Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Great Ocean Road and Wildlife Retreat

The 31st of October (Friday) saw to beautiful blue skies, a very warm day and a very long drive from Melbourne to Great Ocean Road. There were a lot of toilet breaks and scenic stops, including the Lorne Pier.

It was very windy and we had to hang on to our hats!

Along the way, we tried spotting koalas in trees and it is only when we see people standing by the roadside and taking pictures, pointing at something up in the trees, do we follow suit. :)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Runner Profile: Yan Leng

I first met Yan Leng during the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM) running clinic sessions early 2013. We have never raced together at an event before, save for the rather disastrous Salomon Jamboree Trail Run in July 2013. Since then, she has been running and running, improving in leaps and bounds, and recently completed her first ultra event, the inaugural Starlight Ultra 84km held in Penang, Malaysia on 23rd - 24th August 2014. She has graciously agreed to spare me a few minutes (after I virtually twisted her arm) for this interview.

At the recent BHPetrol Orange Run.
Photo credit: http://2009tonton.blogspot.com

1) How long have you been running?
I started running about 2 years ago, since September 2012. My first official race/run was Nike KL Run 10KM. I joined it with my few colleagues and since then I fell in love with running.

2) What does your family think about you and running?
My family never expected that I will love running so much. However, they always support me. I also ensure that my running plans do not interfere with my family time. Normally, I will run in the early mornings during the weekends so that I still have time with my family after that.

Jamie, Piew, Yan Leng, Nick, Gan and Yee Hoo before Starlight Ultra.
Photo credit: Jamie.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Still Alive

I'm still here, if you're wondering.
If you're not, well, I'm still here, anyway. :)

It's been an exhausting 3 weeks since the arrival of my parents-in-law AND a new beginning - I have a job!

It's not much (of a job) at the moment, but I still have to get my ass out of bed by 7.20 am at the latest, and be in at the office by 9 am. I now have to make sure that my face is decked with war paint, otherwise I look completely washed out and deserve to hide out at home, like what I have been doing for the last year and a half.

I return home to home-cooked food and the urge to crawl into bed immediately. After-work runs have not exceeded 10km at most as we have to rush home for dinner.

I am just so knackered by the end of the day that I don't feel like doing anything after dinner. I can't even bear to sit in front of the laptop for too long!

Now that I work in the city, it feels cool to be part of the city crowd again. I need some new work clothes, that's for sure, but until I receive my first paycheck, I can't afford to go shopping!

Wearing a pair of trainers is so much more comfy.

The lobby area of the office building has mirrored walls that I can't help but to check myself out all the time, just to be sure that I'm looking prim and proper. Yeah, I take a lot of selfies, too. *vain*

I think my parents are relieved that I am employed again. They have been bugging me to get my ass back into the corporate world for so long, or at least be an employee somewhere, that a good friend told me the only way to counter their nagging is to get pregnant immediately. :P

My work requires me to converse in Mandarin a lot as most of the clients are from China. It irks me to be forced into this position where I fumble with my words, hoping that I'm making sense to the client and in return, the client would stare at me, hoping I'd make more sense by just staring hard at me.* 

The first week was rather scary as I don't like being thrown into the deep end and expected to swim to save myself. Being thrown instructions which I don't really understand and expected to deliver something immediately is not enjoyable at all. I have been on the verge of losing my temper and beseeching to the boss to make some sense to me, FFS!

My colleagues are friendly (so far) and we get along just fine. The office suite is filled with laughs and giggles on a daily basis, which suits me just fine. One of the bosses have bought me (and the colleagues as well) cups of coffee several times now. Yay to free coffee!

I had my first cup of strong latte last week and I couldn't sleep that night!

I've soon found out that a cup of strong latte has 3 shots of espresso so I've resorted to having a cappucino instead. :)

I am rambling.

I can't keep my eyes open any longer so goodnight, folks.
Have a great weekend, all.
I miss you.
I don't even know what's happening with everyone right now.

