Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Crash Course Dummies Part 4: Falling in love with a gazelle

How many of us can honestly say we can fall in love with a gazelle, just like that?

not many i hope or you'd bring new meaning to 'animal lover'.

trick question aside, i for one am not a gazelle in love. those of you who have been following my blog would know i metaphorically mean i can't run.

i can't.


i was never a runner at school, i was never the girl jogging around the neighbourhood, and i sure as hell wasn't the one nike marketeers were hoping to reach by featuring graceful runners in funky gym clothes and long strides on their giant posters.

nope. not me.

i remember my expedition to climb mt kinabalu some 6 years ago. in my ambition to climb the highest peak in south east asia, i started going to the gym. i spent 20-30mins everyday on the treadmill, and about the same amount on the stair-master. among the group that i was travelling with, i was the most hardworking. i was also the youngest.

i still remember how i would boast to them my treadmill speed and incline setting. i would also show off my ability to climb batu cave stairs effortlessly, doing 10 repeats each time. they too were full of awe as they saw me prove my point about how strong i've become when our group tracked around gasing heights.

and then it happened.

someone said, "you're really fast at climbing, i'm curious to see how fast you run"

after telling them my routine of starting at 7 speed on the treadmill graduating to 10, sometimes 12 by the end of the 30min session, someone else said "wow... we must go to lake gardens as additional training for mt kinabalu. Senn can teach us how to run!"

....senn can teach us how to run....

i confidently, and in my most humble manner possible albeit a very very swollen ego said, "sure, next weekend perhaps?"

come the following weekend i was ready. we met at lake gardens and decided to just run around the lake seeing that it's every body's first time running together. my 'students' and i started the first loop in a happy mood. brisk walking to warm up... arm stretches to get the blood flowing, light skipping to get the heart rate up...

then we started a slow jog...

...then i started running a little faster
... a little faster
... a little faster

and just as i thought i was at a comfortable speed, similar effort to treadmill, my friends passed me. one by one.

one, by painful, one.

i'm like "wtf?? they must be running too fast, they'll tire out soon and then i'll pass them and this steady pace.."

...i never did.

we covered 3 loops that day and they waited about 15mins for me to finish my last loop. i felt so sheepish, humbled by the fact that my friends could have set me up. served me right for being so boastful.

but they were honestly impressed and thought i could share my secrets of running before actually seeing me run!

when i finally joined the group, one of them said "um... are you unwell today?" i said "no, why? was i really that bad?"

friend: well, there were loads of action, high bounce but not much stride. you kinda looked like you were running on a treadmill at high speed!

hmmm... anyway, we finally made it to the top about a month later. came back feeling all proud of ourselves only to read that 12 handicapped children under 18 made it up there during a sponsored event two weeks later in the papers.

oh well.

6 years and a few runs later, am still running the same way. except in longer distance.

so, while i ain't no run guru, i have learnt a few things that could probably help some of you wanting to start running.
1. treadmill queen does not translate road queen
if you're a gym junkie and a treadmill hogger, be aware that your performance on the treadmill has very little reflection on your performance on actual road. don't get me wrong, treadmills are great (a little boring once you've tasted outdoor running but great nonetheless). how else better to time your run? how else to better control your surrounding, terrain and watch tv at the same time?
on the road, how far and how frequent your strides are determine how fast you run. resistance is higher and terrain is not determined by buttons. weather also plays a part. running outside is definitely harder than running on the treadmill. it also gives you an opportunity to check how the race distance actually feels like to your body.

so, if you're thinking of joining an actual race, take your running outside because what you're really doing on the treadmill is jumping and spreading your legs midair for 30mins or more. the auto-rolling platform below actually helps lower resistance. it's a good form of cardiovascular development and probably even increase stamina but not good enough for actual racing.

2. road safety
if this is your first time running outdoors pay close attention to road safety. when cycling, you should ride in the direction of traffic but when you run, do it against traffic. this way you are able to see cars coming and it is also harder to be abducted when you run facing traffic.

make sure your senses are on full alert when running. i personally would love to run with music in my ears but have disciplined myself to not do so because i will not be able to hear my surroundings with the music pumping into my eardrums. if you must run with music, make sure it's either soft enough to hear other things or use only one side of the earphones.

