OSB14 Week #9: Showers Of Blessing

OSB14 Week #9: Showers Of Blessing

We woke up to thundery showers and howls of the wind this early Saturday morning.  Our Ops Sunbird wet weather contingency plan obliged all to turn up for training, and eventually a nice group did show up at Carpark C4 Shelter.

The live weather updates were showing the movement of large rain clouds in the southern sector of the island.  While waiting for the rain to abate, we handed out the training tees to qualifying trainees who have with consistent attendance at training.

The rain trickled to a stop by 7:20am.  We flagged off as a group towards Fort Road facing cool winds and nice weather.  The plan was to do the first half of the distance at Marathon Pace (MP) and the second half of run at Optimal Pace (OP).  Many of the ladies who were signed up for the Great Eastern Women Run the next day did a shorter 18-21km as warm up.

The first 10km was great as all groups were seen enjoying the cool after-rain weather, finding the paces comfortable but yet maintaining a conservative stance in not speeding up.  As we approached Changi Coastal Road, the sun was peering through the thick clouds, emitting weak streaks of sunlight that was to get stronger as the morning wore on.

The smaller trainee pool allowed the pacers and trainers to give closer attention and also dispense some race day preparation tips.  The HM Sunbirds had a field day in the nice weather, while the FM Sunbirds managed a strong pace for at least 25km.

On the return out from Changi Coastal Road, the sun’s rays beat down the backs of the runners.  Coupled with the tiredness of the legs, there were drops in pace across the groups by about 15s-30s/km.  Still, the Sunbirds persisted and when some got their second wind, they were able to maintain MP all the way back to C4.

Most of the trainees were glad they made their way down to ECP in spite of the heavy showers, and were rewarded with satisfying workouts and pushing their thresholds.  With the lessons learnt from the training LSD, some fine-tuning was in order to tweak the readiness and plan for a desirable set of results on Dec 7.

The majority completed Weekend 9’s run plan to satisfaction, meeting most of the training objectives.  We look ahead to the longest LSD in Week #10 where we will put Optimal Pace into practice and going the longest 22km and 35km distances of the entire Sunbird program.

The Sunbirds Braved The Storm!

Facebook photos from FatBird Chin

Sunbirds enjoyed cool weather Marathon Pace LSD

Sunbirds enjoyed cool weather Marathon Pace LSD

After weeks of training in the western hill slopes and reservoir trails of MacRitchie and Peirce, the Sunbirds returned to our Nest in the ECP for our Pace Training Phase.  

With the series of 30km+ runs over the next 3 weeks, all Sunbirds, especially the Full Marathoners were eager to put some good conditioning in the run up to 42km on Dec 7.

After a quick briefing and congratulatory mention to our Sunbird Trainer, Patrick Wu who finished Champion in the Monster UltraMarathon 200km in 24.5hrs, the respective training groups ran off at 7am in the direction of Fort Road.

The skies were cloudy and the weather was cool, with the occasional bit of breeze.  This was just one of the good mornings to test the limits of our trainees’ abilities, and they emerged on top of their game.  The trainers in their bright yellow tops could be spotted from a distance leading their respective charges on a steady Marathon Pace (MP).

The first 10km was covered without much of an issue.  As we entered the cooling Changi Coastal Road, the mood was still good as fellow Sunbirds were still ambling on in chit-chat mode.  The Coastal Road was as usual crowded with cyclists, and we were extra careful to be keeping to our own lanes while maintaining target pace.

The Sunbirds definitely looked a lot more composed and steady today compared with last week’s ‘meltdown’ at the Labrador-Keppel Marina route.  All systems of hydration and fuel-up were conscientiously put to practice for optimal performance.

The return from Coastal Road was pretty smooth as the sun was still kept at bay when we hit 20km.  The high humidity required us to observe proper hydration protocol for sustained effort.

The Sunbirds progressed on very well and it was not until 25km that some of the trainees felt the strain due to low glycogen stores and/or from a lack of conditioning for that distance.  It presented a good opportunity for many to experience the effects of the different energy systems in play, as well as how to recover from fatigue to find a ‘second wind’ to sustain target pace.

The final 5km back to C4 did push the envelope for some of the Sunbirds, but they eventually overcame their fatigue to complete the 30km in relatively good form.  Although tired, many were happy to have completed the long 30km run at target MP, with good feelings all round.

As the training distances and intensities increase, more trainees will be feeling the tightness building up in their major running muscle groups – and if not addressed by doing some homework with foam rolling and myofascial massages, injuries can rear their ugly heads to disappoint a few of us.

Overall, it was a smooth session with most of the training objectives met.  We look forward to the 32km next weekend, probably starting with MP in the first half and then Optimal Pace in the second.

Facebook photos from FatBirds ChinRonnie.