*my Mandarin is rather poor.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

So Much Eating And So Little Running

With the in-laws in town and with the weather a bit crazy every now and then, I haven't been running as much as I would have liked. I'm sure there is a way we can get around it and hopefully we'll get that started next week!

We drove up to Silvan last Saturday to check out the Tesselaar Tulip Festival. AT AUD$22 per entry, I thought it was very steep. I offered for the hubs and I to wait in the car while the in-laws went in but the MIL insisted everyone went in.

Thank goodness we had brought a picnic basket, otherwise we'd have to spend more money on food inside!

I made sure the PILs were right behind me. Heehee!

With rows and rows of brightly coloured tulips, the first one to capture my interest was the 'Queen of the Night'. So dark in colour and looking black at first glance, they are really just a deep shade of maroon.

My other favourite is the Rosalie, which is a pretty shade of purple.

The place was crowded and no one hesitated to pay the entrance fee (except us*). With temperature as high as 27'C, I suppose it was a beautiful day not to be wasted indoors.

*I offered for both the hubs and I to wait in the car while they went in to explore. :D

We spent two hours inside and eventually left the place, only to find ourselves at the National Rhododendron Garden where no entrance fee was required! We didn't manage to walk right to the end of the park as we turned back halfway through. 

The place was equally crowded and its parking area was filled with cars.

(I'm not much of a flower person but I now know what rhododendron and Chinese cedar are!)

Despite protests from the FIL not to stop by for pie, we did find drop by Pie in the Sky anyway. After driving so far, surely we had to stop at tourist traps spots to cross something off the list!

We ordered the Beef Curry, which was dry and lacked the spicy aroma one would expect from curry. It was instead rather salty and its meat wasn't tender. An extremely forgettable choice.

My favourite is definitely the Korma Chicken, and MIL thought it was nice as well. The minute I cut through the pie, its gravy oozed out, making it extremely inviting to dig in. I suspect its filling is almost creamy that makes it a delicious pie. It's a multiple gold award winner!

(I really hope I can try making it one day!)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

7-Day Project Gratitude

20th September 2014.
I was hoping I wouldn't get tagged but haha, trust an ol' buddy to tag me on Facebook!

Instead of boring everyone with a daily status update, I thought I'd chuck it here, somewhere private, where only those who accidentally stumble across this blog have the misfortune to read my mundane ramblings. :)

I'm not sure how it works - do I come up with something new to be grateful for on a daily basis or can they be the same thing over and over? Do I need to elaborate or shall I just leave them in point form?


Day 1 - 21st September 2014.

1. To be alive and well!
2. For a loving family, both immediate and extended. 
No wars or rifts at the moment! Well, not that I know of ... but anyway, I miss being a kid all over again so that I can be at home with the family. That's just my indirect way of saying that I really miss my family. And to be able to watch my munchkin of a niece grow up! :)
3. To still be able to walk and run. 
Why not? I'm always thankful that my legs are still holding up pretty well. Having said that, the DOMS I suffered from Saturday's hill reps are torture! I thought by running our usual undulating 11k route on Monday would eliminate the DOMS but hahaha, they returned as a result of Monday's run. How ironic!

Day 2 - 22nd September 2014.

1. To be able to devour my chick lit novels. 
I love that the library is just within walking distance! I really enjoy spending time with novels. Seriously. It's a childhood pastime, just reading and reading and not having a care about the rest of the world. A shame that I have terrible memory and a week later I won't remember what I actually read!
2. To be able to hug my husband on a daily basis.
3. For good friends whom I know I will be able to count on when I need them. 
There are friends who would hesitate and mull over whether to assist you or not, before giving you an answer. There are others who'd agree to help without any hesitation at all. :)

Knew of the movie before I spotted the book at the library. A good read.

Day 3 - 23rd September 2014.

