OSB15-5: The Sunbirds Ran Well At The Trails & Rolling Hills

OSB15-5: The Sunbirds Ran Well At The Trails & Rolling Hills


Weekend #5 was yet another good day for training as the haze levels were kept at bay, allowing the Sunbirds to complete their Basebuild Phase at the trails and slopes of the Reservoir terrain.

The group started off from MacRitchie Reservoir Park after a quick brief, and immediately proceeded along the Northern Trail @ MR in their respective pace groupings.  We had a slight change of the route after Northern Trail to skirt past the private road of SICC via the 1.5km Venus Trail.

This trail portion made the overall workout a tad challenging as we normally would run along the concrete road which was a lot smoother.  Still, all the Sunbirds were able to keep to their respective Basebuild pace, and if anything, most were running closer to Marathon Pace.


Once into Lower Peirce Reservoir road, we were back in familiar territory.  We headed towards Casuarina Road and then Old Upper Thomson Road (OUTR) before the Half Marathon (HM) groups turned back for their 15km requirement of the morning.

The Full Marathon (FM) groups proceeded into the rolling slopes of Upper Peirce Reservoir Road to 2 sets of tough hills run, which most of the trainees fulfilled to the trainers’ satisfaction.  


Once the mental ‘distraction’ were out of their minds, the trainees performed very well to overcome any imaginary obstacles that they might have envisioned before plucking the courage to sustain the good effort.


By the time we completed the rolling hills repeat, there was only 10km remaining, which boosted the morale of the Sunbirds – it didn’t seemed too difficult once we had completed the challenge on hand…a good confidence booster for all.


The run back along the trails were meant to tax the Sunbirds as they would have expended a fair amount of resources after the slopes.  The runners would have to draw on their physical reserves and mental strength to tackle the 5km of trails back to the finish, and that was no mean feat.

“It was the hardest workout I’ve had in my life”, uttered quite a number of newer Sunbirds.  They were glad they overcame the challenge presented to emerge stronger and happier that they have accomplished a tough workout.


All the groups completed their morning run by 10:30am, achieving most of the training requirements expected of them in Week #5.  

The Sunbirds will look forward to Week #6, where we enter the Pace Run Phase, doing longer runs of 70-85% of their race distances at Marathon Pace (MP), conditioning them to eventually sustain a good race pace for the whole duration of their HM and FM races.

The Sunbirds Ran Well At The Trails & Rolling Hills

Photos by FatBird Onin

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

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

The Straits Times Run @ Sports Hub 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


Sydney Marathon 2015 – Post Race Delights

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.

FatBirds at the Sydney Running Festival 2015

FatBirds at the Sydney Running Festival 2015

Race Report Of The Blackmores Sydney Marathon 2015 by FatBird Anthony

This year being the first that Team FatBird has been designated as Training Partner for the Sydney Running Festival, on partnership with CTC Travel and Destination NSW, I was slated to provide an 8-week tune-up program for the Singapore participants in the 9km, Half Marathon (HM) and Full Marathon (FM) categories.
  
As it was also my first time participating in the Sydney Running Festival (SRF), I signed up for the Full Marathon to get a full personal feel for the course which was known to be challenging with it’s fair share of rolling hills and slopes, and the tough final 10km to max out any marathoner’s resources.

The Blackmores Sydney Marathon also received the much coveted IAAF Gold-Label this year, making it a special event for myself and the running community from Singapore.  Way back in March, we have conducted a couple of information workshops and a lead-up run to bring awareness of the event to our Singapore marathoners.

We are heartened to note that by race day on Sep 20, we had 118 runners from Singapore across the various run categories participating at the SRF, a 90% increase from 2014’s number of 62 runners.

As part of my preparations for the Sydney Marathon, I begun watching my weight in a bid to have a better performance and feel of running lighter, after my slight increase in weight in Dec 2014 caused me to suffer quite a bit at the Taipei Marathon.  Drawing references from racing weight management gurus like Matt Fitzgerald, I was keeping tabs on the high-sugary night snacks I was regularly taking as well and doing longer endurance runs at our FatBird training operations starting from April.

By August, I dropped off 8kg of excess weight, which would eventually contribute to my scoring my marathon PB after a wait of 8 years, and for the first time ever, qualified for entry (and eventual acceptance) into the prestigious Boston Marathon.