OSB14 Weekend #5: Excellent Weather For The Trails

OSB14 Weekend #5: Excellent Weather For The Trails

The passing rain came just in time to clear the slight haze for what turned out to be a cool-weather LSD for the Sunbirds.  The respective groups were well represented, although quite a number were taking a rain check after their previous day’s Northface100 conquests.

Briefing was short and sharp with the group photos taken in snappy fashion, leaving lots of time for the Sunbirds to complete the training requirements of the morning – 15km (HM) and 28km (FM) trail/slopes LSD at Basebuild pace.

The running and pacing have improved markedly from the first session over a month ago, with most of the trainees able to maintain target training paces, and in the trying conditions of the Northern Trail and Peirce Reservoir slopes.

The 3 times aircond road did however get to some of the trainees, but in the end, the great weather more than provided the boost for the runners to complete the challenge for an equally tough run back along the Island Country Club slopes and Northern Trail.

A very good outing for the Sunbirds which was incident and accident free, followed by cool down stretches conducted by some of the Sunbird trainers.  As advised, the tightening muscles and hydration needs require immediate attention to stave off any potential injury as the mileage and intensity would increase over the next few weeks.

With the Basebuild phase completed, the Sunbird program will progress on to doing a number of 30km at target Marathon Pace in the following few weekend sessions, albeit on flatter and more pace-able terrain.

The Sunbirds are enjoying their training and pleased to see results from their increased strength, faster pace and for a number of them, decreased weight making LSDs even more attainable and enjoyable.

The Sunbirds Passed Basebuild Strong!

Facebook photos from FatBirds
Meng Kiat (Album I)

Ronnie (Album II)
CK Chin (Album III)

OSB Weekend #4: Sunbirds revisit the Western Hills

OSB Weekend #4: Sunbirds revisit the Western Hills

True to our objective of building a good foundation of strength and speed, the Sunbirds were ushered through the Mt Faber Hills region for a 15km (HM) and 26km (FM) run at BaseBuild Pace.

The weather was cool and windy, making for a good opportunity for the Sunbirds to test their sustainable paces in a challenging route of rolling slopes sandwiching 30min/60min of hill repeats.  

With the spirits high and the attentiveness of the flock, the training brief was short and sharp, taking the runoff at 7:15am.  After 5km of rolling hills, we arrived to the Mt. Faber Loop carpark for the 1.6km hill repeats.  

The respective pace groupings made their way according to the prescribed duration.  Because of the cool weather and also the better foundation of the Sunbird trainees by now, there was not much walking spotted in between laps, resulting in the HM groups able to do 3 loops and the FM groups doing 4-7 loops (depending on speed of the group).

The lean training crew was very effective in crowd management and provided much of the leadership throughout the whole 3hr training duration – well done, Sunbird trainers.  The trainees too ‘played ball’ and achieved their targets well and in good time.

By the time we reached back to SAFRA Clubhouse (start point), the HM have completed 15km and were cooling down and chatting with their respective trainers & pacers  The FM trainees covered about 18-20km, and did another 5-8km to complete 26km in strong fashion and on-target training pace.

It was another good training session, made a lot more comfortable with the nice weather.  Training ended a tad earlier, leaving the many satisfied Sunbirds with time to chitchat over brunch and for others to meet their families to enjoy the weekend.

The distance will be progressively increased in Week #5 and we will be back to the Macritchie/Pierce Reservoir trails and roads for more hills and strength conditioning of the legs.  At the rate of progress we are going, the Sunbirds are moving in the right direction towards a good race day on Dec 7.

The Sunbirds Have Grown To Love Hills!

Facebook photos from FatBirds Ronnie, CK Chin

The Straits Times Run @ The Hub 2014

The Straits Times Run @ The Hub 2014

When Team FatBird was first approached to field a team of Official Pacers for the Straits Times Run @ The Hub (ST Run), we were all excited and eager to be involved as this was the first time ever that runners would finish the race in the newly minted Sports Hub Stadium and that we would be pacing and leading groups to finish strongly on the Stadium track.

In the run up to the race, we conducted and lead a series of successful 3 training runs to prepare ST Runners for a good run, developing their ability to pace well throughout the 21km and along segments of the actual race route for familiarization.

After 2 months of tuning up, our experienced Team FatBird Pacers were all set for the mission with the pace groupings of 1:50h, 2:00h, 2:15h and 2:30h.  We gathered at 4:00am at the OCBC Arena vicinity for a light warm up before donning on the color-coded pace balloons on our shoulders.   Group photos of the Pacers and runners were the order of the morning, as spirits ran high on being able to complete a good run inside the Stadium, just a short distance from where we were starting off.

At 4:50am, the Pacers moved into the starting corrals to take up position in their respective timing zones.  The runners joined in the their Pace groupings for a 2-wave start at 5:30am.  As the Race MC introduced the Pacers and built up the excitement of the runners, smiles were all round in spite of the rather humid morning without much of a breeze.