3. glow in the dark
morning runs are the best. air is cool and it isn't sunny. but with our busy lifestyles, evening runs seem to be more feasible sometimes.

if you only run evenings, make sure you can be seen by night drivers. wear light clothing, preferably with reflective strips.

when we ran up genting at night last year, we didn't have the choice of running against traffic. so what we did was we actually wore mining headlights turned to the back so that we were more visible to oncoming cars. i attached a few tiny lights on my run cap, blinking white and red. ms christmas tree i was - very festive but very safe.

4. run buddy
it is actually highly dangerous to run alone regardless of time (more so after dark, of course). make sure you run with a buddy or two. if they're stronger runners, request shorter regrouping points or ask that they look back once awhile to make sure you're ok especially before turning a blind corner.

if you are the faster runner, make sure you do not sprint too far ahead that they can't see you if there is trouble. turn back at blind corners if you are uncertain. take the distance running back to your friend as extra mileage rather than a 'hindrance' of not completing the distance in your usual time. staying safe is far more important. besides, who has ever said "i won in my last training session with my friends"? if you are truly faster than your friends, it will be revealed at actual race day where it matters more.

if you have no choice but to run alone, do not choose a secluded route. keep to one that you know will be full of people or at least civilisation that you can run to in case of danger.

5. be unpredictable
we are, to a certain extent, creatures of habit. but try not to do this when running, especially if you fly solo. crime is hardly random and usually planned. so if you have a predictable run schedule, the baddies are able to plan their attack very easily.

when possible carry a handphone in case of emergency and always ensure at least somebody knows where you are going.

6. fall in love
i've saved this point last as it would appear hypocritical for me to advice how to fall in love with a gazelle when i myself am having problems opening my heart.

but since racing for two seasons, i have collected a few standard things that can help you find the gazelle a bit more attractive:
a: lean like you're falling
- when you run, maintain a straight spine and relax your shoulders. lean forward as if you are going to topple over. your natural instinct would be to put one foot forward to stop your fall. by maintaining this posture, your feet will naturally fall in front of each other with very little effort.
b: touch you knee and kick your butt
- as you run, occasionally reach forward to tap your knees. and when you feel like it, kick up your leg far enough to touch your butt. tapping your knees makes you remember to lean forward enough for your feet to move. the butt kicking is to stretch your legs and getting them use to longer strides.
c: hold your 'spander' straps
- many people (i'm definitely still guilty of this) move their arms too much when running. a good gauge is to imagine a line in the middle of your chest. swing your arms forward and not across this line to conserve energy. a good practise is to imagine you wear trouser 'spanders' and hold them at chest level while you run.

there are many other tips on how to fall in love. but one thing that sticks with me most is determination.

never stop running. no matter how slow. i read somewhere that one should not worry about speed. just concentrate on technique and speed will eventually come. no matter how slow my run still is, i found this point very true.

my race at desaru last weekend is a case in point.

i was running my last 8k. i was tired but have made sure i ran the entire 21k regardless of how mini my strides were. i had fellow triathlete willie with me and darling arif on the bike as escort.

when arif said i only had less than 5k to go, i found my second wind. i picked up my speed a bit more. he said "good, at this speed you'll finish in under 40-45mins". that felt good. willie kept cheering beside me. my legs were heavy but i felt sudden adrenaline coming back.

then i spotted our shadow on the road...

...gawd! i looked like one of those chubby short aunties wearing a tight corset wobbling her way to the market. only thing missing was my basket of vegetables!

it was a hard sight to look at, especially since i thought i was running full on. then i realise that willie who has been brisk walking all this while beside me....was still brisk walking!

alas, false love again.

nevertheless, i finished in good spirit and later checked that i had wobbled faster than arif did last year where he walked most of the way because of massive back pains.

so no matter how horrid you think your run is and no matter how horrid it really is... it is always faster than walking.

i may not be a gazelle in love but i suspect i'm falling... ever so slowly..but ever so surely...


The Editor said...

Hmmmm...this post must have been meant for me ;-)

nurina said...

I only ever dsreamabout being a gazelle. Still walk mostly during the tri's...
It would be great if I could run at n ight. My area is supersafe (advantage of living in an armycamp, hardly any traffic (can use my beloved MP3). So why don't I run at night: WILD BOARS
Any idea's how to handle them???

Abu Soffian said...

You are Fantastic

beyond cut off said...

Nurina, I have the perfect solution!

Your either dress yourself up like one so you blend in and not get attacked, or bring Mj Kalam's gun when you run!


Wandernut said...

Senn! Shen and I were looking for you at the Subang Jaya run. Tak nampak you pun? Didja go?:)