Monday, September 28, 2015

Sunbird Week #3: Clearer skies for a good hills run

After a week of unhealthy to hazardous blanket of haze from the Kalimantan fires, the Sunbirds were thrilled to see a drastic dip in psi levels overnight, which meant we could activate session #3 of Ops Sunbird training.

There was a reasonably good turnout in spite of the upcoming Straits Times Run and a few overseas races this weekend.  As many were joining FatBird training for the first time, the trainers provided an overview of the training program which focuses on building and strengthening the running base in the first half of the program, before progressing on to pace training in the 2nd half.

After last weekend's hills and trails run, this morning's workout aimed to stretch the resources of the trainees with a rolling hills run sandwiching a 2.4km Fig-8 hills repeat for good measure.  

A 5km run at Basebuild Zone (2) into Labrador Park from start at SAFRA MF set the tone for the morning's training requirements.  Once into Labrador Park, the respective pace groups went about repeating their 2.4km laps with the hills tunnels in between providing a challenge to raise the effort for many of the Sunbirds.

The cloud cover provided good shade as we tackled the Labrador Park segment, although the humidity was still a contending factor for many of the runners.  The experienced Sunbird trainers and pacers led their respective groups of trainees well as evident in most of them sticking closely and pacing steadily as cohesive units.

When the 30min for the HM and 60min for the FM were completed, the runners still had sufficient reserves in them for the 5-6km back to SAFRA Clubhouse.  A number of new trainees who did not bring hydration along were feeling the effects of fatigue from dehydration after about 1 hour of running, but this would serve as a learning experience for all to have sufficient hydration for long runs.

The HM trainees completed their 14km and the FM runners completed 26km run back at SAFRA Clubhouse, wearing beaded sweats of perspiration on their faces but exuding a sense of satisfaction of finally getting that long run in (after many days of non-workouts because of the haze situation).

With week #3 successfully completed, the Sunbirds are confidently progressing on to the next quarter of training with more hills at Mt. Faber next week.  We should be expecting more Sunbirds returning back for training in week #4, and hopefully with the haze abated by then, we would be able to finally have a smooth progression training towards our objectives for the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS) and a few other overseas marathons like the OSAKA, New York, Chicago, Chiang Mai and Taipei marathons.

The Sunbirds Were Soaring High In Clear Skies

Photos by FatBird Ronnie

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Straits Times Run @ Sports Hub 2015

With the gloom and doom situation of the unhealthy Haze levels for the past weeks, it was a blessing when the winds finally turned positive in our favor from Saturday that the STRun Organizers eventually put in a sterling job of conducting the Straits Times Run @ Sports Hub 2015 in clear skies on Sunday.

Team FatBird, once again the official pacers for the STRun had earlier conducted 3 well-attended progressive training runs to prepare participants of the 18.45km category for race day, and we sure were happy to report that we accomplished the pacing mission with flying colours (in spite of initial concerns that the race could be canceled due to unhealthy psi levels).

When we received confirmation from the STRun Organizer at 2am that the race was ON (as psi readings remained in < 100 levels), our team was real happy and excited as we made our way to OCBC Arena @ Sports Hub to meet and collect our Pacer bibs and balloons.

Along the way, we could see that the skies was clear and that there were no foul smells of any haze at all.  By 3.30am, the RV point was buzzing with activity as we put on our Pacer Bibs and Balloons and took group photos with the equally excited runners as well.

The Pacers moved into the starting pens at 4:20am to take up position and shortly, the runners joined us in their respective target timing targets.  The MCs were doing a great job of entertaining the runners gathered before the drums and band along with the fitness instructors took over to warm up the crowd.

The 18.45km race was started off promptly at 5:00am and soon all runners were gathered around their pace groups and running together.  The weather was cool and calm as we headed off along Nicholl Highway with lots of chatter and encouragement for the runners and pace groups.

It was noticeable this year that all participants were running strongly and enthusiastically, in part due to their pent-up energy levels during the abstinence due to the haze as well as the good vibes of the race.  

The hydration points were well stocked-up with water and isotonic drinks and the cheerleaders and marshals were very energetic and motivating when we ran by.  By mid-point (9km) of the race, we were settled in comfortably and running a very sustainable pace which we know will bring us to the destination in good stead.

As we approached the Marina Barrage, we could hear loud cheers and music from a sizeable group of supporters, which perked up all runners passing through for the important final third of the race.  We were charged up by the high-fives, dances, clapping and shouts of encouragement as we proceeded onto Gardens By The Bay East.

With 4km remaining, there were some signs of slowing from the runners, and that's where the Pacers kicked into high gear to shout words of encouragement and give the runners a sense of how well they were doing up to that point.  

Most of them found the extra resources in them to sustain their paces, and when it was just 2.5km to go (after cresting the small slope), it was a smooth going as we could all see the Stadium grounds and knew we were near to the finish line.

With 1-2 min of buffer remaining, the Pacers made good use of the time in the final 500m to encourage and push even more runners into the Stadium to beat their pace targets.  We are heartened to see many giving their best efforts and picking up their legs to cross the finish strongly with arms held up high for that victorious pose.

After collecting the finisher tee and medal, we went onto the spacious carnival in the middle of the Stadium for drinks and bananas, and at the same time caught up with many of the runners for photos and congratulatory messages.