1. I still have hair! 
Despite the grey roots, I still have hair.
2. I still have teeth! 
I had a nightmare back in high school once about my teeth going all flappy like flap doors for pets to enter the house. It was horrible. I couldn't speak properly in my dream and my teeth would just flap!
3. Bargain $1 bags. 
Bought a bag of loose longan and another bag of french beans - what a steal! I love a great bargain!

Day 4 - 24th September 2014.

1. A smartphone. 
Although the screen has cracked and I've taped it, it still works. Whatsapp chats with friends are awesome.
2. For Skype! 
Otherwise I won't be able to watch my niece's antics and my parents won't see how fat I am. Haha! It's the only way to have decent chat with everyone, although the niece is always demanding for attention. Argh, she's growing up too fast for me!
3. For ol' friends. 
So happy that Marie will be helping me buy and bring some stuff for me - she'll be here next month to visit her adorable chubby niece who is turning 1! (Whoever plans to do their shopping in Australia when they're here, think again. Nothing here is cheap, NOTHING. Except for McDonald's soft cone ice-cream...)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

From Wombat to Surf Coast Century

The weekend after Tan Ultra was spent in Wombat land, trudging about and doing my best not to grimace in pain. I thought I had recovered OK as I was walking fine 2 days after, but a bit of climbing (500m elevation gain) was enough to smash my quads!

With Skye and Erin.
I slowed down considerably, much to my annoyance. I didn't want to be so far behind from the crazy peeps but Isaac threw in a curveball and took us down a 'not recommended' track which I thought was a shortcut.

We ended up on the riverbank, probably 1km away from Link Track (the usual track we would take). It's always cool to have a bit of an adventure but I think I was not in good shape to enjoy it that day!

It was such a relief to find even ground again, and I made a better effort on moving. It's the 2km stretch which I really dislike as it's straight and boring. 

Rock climbing Kiwi sheeps and Aussie mountain goats.
Photo credit: Bin.

Anthony and Erin were still waiting for us at the car park, which cheered me up. I offered them some of my mooncake biscuits, and I was pleasantly surprised that they liked them. 

Anyway, it's my fault for putting my legs through the torture. Robbo did ask me how I was feeling when we arrived early that morning but he went on to answer his own question, "You should be fine if you're here today!" 

Funny how they made me sound like a hero and an idiot at the same time ...

Besides, how could I resist hanging out with crazy people who said that they were TAPERING for Surf Coast Century??

Bloody hell. 

Anglesea Beach.

Last Saturday was Surf Coast Century weekend over at Anglesea, a 2-hour drive for us. We arrived before 3pm and hung around at the finish area before deciding on a spot to ambush our friends.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Possibly Mooncake Biscuits

Mid Autumn Festival was on Monday, 8th September. Mooncake fillings have evolved from traditional fillings of lotus paste, red bean or nuts to tiramisu, coffee, chocolate, etc. My favourite is always lotus paste with egg yolk, wrapped in snow skin, which needs to be kept in the fridge.

The Asian grocers have been selling boxes of mooncakes for the whole month. The only time I had mooncake was when Gary offered us some when we paid him a surprise visit last month. 

As much as I wanted to eat mooncake (lotus paste with egg yolk, please), I couldn't bring myself to buy a box. *shrug* My cravings weren't that strong.

I thought I'd make my own, haha, although not in the traditional sense. I don't have the moulds!

I went with Shanghai pastry, and followed the recipe here. I bought red bean paste as I was too lazy to make my own.

Do you think they look more like siew paus?

After making a batch sized according to the recipe, I decided to make them a bit smaller, just nice for one person to devour it in 3 bites.

The buttery pastry, although not flaky, is good enough to make you want more. This way, the paste was less sweet. Packaged paste is sadly very underwhelming and next time, I think I'll need to make my own.

I'm not happy with how pale they turned out to be, despite baking them just a bit longer. Perhaps milk should be omitted from the egg wash?