I trained alongside Sydney Marathon participants in Ops Kingfisher, our 8-week marathon training program for those doing the STRun, Sydney Marathon and OSAKA Marathon.  With shorter but higher intensity tempo runs, hill and strength work in the weekdays, complemented with progressive long endurance runs in the weekend consolidated my strength and endurance speed for a good build up to race day on Sep 20.


Run Up To Race Day

I travelled with the group on early Friday morning on the Scoot 787 Dreamliner and touched down and checked into the Holiday Inn Darling Harbour hotel by Friday noon.  As I was also on the DNSW media trip, my race pack was collected and already sent to the hotel.  I had an easy afternoon before going for the Welcome Carbo-Loading Dinner organized by CTC Travel for all the package participants.  The seafood buffet was so good that long lines formed at the entrance, and we were given a time limit of 2hours to complete the sumptuous dinner – I was never this stuffed in a long time.


I had a good night’s rest before leading a small group of runners for a Conditioning Run on Saturday morning, which was almost derailed by the dawn showers.  Fortunately, we managed to run to Hyde Park (part of the Marathon route) when the rain stopped for the warm-up we so needed.


The rest of Saturday was spent relaxing, stocking up on supplies and resting for the important race on Sunday.  I joined the Media group for a very good seafood dinner at Nick’s, supplementing the previous day’s carbs with protein for a good fuel balance for the race.  We retired early for the night before waking up at 4am on Sunday for the race.

I ate the Muesli, cookies and bananas provided in the breakfast box before meeting the small group of marathoners for the coach to race site.  The Half Marathoners had earlier gone by another coach with Janet (CTC Tour Guide) to the race site for their earlier race start at 6:15am.


When we reached the race site, I was struck by the air of calm among the participants as we waited in lime for the portaloos, facing the magnificent Harbour Bridge with the Sydney Opera House (we would end our marathon race there) in the distant.

The Race
True to the hilly nature of this race course, the start of the marathon was on an upslope – the good news is there is always a downslope after the upslope.  Having seen the very good fuel support plan with ample hydration and good supply of Gu gels, I decided to travel light, with aSspi-belt just to carry my gels and electrotabs instead of my usual fuel belt.  The weather at 16C was warm enough for me to just wear a tee-shirt with a short pair of tights (where normally I would put on the long tights with buff and raincoat for the colder races).


I was lined up in the front of the A pen, very close to the starting line and I could see all the Marathon Pacers with their timing flags sticking out from haversacks they carried.  After a brief introduction of the elite runners, the race was started without much fanfare.  The runners broke off in good pace, spreading out quickly and making room for many of us to go smoothly – what a contrast to some of our local race starts back home.

The First 5km

By 3km, I was able to settle into a 4:50min/km pace with ample room to run and get comfortable.  I watched my breathing and told myself to relax for the long race ahead.  The first water stations appeared at the 5km mark, and I must say the IsoWhey isotonic drinks sure tastes good.  I passed the 3:30h Pacers by the 3km mark and remained in front of them throughout the whole run.

The next 10km

I moved into the 4:45-4:50 pace for the next 10km, interspersed with some jerkiness due to the number of sharp U-turns we have had to make.  Entering Hyde Park we were given a treat of Gu gels which came in handy to sustain the pace.  By then I was running comfortably at about 4:45h pace and checking constantly my breathing and running form.  There was quite a crowd cheering at certain segments of the course, esp. in Hyde Park.


The Next 10km (15km-25km)

We entered into the Hyde Park and I told myself to sustain the 4:45h pace for as long as I could to buffer a little bit of time in case I could reach my Boston-Qualifying (BQ) range.  Although I had not planned or targeted to get any BQ prior to this race (a PB would be a very good outcome for me considering that I did not specifically train for this marathon), I felt confident for the first time at the 23km mark that BQ could be a possibility at the rate I was going.


I did feel a niggle and twinge of the upper calves at the 18km mark, although it went away after I slowed the pace a tad.  By 25km, we were out of the Gardens and I was still feeling great.  I held on to the 4:45h pace, not wanting to push harder for fear of triggering an onset of cramps.

The Next 10km (25km-35km)

It was a series of rolling hills throughout the run, and when we went to the Opera House side at 32km mark, I could hear the cheers of the HM runners who had completed their race earlier, and a few FatBirds shouted my name.  I gave a thumbs up and continued running on strongly.  I have heard that the course gets very challenging from the 32km mark onwards and I slowed down slightly just to make sure I had sufficient reserves to tackle what might be coming.