With the cool air from the air-conditioned Stadium interior, we felt comfortable and had great fun celebrating with all the STRun Pacers and runners in having many group photos and shouts of victory to end what would be one of the more memorable races we have participated in for 2015.

Kudos to the Straits Times for successfully organizing the ST Run @ Sports Hub 2015, and for Infinitus Productions for executing the whole race management and experience to a tee.  And of course, a word of thanks to the Team FatBird Pacers who have banded together tirelessly over 8 weeks for Pacer training, Progressive Training Runs and delivering a great job on race morning to bring so many ST Runners to the finish in goal times.

Photo Credits CK Chin, Steven Ho, Rand Yan, Onin Tayson, Wai Pong, Margaret

Friday, September 25, 2015

Sydney Marathon 2015 - Post Race Delights

Post-Run (Sydney Running Festival) account of travel adventures by FatBird Anthony

Following an exciting and fruitful Sydney Marathon where I broke my 8-year marathon Personal Best (PB) by 10min and Qualified for Boston Marathon (BQ), I joined the Media trip sponsored by Destination New South Wales (DSNW) for 3 days of post-race rest and relaxation (r&r) travelling around Sydney and along the many sights and adventures along the Grand Pacific Drive.

Sky Diving

In what was an unplanned item in my bucket list, I managed to do the exciting tandem Skydive Adventure at Wollongong.  I was with the media group of 4 led by our tour escort Sally from DNSW and driver Edmond on a 2-hour scenic drive along the Grand Pacific Drive to the tandem skydiving centre,  Sky Dive the Beach and Beyond.  There we filled in a few declaration forms and were whisked away to gear up, perform some safety drills and then met with our respective flight captains.

Mine was Ryan, a large stature of at least 1.5 times my size, who gave me lots of confidence he would be able to steer me easily while in the air.  We took a 20min bus drive to the airport and waited for another 30min before boarding the smallish plane.  As the plane climbed to a maximum height of 14,000 feet, we soaked in the pretty sights of the land below, with our crew entertaining us with camera and video shots.

And before we knew it, the doors opened up, and the first pair of Skydivers just fell off the sky.  This was followed by a few more and it was my turn at no. 5.  I did my drill before dropping off the plane, strapped on securely to Ryan.  I fell through the clouds in a very fast free-fall, spinning all around, with my mouth opening wide, screaming in delight.  The air was freezing cold, and in what seemed like eternity (about 30 seconds), Ryan released the parachute and we slowed down somewhat to enjoy the beauty of the glide and the sights below.

After some maneuvering and lots of aerial photo/video shots, we went for a smooth landing, capping one of the more exciting adventures I’ve had in this trip.  I didn’t feel scared at all, just lots of excitement and the feeling of freedom when falling through the clouds and the sky. 

We were rewarded with a Certificate and a nice compendium of photos and video capturing the whole sequence of events.  I would certainly recommend anyone coming to Sydney/New South Wales to do the tandem Skydive with these group of very professional and entertaining jump crew.

Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures

After the exciting morning of Skydiving, we had a sumptuous lunch before proceeding to the Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures for the Zipline Tour and Treetop Walk.  It is similar to what we have in Singapore as the Forest Adventure, so for me it is a refresher and opportunity to do it in a more cooling weather.  

As expected, the safety aspects and focus on eco-friendliness while enjoying the adventure was carefully explained in detail to us.  Because it was a weekday, we had almost the whole forest to ourselves, which we proceeded to complete this very fun and enjoyable activity in 2 hours flat.  There is also an iFly Adventure for kids, very apt for families  with young children.

After a tiring day, we checked into our accommodation for the night at Sebel Bowral Heritage Park.  I must say this was the most luxurious apartment suite I have stayed in, with very nice amenities and nice touches to the decoration.  Too bad we had only a few hours to enjoy before moving on to the next place in the morning.  Still, I managed to maximize the use of the in-room Jacuzzi as well as do a 30min run in the exclusive Gym all by myself.

Tulip Time & Mowbray Farm Stay

After an action-oriented day on Monday, the next day was one of visiting Tulip Festival & Gardens, Centennial Vineyards for wine tasting, a quaint restaurant in a book store called the Book Barn nestled in Bendooley Estate.  

The highlight of the day was the farm stay at Mowbray Park where we got to experience country life in a relaxed setting, making our own Billy tea and Damper bread (which tasted really nice).  I could still the warmth of the bread and tea glowing inside me, providing comfort to us in that very cold Spring day.

Although there were more programs arranged to the Bondi Beach the next day, I had to leave my media friends to return home for an important event on Thursday.  Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the itinerary and hospitality accorded to us by Destination New South Wales, with lots of great tasting food, cushy accommodation settings and thoroughly thought-out activities which ensured we never had a dull moment during the whole media trip.  

Adios With Fond Memories

With this post-run experience, I now am better able to appreciate and recommend to our marathoner friends how they can make the best of their stay in Sydney from pre, in and post-race.

With the ScootBiz seat booked, I was able to check into the Scoot Dreamliner rather smoothly the next morning in spite of the unusual airport strike by the ground handling staff.  

As I waited comfortably at the lounge composing this short summary of my trip, I looked back the past few days with good memories.  I was already planning on when I would be back to Sydney again to complete the many sights and tours, and to do the delicious-looking 9km loop at the Mowbray Farm which I missed, and meet with friends whom I have gotten to know.  Overall, it was one pleasant and productive marathon & media trip for me.


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