supermarket, and after a particularly cold morning run, she came home to no water in the mains so she couldn’t shower for hours; the year can only get better from there, right? Right?)

After months of terribly unsexy training (i.e. too many miles, not enough fast), the Ninja Turtle found herself at the starting line of her first race. Granted, 22 February is a bit early for spring race, since spring for the French is still another month away, but she figured it wouldn’t hurt to start tuning up for the big one. It’s her cut-back week so her LSD for today was only 10 miles, which was exactly the distance of the race, hooray!

As the name says, the Course des 3 côtes is a race featuring three hills in a little village called Nouilly. Total elevation: 360m (1188 feet).

Warming up (under the sun and on the treadmill!)

Warming up (under the sun and on the treadmill!)

As is evident in the photo, the runners were blessed with fabulous weather for the race. At 3 degrees Celsius, it was coldish, but the wind speed was a reasonable 15kph, and under the sun, with 3 layers of clothes, it was almost tropical!

Toeing the starting line with a single digit bib number! This is the closest the Ninja Turtle will ever get to pretending she is a pro.

Toeing the starting line with a single digit bib number! This is the closest the Ninja Turtle will ever get to pretending she is an elite runner. (In small village races, the numbers are assigned at point of registration, so it simply meant she was fast to put her name on the list.)

There were 2 categories: 9.5km and 16km. With 400+ runners, the organisers didn't bother with corrals; the runners in the two categories were all mixed up too. The Ninja Turtle was still daydreaming when the MC said "GO!", and was swept off in a sea of eager runners.

There were 2 categories: 9.5km and 16km. With 400+ runners, the organisers didn’t bother with corrals; the runners in the two categories were all mixed up too. The Ninja Turtle was still daydreaming when the MC said “GO!”, and was swept off in a sea of eager runners.

It’s been months since the Ninja Turtle last raced, and she’s forgotten what it felt like to run with a pack. Despite the many solitary months and miles of shuffling to her own pace, the urge to keep up is still strong, and she made the cardinal mistake of going off faster than planned. Yet, she’s also become very in tune with her own rhythm, so after the first 2km, she fell back to a comfortable pace. If there was one single observation she’s made throughout the whole race, it is this: not only is she no longer afraid of hills, she’s actually quite good at tackling them!

Recall, this was a race of 3 hills, and it was at each and every one of these buggers where she overtook at least 10 runners each time. While others were wheezing hard, she cruised by, upwards and onwards, very comfortably. After all, her goal was not to win, nor even to place a position in this race – she’s still recovering from last Sunday’s 38.5km, and she’s got 8 miles lined up for tomorrow. So, it was a cruise-y, breezy run.

And yet, look at her splits!

And yet, look at her splits! (Speed is in kph.)

After months of training at a maximum speed of ~6mph (9.6kph), she’s pretty darn pleased with this outcome! She’s really getting the hang of saving up for the final kick. Nothing like the look of shock on the faces of the men who’d passed her before, being “chicked” in the final couple of kilometres. Her official time was 1h 28m 02s for the 10 miles (16K), which is definitely a new PB for her.

Racing to the finish line. The Turtle came across this gentleman, who was walking 800m from the finish line! She slowed down to chat and to give him some encouragement. When he got his second wind, he picked up his pace, and gave her a good run for her money.

Racing to the finish line. The Turtle came across this gentleman, who was walking 800m from the finish line! She slowed down to chat and to give him some encouragement. When he got his second wind, he picked up his pace, and gave her a good run for her money.

All in all, it was a happy start to the season. The Ninja Turtle keeps saying to herself that this is but a small race, and step number one leading up to her big race later in spring. But she’d be lying if she didn’t admit she really enjoyed the run, and she’s enjoying the results even more!

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Running

Specificity – Or Something Close to It

Training by specificity is a very fancy and technical way of saying “you get better at something by practising, and the more you do it, the better you get”. It’s the reason why marathon runners need to include some training runs at marathon pace. It’s also the reason why sometimes, you get really well, duh sounding advice like “if you want to run faster, you need to learn to run faster”. Mimicking your race day conditions (to the best of your ability – there is nothing one can do about the weather) and rehearsing as often as possible will make it that much easier, which is why some coaches believe this to be one of the most important principles in performing on race day.

Except.

It’s hard to mimic the conditions of an unfamiliar trail race, in an unfamiliar part of the country/world. So, the next best thing to do is to find the hardest landscape within vicinity, and train on it, keeping your fingers tightly crossed that it’d be enough preparation for the big day. In the best case scenario, it’d be an ass-kicking terrain and you’re well-prepared for the race. In the worst case scenario, you’re simply less ill-prepared. It’s highly unlikely that anyone can be over-prepared for anything.