Without salted egg yolks, the recipe can make about 20+ pieces if you prefer smaller sized ones.


700gm red bean paste

250gm salted butter (mine was unsalted, so I added 2 dashes of sea salt into the flour mixture)
150gm icing sugar
380gm plain flour
1 large egg
60g custard powder

Egg wash
1 egg yolk
1 TBSP water
1 TBSP milk (will omit this the next time)

Black and white sesame seeds for decoration.

1. Sift flour and custard powder. Set aside.
2. Beat butter and icing sugar til creamy, for 2-3 minutes only.
3. Add in egg and beat til combined. Mix in flour and custard powder and combine to make soft dough. 
4. Wrap in cling film and store in fridge for 30mins.
5. Roll red bean paste into 1 inch balls, set aside. If you're lazy like me, you'll just spoon 1 inch worth of paste into your dough later on.
6. Remove dough from fridge, roll into 1.5 inch balls and set aside.
7. Prepare small bowl of egg wash and another one with black and sesame seeds.
8. Flatten dough balls and insert paste into middle. Wrap it with dough carefully before rolling it into a ball.
9. Place on tray lined with baking paper. Gently flatten it, brush with egg wash and sprinkle sesame seed on top.
10. Preheat oven at 180'C yet? Anyway, bake them for 20 mins at 180'C.

Put them under the grill for a while (til the top turns a bit brown) to warm them up before consumption.

*I added some roasted pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds into the red bean paste to add a bit of texture.
*Baked them 5 minutes longer.
* The next day, I grilled it for a few minutes just to warm them up before having them for breakfast. It'll give a nice brown top and looked much more appetising. Very yummy when served nice and warm.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Tan Ultra - 100KM Race Report

I know, right?
Me, running a 100km?????

Which sane person would consider spending an entire day on their feet, running laps around The Tan, and 26 laps to be exact?

Hey, I wasn't the only one!

Date: 31st August 2014, Sunday.
Event: The Tan Ultra, by Trails+
Time: 7am to 7pm
Venue:  The Tan Track, Royal Botanical Gardens.
Distances: 100km, 50km, 42km, 21km, 12km, 8km.

The days leading up to the event was a flurry of nerves. I was shitting bricks and breaking out in cold sweat every now and then, I had to keep comforting myself that I could do it. 100KM is a big fish to fry, no doubt about it. Two Bays Trail 56KM was my longest distance ever and so it came to no surprise to have some people roll over in shock when my participation was finally disclosed.

We arrived just before 6:30am to Brett and team still setting up the area. I made a quick dash slow walk to the loo and made it back in time for the briefing. Pre-race jitters!

My plan was pretty simple, spending no more or less than 27 minutes per lap. Fueling was every 30 minutes after the 1st hour. Hammer Endurolytes and AFC went together hand in hand at every hour. A power gel at every 1:30 hour, bananas/power bars/a few sips of Tailwind every 30 minutes in between. Make the first 50KM in good time for a scheduled 5 minute break, and continue on to tackle the next 50KM.

As Lap 1 included an additional 500m, I still made sure it was completed in 27mins or so. I realised I was hungry and grabbed the remaining peanut butter sandwich I was supposed to have had for breakfast. During Lap 2 and 3, despite going a wee bit fast by 20-30 secs I was feeling a bit worried. My legs were rusty, forgetting how it felt like to run. Not sure if because they were overly rested during taper week!

I could feel blisters already forming on my big toes and last toes, despite wrapping them up with Elastoplast. ARGH! I pondered about stopping for a while to wrap them up with another layer but concluded that I'll do it at halfway point. By Lap 4, I was starting to forget how many laps I had done.