Once the race was flagged off, we ran at an even race pace for the first 3km which allowed the runners to warm up on the run and find the Pacers.  

Away We Go with 2:00h, 2:30h Pace Groups: Photo Credit Run Gallery SG

The Pacers tried to spread out within the Pace Groups where possible to prevent bunching in and blocking some of the narrow parts of the course – that worked well as many of the runners were able to keep in pace, following different pacers within the same pace group.

2:15h Pace Group: Photo Credit MK

After 3km, we progressively moved up the pace till we reached Optimal Pace (a few seconds faster than race pace) to catch up on some lost time (especially for the 2:15h and 2:30h groups).  The runners were following the pace well, controlling themselves not to run too fast ahead lest they fatigue fast and pay for it in the later km.

2:00h & 2:30h Pace Groups: Photo Credit Kenneth Kwok

The route was pretty smooth as we ran though the F1 area, Shenton Way and then onto the Marina Promontory.   By the time we hit 10km along MBS, the pace was Optimal – on target.  The spirits of the runners were high as they felt comfortable and were more confident of achieving their goal finish timings.

2:30h Pace Group: Photo Credit Kenneth Kwok

As we continued on to Marina Barrage and onto Gardens By The Bay, daylight provided good visibility as we continued to maintain Optimal Pace.  By then we had banked in a slight buffer of about 1min (which came in useful for the later groups who did get caught up in a merge with the 10km runners).  A few of the runners popped in gels at that point to keep their paces sustainable.  Water points were ample to keep us well hydrated and able to sustain race efforts in the humid weather.

2:15h Pace Group: Photo Credit Running Pics

Because of the early start, the sun was not apparent when we hit the 15km mark along Geylang PCN area.  With only 6km to go, some of the runners were seen to be slowing down.  With the encouragement of the Pacers and the small buffer they had accumulated, the determined racers were not about to give that margin away without a good ‘fight’.

1:50h & 2:00h Pace Groups: Photo Credit Run Gallery SG

The ST Runners persisted and sustained till the 18km mark when we turned into the Sports Hub.  That we were on Stadium grounds perked up the runners who were getting all excited and motivated.  The stronger ones were asked to move ahead while we encouraged those slightly behind that they were within reach of their final objectives.

1:50h & 2:00h Pace Groups: Photo Credit Melvin (Xiao Mao)

The finishing 2km was great as the bunch of friends and supporters lined along the run path cheering us as we looped back to the Stadium.  Sensing that we were near, the tiring runners were giving their all for a strong finish.  With 500m to go, the Pacers released our balloons (as we were not allowed to wear them inside the Stadium) and continued to cheer and egg the runners on.

Satisfied ST Runners & Pacers : Photo Credit MK

Because of the 3min buffer we had accumulated, we were able to ‘push’ more runners to go below target timings.  It was a exhilarating feeling when we stepped onto the Stadium Track, a first for many of us.  We took our time for the final run up and held our arms up with pride as we crossed the finish line victorious.  

Happy sub 1:50h runners : Photo Credit Rand TF

Lots of congratulations all round to the completing runners, and when we received the many words of thanks and appreciation from the runners who had followed the Pacers to their best timings (many by a good margin), it made the race that much more memorable and satisfying for our Pacer team.

Satisfied sub 2:00h runners & Pacers: Photo Credit Jberteddy

We collected our well earned finisher tee and medals before proceeding to the New Balance booth for group photos and exchanges of our good race experiences.  There were many Personal Bests reported, as well as notable achievements of firsts at a Half Marathon.  The 10km runners too joined us to celebrate their victories.

Joyous Team FatBird Runners : Photo Credit MK

The entire stadium was spacious and well ventilated with air conditioned comfort, a luxury for most of us marathoners who were used to congested finish points with the elements and crowd in other races.

Mission Accomplished ST Run Pacers : Photo Credit MK

All the Pacers in the respective groups achieved our mission with flying colours, in the process helping many runners achieve more than their expected target results.  Bouquets and accolades for this team of Pacers who have worked hard to bring their best out for the ST Runners.

First-ever Pacer Team @ The Hub : Photo Credit MK

Overall, it was an excellent race in nice weather in a well-planned route which minimized as much as possible potential bottlenecks and choke points to bring us a most enjoyable and satisfying race experience.

Mission Accomplished ST Run Pacers : Collage Credit Ivan Lau

A shout out to New Balance who initiated and supported the Pacer team; the race organizer, Infinitus Productions for a well organized and executed race; and to The Straits Times for putting up an unique experience of finishing at the Sports Hub Stadium and giving all of us runners bragging rights of “I am the first to finish at the Hub”.

Straits Times Run Pacers’ Photos from FatBird MK