So this weekend, the Ninja Turtle took to the hills – literally – on her LSD.

Her first goal was Mont Saint Quentin, and this was the view from above. There was a group of runners sadistically punishing themselves with this hill on a sunny Sunday morning, so the Turtle slowed down to have a chat with a few of them. Who said long distance running was lonely?

Her first goal was Mont Saint Quentin, and this was the view from above. There was a group of runners sadistically punishing themselves with this hill on a sunny Sunday morning, so the Turtle slowed down to have a chat with a few of them. Who said long distance running was lonely?

Scy-Chazelle, where the Maison de Robert Schumann (one of the co-founders of post WWII modern Europe) is situated. It's also one of the villages along the Route des Vins (wine route). Moselle produces some lovely white wines.

Scy-Chazelles, where the Maison de Robert Schumann (one of the co-founders of post WWII modern Europe) is situated. It’s also one of the villages along the Route des Vins (wine route). Moselle produces some lovely white wines.

In the forest coming down Mont St Germain. What do you do when faced with obstacles like a giant fallen tree? You hurdle over it of course! (Nah, kidding. The Ninja Turtle's 5 foot 1, so she easily passed under, although other runners may have to do the limbo).

In the forest coming down Mont St Germain. What do you do when faced with obstacles like a giant fallen tree? You hurdle over it of course! (Nah, kidding. The Ninja Turtle’s 5 foot 1, so she easily passed under, although other runners may have to do the limbo).

Running insanely long distances like that have one huge advantage. Once a runner is able to overcome the scary, horrible idea of “I have to do x km today”, the obligation turns into an opportunity. “I have x km to explore!” See, fundamentally, we’re all explorers, and deep inside, there resides the kernel of curiosity as to what lies beyond the hill, or even just around the corner. The Ninja Turtle didn’t have to worry about sticking to familiar routes and having to turn back; GodzillaPin had offered to pick her up from anywhere in case she’d gone too far. This gave the Ninja Turtle license to go out literally as far as her prescribed training distance, without worrying about making it back, if she didn’t want to. Hence, the hills, the forests, the little villages, etc.

Crazily enough, the green parts of the map on Lessy and Chatel Saint Germain were all forest hills, and the one in Lessy is part of the GR5 route (stretching from the Netherlands to Switzerland). It was hauntingly beautiful to be alone in the woods.

Crazily enough, the green parts of the map on Lessy and Chatel Saint Germain were all forest hills, and the one in Lessy is part of the GR5 route (stretching from the Netherlands to Switzerland). It was hauntingly beautiful to be alone in the woods.

P.S (She made it home on her own two feet, by the way! As she staggered through the door after climbing 3 flights of steps to their apartment, she was greeted with the most amazing smell of food – GodzillaPin had very thoughtfully cooked her  potatoes and homemade bolognaise sauce. If that isn’t true love, not sure what it is. To show her appreciation, she demolished all 2kg of it within half an hour.)

How do you train for a trail race?

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Food, Running

The Importance of Proper Nutrition

This is not a post on pre-party dieting. Sorry. It won’t help you drop 5lbs, fit into that LBD, or score you that kiss on 25th Dec. It will, however, hopefully shift the way you think just a little bit, so you don’t find yourself frantically scribbling a list of New Year’s Resolution on 31st Dec at the stroke of midnight, with LOSE WEIGHT as the #1 priority of 2015.

In the week leading up to Christmas, there is a chance that now, more than ever, you are ever surrounded by a surfeit of food. Some of it, like I’ll-only-eat-log-cake-at-Christmas-so-get-out-of-my-way, or when-else-will-I-drink-mulled-wine?, you’ll actually want to indulge in. In that case, go ahead, live a little!

However, it’s probably highly likely that for the rest of the time, you don’t want to (really, glazed ham and the works for the 8th time in two months?). In these situations, it helps to pause and reflect on why you are eating something you’re not actually interested in.

Is it because someone offered it to you? Politely say no to food-pushers.

Is it because you’re tired? Understand that a sugar hit may help you through a little slump, but it doesn’t change the fact that you need to get some rest.

Is it because it’s time for a meal? You ought to be hungry at mealtimes – if you’re not, have you been snacking between meals? Learn to live with a little bit of hunger, it’s a sensation that will not kill you, no matter how mildly unpleasant.

Is it because the food is just there? Move it out of sight; if you have to stand up, walk into another room, climb onto a chair and reach into the back of the shelf to get at it, you’ll probably lose interest.