SCTR's fashion parade!
Photo credit: Bin Wong

Once I had warmed up, it was easy to fall back into the training rhythm and kept on moving. I had somehow messed up the Garmin Fenix which wasn't tracking my progress carefully and I was frustrated. Thankfully the Tan track has distance markers and digital clocks at the start area and halfway point (near KM1.75) so they were good reference points monitor my progress.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Food For Friends And Crew

I went crazy last week, drawing up a menu for Sunday's picnic as well as going through my fuel plan. It was the only thing I could do while sitting around and resting during taper week. Besides the night run on Tuesday, I only managed a 5km run on Saturday, just to warm up the legs.

Playing checkers with sable cookies ... I'm so pleased to have successfully tweaked the
chocolate recipe to something I really like! 

Besides cookies, a tray of brownies and some veggie curry puffs, I wanted to bring chicken skewers (without satay sauce) and fried meehoon (vermicelli) but decided against it. Since the picnic will be with the support crews, I doubted anyone would want to move their party to the barbie pit across the road.

My puffs are always so pale!
Brownies, as always, a winner hands down!

Nevertheless, we had chicken skewers for tea on Saturday since I had marinated the chicken the day before.

I think there were 17 sticks in total.

Mmmm, it needed a bit more honey. Otherwise, I love how the finely chopped lemongrass tastes like crushed peanuts, adding texture.

Cooked this a few weeks ago with coriander, dried mushrooms, shrimps, shallots and accompanied
by fresh sambal.

Fried meehoon is a favourite go-to dish of mine, probably because I used to eat so much of it back home when I was younger. Like fried rice, it doesn't really matter what the ingredients are as long as they provide enough taste and colour. 

A celebratory Magnum ice-cream!

Sticking with tradition, I celebrated my run with a Magnum ice-cream. I loved the biscuit bits in the chocolate crust! I wanted to share it with the hubs but he said it was too sweet for him. *shrug* More for me!

Joanne, I think you would love this! 

Me and my Magnum, after Melbourne
Marathon 2013! PB, yay!
p.s. Lemmie the lemon tree is now dead.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Why I Interview Runner Friends

No one has really asked me why, but I am glad to know that there are plenty of friends out there who enjoy reading my 'runner profile interviews' as much as I enjoy throwing questions at my interviewees.

How did it all begin?
Years ago when I was still living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I was approached by a friend for a runner profile on me. I was so surprised and taken aback as I was fairly new to the running community. Me, a runner profile??

I wasn't sure what to do or how it was done so I read up on all the runner profiles he had on his blog before I felt confident enough to tackle his questions for me. After that, I bragged to my friends and colleagues about being 'interviewed'! :D

(You can read my runner profile here. It probably needs updating!)

Back then, I was still a newbie and excited about running (nothing more than half marathons) and Dutamas Runners, the running group I was with. As I got to meet more runners from various events, I began to realise how inspiring each individual runner can be.

I started with a few friends within the DR group like Andrew, Raymond, Michelle, Melvin, Paul, Wai Loon, Kenny, etc. During a Blog with Brooks competition, I used the same approach with a few friends like Khoo Yit Kiat and Jamie Pang

How does reading runner profiles inspire others?
Everyone worships the elites of of any sport. To name a few  from trail running and running alone, there's Kilian Jornet, Emelie Forsberg, Anna Frost, Mo Farah, Usain Bolt. We read about them, their stories and achievements and we are in awe. We get inspired.

Yet we are also in awe of the people surrounding us - some run faster and better than us, some have sheer determination and will power to get out there to do what the enjoy the most, and not bothered about finishing last, some are born natural runners and some still struggle to improve themselves after years of running.

Everyone has a story to share, and the guy or girl next door can inspire and motivate you without you (or them) realising it. I strongly believe that these friends are equally as inspiring as the elites out there, if not more interesting. :)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sunny Saturday

Bin's cousin was in the city for work training. We managed to spend Saturday with her, doing our best to be a tour guide but I suspect we may have failed just a wee bit.

The thing is, we're still not familiar with the city and unless you're interested in museums and gardens, I'm not sure where tourists should go when they're in the CBD.

