Oh, the incredible heat!
I’d like to start this post by congratulating all our bloggers on Just Run Lah who have participated in the various events of the SCMS 2014 – hats off to you, ladies and gentlemen, for bravely signing up, running, and surviving what demarcates us as runners from the rest of the world: incomprehensible self-inflicted insanity that nonetheless puts a stupid smile on our faces. Having read various reviews of the experience, the one thing that stood out, and got me nodding furiously in agreement was the brutality of the heat.
It has now been two weeks since I’ve returned to my Motherland. Have I successfully acclimatised? Well… I’m getting there. A part of me wants so badly to get used to running comfortably in the tropics, while another part of me is thinking: wait a minute, you’re going back to -5°C in a few weeks time. So, it got me thinking about how different my runs have been in Singapore so far, compared to “back home”, if you will.
1. Time of the day
In France, especially in winter, most runners tend to fit in a midday run during lunch break. This is the only way you’ll ever catch the 20 minutes of weak sunshine for the day, hopefully enough to ward off Vitamin D deficiency. Also, it’s the warmest time of the day, which means you don’t need to spend 1 hour warming up.
Here in Singapore, I find myself waking at the crack of dawn, or for my LSD runs, a couple of hours before the sun rises. I am bleary-eyed, a little bit grumpy, and hope I don’t wake my mom up as I stumble in the dark getting dressed and geared up. I’ve learnt to lay out all my necessities the night before – clothes, phone, GPS, water, food, keys, cash, shoes in the right order to minimise the stress in the morning. If you are anything like me, your speed of moving in the morning is inversely correlated with the time of the day, and at 4.45am, you’ll be thankful for the prep from the night before.
Believe it or not, I find myself having to keep my wits about me a lot more in Singapore than in France. Yes, I’ll admit, a part of it has to do with a lack of familiarity here; Mother dearest has moved away from my childhood neighbourhood and where we are now is more foreign to me than Carlton (Melbourne), Forestville (Adelaide), Sablon (Metz) or even the sparsely populated countryside of Meuse. I’m also very used to running along long stretches of riverside, where my mind switches off and my feet take over. Here, to make the distances on my training plan, I sometimes need to wander outside of my neighbourhood. Inevitably, despite my constantly looking at street signs, I find myself lost.
This isn’t the safety point I wish to bring up though, for I am armed with an amazing bail-out tool known as the EZ Link card. No, what’s more dangerous than getting hopelessly lost in an unfamiliar part of the country is the fact that in Singapore – or at any rate, this corner of it – there are no bike lanes. This is a huge problem, given the number of cyclists I have encountered on the pedestrian footpath. I recall cycling on the shoulder of the roads as a teenager, much to the alarm of my mother, who thought it was suicidal. Yet, I reasoned that the chances of a collision were much higher on a footpath.
Worse, cyclists don’t seem capable of sticking to their designated tracks within the parks and park connectors. This has, in turn, forced me to cross over onto the bicycle track while running to avoid the oncoming cyclist on my running lane. Come on, cyclists, show a little courtesy to us runners! We’re not going to win against your two wheels, so please be nice to us!
3. Post-run re-fueling
How many of you pay close attention to your post-run fueling? I’m personally pretty fastidious about this, ever since I’ve seen marked improvements in my running performance and injury prevention after tweaking my nutrition. I shan’t go into detail since most of you are well-versed in this already, so I’m just going to make a couple of observations.
I like to eat my salt. After a good workout, nothing beats a solid and balanced meal to put everything I need back in. However, I have found the heat and humidity in Singapore is oppressive enough to kill my appetite post-run. Worse, my sweat seems to be a lot saltier here (if you really must know, aside from occasionally accidentally tasting it, I can also smell it on my clothes).
As a result, I’ve been having to rely on these:
I’ve also replaced my lunchtime hot meals with cold breakfasts of yogurt, eggs and fruits to get the post-run carb+protein combo we need. Yes, I miss sinking my teeth into a filet mignon with roasted root vegetables, or nursing a nourishing pot au feu, but hey! Here I get to pig out on rambutans, roseapples, mangoes, pineapples, mangosteen, jackfruit, durian, lychees, starfruit…
So much laundry. Thanks to the above-mentioned increase in salty sweat. If I counted the amount of time I spend each week on doing the laundry, it’d add up to another workout in itself.
5. You call that running?
Finally, the skeleton in my closet. My secret shame. The embarrassing truth. When I was a newbie, I was one of those runners. You know, afraid of what people thought about me. I ran my slow runs too fast, and my fast runs too slow. I ran myself into multiple injuries, and made laughable progress.
After a few years, I’ve learnt to leave my pride in the shoebox before I lace up and go out the door. I’ve also learnt to pay attention to this thing a little bit more:
My various types of runs, which used to be defined by running speeds, have been replaced by heart rate ranges. This was probably the smartest move I’ve ever made as a runner, to ensure my heart doesn’t blow up and I keel over and die. For those who are interested in seeing how this translates, here is an illustration (for the sake of easier comparison, I’ve only tabulated my 4-mile runs):
1. Look at the two lines highlighted in yellow. The average heart rate during the training is comparable but the maximum heart rate and average speed are different. My maximum heart rate on 4th November was higher than on 1st December, and yet, the average speed was faster on the later date. This was circumstantial – I had spent 24 hours flying and crossing 10 time zones prior to the run on 4th November.
2. Look at the two lines highlighted in blue: Once again, the average heart rate during the training are comparable, as are the average speed. However, the maximum heart rate on 6th November was 30 beats per minute lower than on 14th November (a figure which physicians may find alarming, but fear not, I just have a very high maximal heart rate). This was related to training – on 6th November I was only aiming to maintain speed over a certain distance, while on 14th November, in a moment of madness, I thought sprinting around Flagstaff Hill would an ideal way to start my day.
So, the point here is, although I am embarrassed by some of the shockingly slow times I’ve been clocking of late, I know that I’m working out as hard as I was back in France, and there are so many confounding factors: travelling, climate, changes in diet and sleep patterns, etc. It’s simply a matter of keeping perspective, hanging in there, and plodding on forward ever-so-slowly…