Is it because the food is free? Don’t feel obliged to taste every sample, or bring home leftovers from every single party. Keeping all this extra food around is only going to encourage overeating.

Also a word on sports and nutrition. Some people seem to believe that runners have a license to eat whatever they want. You know how the saying goes: garbage in, garbage out. “You only get out what you put in” applies to all aspects of training – the running, the nutrition, and the recovery. Like a three-legged stool, if one of them is shorter than it ought to be, you’re going to be looking at wobbly performances.

The Ninja Turtle is saying this because she’s had the pleasure of meeting up frequently with old friends and family recently. Unsurprisingly, most of the socialising revolves around food. A lot of well-meaning comments have been made about food and sports. Some of it is sound, some others, slightly misguided. Back when she was younger, more sensitive and a people-pleaser, she’d freak out and just eat to keep others happy, while feeling miserable on the inside.

Today, she’s older, wiser, and knows her body well enough to say “those nachos, salsa, sour cream and guacamole look delicious but when I run tomorrow, it’s going to make me wheeze”. People use food as an expression of love. They will understand if you simply and politely explain that it is in your best interest to avoid certain things.

That said, proper nutrition is of utmost importance. This post isn’t about going on a last-ditch pre-party diet. This post is about feeding yourself well, especially if you have commenced your training cycle for the spring racing season. Undereating can hurt as much as overeating – injuries, fatigue, compromised performances…

No one is talking about deprivation and self-loathing, we’re talking about nourishing and self-loving.

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Healthy eating is not only completely do-able, it is also enjoyable. So this festive season, change the mindset and switch off the guilt. Put down those retarded magazines touting detoxes, diets and deprivation. By simply choosing to look at each meal as a chance to treat your body with TLC, you have nothing to be afraid of. Eat, drink, and above all, enjoy the company!

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Running

National Running Day Mileage: 0

Today, on National Running Day, the Ninja Turtle has elected to cancel her training. The irony is not lost on the Ninja Turtle.

Before you protest, she is having a good chuckle as she fails to give a damn. It’s National Running Day, not International Running Day, and whatever country is claiming 4th of June specifically for running, of that nationality she is not.

Besides, after her double workout yesterday, she is knackered. She had planned an easy 4-mile recovery for the morning, and another easy 30 minutes of social running with a neighbour in the evening. As expected, her knees and feet and calves screamed bloody murder on the first three minutes. Sunday’s trail race came back to haunt her and despite running at a 8/10 effort she could barely manage a shuffle.

However, she sucked it up and by the end of the run she had the most beautiful set of negative splits ever. She  basically ran through the pain and was continuously running faster, starting out at 8kph and finishing at 11.5kph. The evening jog turned out to be a 5K fartlek, and as her energy levels soared, she found herself leaping on park benches and chasing the pigeons. For once she was more Ninja, less Turtle.

When GodzillaPin proposed they walked in to town for dinner and a film, she said why not? What’s another three miles?

Of course, today, she woke up with her legs feeling ruined. With one race left before her she’s trying to not be stupid. No, she won’t risk injury at this stage. Instead, she is having beer and chicken tacos for dinner, and reading RUN! by Dean Karnazes is all the running she will do while she recovers on National Running Day.

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Running

Mini Taper for Race No. 2

As this is the first season in which the Ninja Turtle is running multiple races, it’s been a bit tricky trying to maintain training mileage while keeping her legs fresh for each time she toes the starting line.
She’s done a simulation run for Race #2…

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Abiding by the rule to do everything exactly as per race day, lucky underwear and all

Then a 10-miler at what she hopes will be race pace, since RunKeeper informed her that her pokey pace has been upgraded to merely cause-of-traffic-jam miles per hour. Hooray!

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A small ego boost, courtesy of RunKeeper

Today’s run was scheduled as an easy 3-miler, but the Ninja Turtle woke up feeling pretty good this morning, once she drank her sunrise slap-in-the-face formula (don’t worry, it’s only coffee, no performance enhancing banned substances). Also, having spent the weekend reading too many training articles on competitor.com, she was feeling somewhat embarrassed about how little she actually runs, while shamelessly calling herself a runner. So, she decided to make it a nice 10K and for the sake of sporadic challenge, turned the easy into a fartlek.

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Ways to fartlek: race a bus/car, beat the traffic lights, stride to the chorus of each song, thumb your nose at a teenager and run for your life, etc

It was a good run but now the Ninja Turtle must keep all runs short and easy until the semi-marathon on Saturday. Once that is out of the way, she can run the long runs again.
That is, if she’s still standing.

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