We took her to Queen Victoria Market for breakfast, unsure of where to go. We decided on Simply Spanish at 513 Elizabeth Street. I was actually looking for Market Lane Cafe or Padre Cafe but kinda lost my bearings. You know me and directions!!

Brekkie Bruschetta (AUD$13.50)
with scrambled eggs, grilled chorizo, shaved manchego and parsley.

Our flat whites were not too bad. We had the Bocadillo (AUD$13.00), Claypot Eggs (AUD$14.50) and Brekkie Bruschetta (AUD$13.50). Mmmm, the scrambled eggs were a wee bit bland, probably needed a bit of salt, and the claypot eggs tasted just like tomato-ey baked beans. *shrug* 

After a quick walk around QVM, we left the city and towards the Dandenong's. The little cousin had earlier requested to see a bit of nature and wildlife, so where else to go but out of the city?

We headed to Woolrich Lookout, Olinda and dropped by Silvan Reservoir, and just drove around. While at Woolrich Lookout, we were amused to observe two ladies walking their goats.

Nope, those are not dogs.

Yep, they were goats. I'm not sure whether they were from a nearby farm or deliberately drove their goats out for a grass nibbling session and sunshine.

By the time we were done sightseeing, it was time for some food!

We finally got the chance to pop into Pie In The Sky to try their award winning pies. The last time the hubs and I wanted to eat here, the queue was horrendously long. We ended up eating at the nearby fish and chips shop, which we really do not recommend!

Chicken Korma pie with steakhouse chips.

We tried the Beef Guinness, Tandoori Chicken and Chicken Korma pies. Without side dishes, the pies come out to AUD$5.50 each, I think. 

On the menu, some of the pies are highlighted as winners such as the Tandoori Chicken and Chicken Korma pies, which are noted to be multiple medal winners. The Beef Guinness was noted to have won a gold medal once.

True to its description, the beef guinness pie was not great at all. I would describe its flavours as poor, and not very inspiring at all. The tandoori chicken which the little cousin ordered was flavourful enough. I liked my chicken korma best as it was creamy with hints of spices. 

I think I shall attempt to make some one day!

Before we headed back home to recuperate before dinner, we stopped by Lysterfield Park for a while. It's a popular mountain biking area, and kangaroos are aplenty. We ran here once before, but it got too dark before we could explore further. (Yeah, we came too late in the evening!)

We spent some time watching kangaroos, trying to spot a joey in its momma's pouch. When its mum bent down to munch on some grass, the joey would munch on grass, too.

If you love wide tracks and prefer a non-hilly place for a run, Lysterfield Park is probably a good place to go. It is so open and spacious. For me, I think I prefer the Dandenong's for its tall trees and lush greens.

Later on that night, dinner was at David and Camy Noodle Restaurant for some dumplings, rice and noodles. We were stuffed from all the eating we did the entire day but it was the last thing we had to do before dropping her off at the airport. :)

And all we did yesterday to burn off the calories was a bit of hill reps at Lyrebird Track, Kokoda 1000 Steps!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

Ten days to go ...

Grilled salmon with salad - the skin was not crispy enough.

Nothing much has been happening on the culinary side of things. No new recipes nor food experiments, merely eating for the sake of eating. Cookie baking has become a habit, twice a month, just because ... uhm, I am probably too reliant on cookies to go with my coffee or tea.

The only recipe I have managed to tweaked so far is the steamed glutinous rice with chicken, realising that in no circumstances should one scrimp on dried shrimps (heh bee). No, no, no. It is the key ingredient. (A non-meat version would only have Chinese mushrooms, shallots and dried shrimps. Cooking wine is probably not necessary. Best to garnish with chopped chilli or spring onions then, for added fragrance in terms of taste.)