The Final Stretch (35km-42.5km)

It started to drizzle at that point and with the winds blowing in from the sea, I felt cold and my legs were also tingling with possibilities of cramps.  I popped another electrotab which seemed to work well to keep the twitches at bay.  With 10km to go, I was very much on track for a good BQ, which for my age group is 3:30h.


I reminded myself to be cautious and not to work the calves too hard, especially with the many slopes that were about to come – the winding and rather steep stretch at 35-38km stretch being the most notorious.  I began employing my glutes more to pick up the legs, as well as maintaining my pelvic rotation to provide the forward momentum.  All these worked well to give my legs a breather and avoid an overload towards the end.

By 39km mark, I saw the Opera House in the horizon and could hear the announcer and loud cheers for marathoners who were finishing up.  I perked up and picked up speed steadily back to sub 5min pace, and aimed to maintain that all the way to the finish line – all this while calculating the slowdown odds should an unexpected bout of cramps erupt.

Fortunately that never came and as we entered into the final 1km, there were lines of supporters cheering us hoarse.  We felt like champions finishing the race in style and that brought new highs of motivation to the tired body.  


I maintained the sub-5min pace all the way to the finish chute, and with 200m to go, I could hear the announcer shouting “and here comes Anthony Sum from Singapore…”.  I raised my arms for the many photographers clicking away and finished jubilantly in 3h26min (3h25min net time), very happy that I not only beat my PB of 3h36min set in Korea, 2008 by a good 10min, but also managed to qualify for Boston Marathon finally, after 11 years of distance running.

My legs didn’t feel so tired as I ambled on to collect my finisher medal and tee, and sucking on 3 pieces of orange peel.  I walked on to collect my baggage (which was a long distance away – this needs to be improved upon) and felt a lot warmer after having my jacket on.  

The weather in the last 8km was cold for me, reminding me of the tough wet and cold weather I encountered in Taiwan a few months earlier.  I was happy it all turned out well in the end as I proceeded on to meet up with fellow FatBirds and Team SG runners for group photos.  The FatBirds did well with some scoring very good PBs and mostly respectable timings in light of the challenging course and weather.

As we proudly wore our finisher tees and medals, and holding up the Singapore Flag, we were all very satisfied with our race.  The challenges we faced during the run would not be forgotten so soon.  

Overall Race Experience
The Sydney Marathon is indeed a scenic course that is very enjoyable running.  I would recommend more to participate in the race, but definitely put in sufficient training (hillwork, strength) before your attempts.  The race organization was good in the aspects of hydration and aid stations, but things like the baggage points and ‘no name indicted on bibs’ and ‘no distance indicated on finisher medals” would need to be improved upon.


Overall, it was a great and enjoyable experience for me and my team of FatBirds, and we certainly hope to have a larger contingent from Singapore for 2016.

With my maiden marathon experience at the Sydney Marathon, I have the following observations and takeaway of the entire event:

Pros
Well organized race overall
Weather (15C-20C) conducive for a good race
Scenic route going past many city icons and lush parks
Drinks stations are sufficiently long to cater to even larger crowds
IsoWhey isotonic drinks tastes great and sufficiently provided
Generous supply of Gu Gels for marathoners in 3-4 locations
Nice running culture with most runners on the move, providing free access of running pathways

Areas For Improvement
Race Expo can be expanded to cater to the enthusiastic runner shopper
Hilly race course which can prove to be a big challenge especially to the under-trained newbie marathoner
Too many sharp u-turns, especially in the Centenial Park area
Baggage area at end point too far away (> 1km) from the finish line
Runner’s bib has no name printed
Finisher’s medal has no race category indicated
Running route with some pot-holes and uneven surfaces
Start Point right on a upslope

Of course, my journey to Sydney Marathon would not be complete without the post-run celebrations and activities which completed a most memorable and rewarding trip for me in recent times.  Check out my Sydney Marathon 2015 Post-run Delights Report for some of the fun and exciting activities I did.

This is the 11th anniversary of my distance running endeavor, and it showed that if I can still do Personal Bests (PB) and Qualify-For-Boston (BQ) after adding 11 years to my age, many more of you can also have your own running aspirations, set your goals, train according to plan, and someday you too will achieve your marathon dreams.

Make Marathon Running Your Way Of Life!

Life Is A Marathon – Do It, Live It, Run It!