Last weekend was spent helping a friend (or should I say 'mate'?) move out of his rented place to his new home. He rented a 3-tonne truck with no movers (to save cost :D) and it took 2 trips that day. I was helping his wife with her stuff and unpacking them in their new home. 

I made a bet with the guys that we would finish unpacking the kitchen before they'd even assemble the beds. We won, of course. Muahaha!

Everyone was quite exhausted by the end of the day, except for the two little munchkins who were so excited to be in their new home and having guests over. We haven't seen them since ... we had brunch together early last month. The kids are growing up quickly but their cheeky grins never fail to make me smile.

I was hoping to keep my next event as hush-hush as possible, but who would have expected the race director (who is a friend on Facebook) to happily declare to the world of my registration.

The thing is, 100km is a different kettle of fish altogether. (Erm, is that the saying? I can't for the life of me remember the exact phrase!)

I had toyed with the idea of running jogging crawling 100km sometime this year. We had plans to run the Surf Coast Century 100km in September but after Buffalo Stampede, we decided to rethink it. With bigger plans in the pipeline (new house, new job, holidays, etc) we decided that we would forgo SCC. 

A couple who runs can be a pricey thing, and to spend AUD$1,000 on a weekend alone can be really painful. (It's just a rough estimate: registration fee of $298 per pax, accommodation and food, petrol, etc. A big ouch.)

Deep in my heart of hearts, I know that I can do it. But no matter how strong my faith or belief is, the training has to be double the faith or belief. What's the point of believing something so strongly but not working on it?

A few friends had disbelief etched on their faces when I shared with them my possibility of signing up for the event. That pissed me off but I don't blame them.

But it made me more determined to prove them wrong, that by hook or by crook, I will complete the damn distance!

The problem is, the cut off time is 12 hours, and I think I need 13 to be comfortable. Hmmm.

So the hubs tells me to prepare for the worst case scenario. He reminds me how terribly upset I'll be if I fail, and this time round, would it be any different? I hmm-ed for a while and replied that I will be OK as long as I get past 80km.

Are you sure? he asked.

Long pause.

I will have to, won't I? I said reluctantly.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Matt Hosking and His 100 Mile Debut

Earlier in April this year, I couldn't recognise Matt when we were picking up our race packs at the Buffalo Stampede. Out of running attire, he looked completely ... like a superstar non-runner like? I confess that I thought he was an actor or something, and was about to secretly take a photo of him until I realised, "hey, I know this guy!"

Matt Hosking is one of the co-founders of the Surf Coast Trail Runners. He recently completed his first ever 100 mile trail race at Trails+'s You Yangs Hardcore 100 Mile in 19 hours, bagging 3rd place in the mens' category.

Here, he shares with us his thoughts and preparation for the event.

1. First and foremost, a huge congratulations in completing your debut 100 Mile in an amazing time! What was the first thing that went through your mind the minute you crossed the finish line?
"It's done!" - a mix of relief, exhaustion and exhilaration. I had run more of the course than I expected, came in an hour ahead of my ideal time and finished 3rd overall, so it had been an awesome run for me and felt great to have it finished. What surprised me the most, especially on finishing, was that I never hit "the wall" or had any "dark" moments that they talk about during the run - I'd managed to stay in a pretty good frame of mine for the whole race. A lot of this I owe to the great support I had from many familiar volunteers and some surprise pacers that turned up on my third last lap - I think those guys really picked me up for the finish and made a big difference to my run.

Crossing the finish line at the You Yangs Hardcore 100 Mile this year.

2. How did you spend the rest of the week recovering from the run?
At the completion of the race I immediately hit my usually post run protein shake, some soup and the packet of gummy bears I had stashed in my bag. I find the sugar helps pick up my mood a bit over the next few days (and who can be in a bad mood with gummy bears?) I slept for a few hours at home and came back early afternoon for the presentations and fortunately to see Jon Lim start his last lap and George Mihalakellis finish, both of whom were doing amazingly well after being on their feet for over 28 hours. Legs were feeling pretty stiff but not as bad as expected. I had booked the next day off work (in case I couldn't walk) but was not too bad. By Tuesday I was able to run apart from some reasonable top of foot pain. It was great to just relax, not "have to" run any more and just enjoy the day off with my family.

3. When did you start training for the event? What was your longest run leading to it?
I started training for the miler two weeks after I'd run the Buffalo Stampede Ultra and the event was announced which allowed me 10 weeks of training and 3 for taper (I figured a good taper would be critical to sustain a reasonable pace for such a long time). This was a bit of a crazy time frame as I hadn't run over 100km yet and just finished a race that was more vertical gain than distance, but it seemed achievable. The plan was to hit high mileage with a focus on back-to-back and night running to best simulate the event itself. I ran a lot of 15km and 20km training runs along the local rail trail in the mornings and at night, averaging 100km weeks for May.

The first week of June was still holding up pretty well but I was starting to get over it. Chris Roberts and Isaac Walker were planning a 70km run, incorporating the Surf Coast Trail Runners' SCTM training run, which was a good test to see how I was holding up. I ran that at a 6 min/km average (excluding stops) so I was happy that I was in a good place with less than 6 weeks to go. After that I switched to running long runs exclusively, hitting 45km+ each weekend long run in June which was great mental practice for switching off and a welcome change up from frequent runs in high mileage weeks.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hoka One One Clifton Review - First Impressions


That was how I felt when I took it for a medium-long run the other day, just 3 days after purchase.

The Hoka One One is well known for its maximalist shoes, and you can be sure to recognise its chunky looking shoes from afar. Chunky, responsive, maximum cushioning and stability, it sounds like an absolute dream to run (really) long distance in a pair of Hoka's.

My new runners, the Hoka One One Clifton.

With an upcoming race and not much time left to train for, I settled on the Clifton for three reasons: cushioning, lightweight, and affordable price.

With its maximum cushioning technology, Hoka shoes generally promise its wearers a squishy, if not cushy ride. The Clifton, despite being one its latest lightweight models for road running, does not disappoint in this aspect. It is light, but still squishy. So squishy that they make pretty excellent walking shoes!

Its Meta-Rocker profile is noticeable on the outlook but I barely noticed it as I ran. They promote mid-foot to forefoot landing, propelling you forward with ease.

I should have taken a picture before I ran in them! :)

The purple bits strategically placed at the heel and forefoot are hi-abrasion rubber soles (made with EVA) to absorb full ground contact.

I would have preferred the aqua colour. :)

Although they still look chunky, with heel and forefoot height at 29mm and 24mm, don't let it fool you. They give you about 4mm / 5mm from heel to toe offset, yet you don't really feel the ground. It actually feels like 6mm when you're walking in them, but more 4mm when you're chasing speed.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday And The Last Blueberry Muffin.

The last blueberry muffin.

It's a gloomy Monday morning and where did the weekend go?

I had a brief chat with my parents on the phone yesterday. With my mum, it was the usual nagging, and I did my best not to be a sullen teenager and grumble my replies. With my dad, it was about latest antics of my little niece. 

And its the latter stories that never fails to make me smile.

It seems like she is picking up the Hokkien dialect quite well, and sometimes to annoy her Hakka-speaking dad, she'll speak to him in Hokkien. Once, she asked him, "Do you understand?"

The cheek!

We were running at the Tan last Saturday evening and bumped into Shaun, who was training for her upcoming event. Later on, we bumped into Jon, her hubby, as they had to take turns to run while someone takes care of their daughter. We haven't seen much of our running friends lately so it was great to catch up and chat, even if it was just for a few minutes.

I am currently testing out my new pair of HokaOneOne Clifton's and right now, all I can say is that my calves are being made to work out more than I expected. They are soooooo tired!

Training on my own is tough but easier than I expected. I don't have to wait for anyone, I don't slow anyone down, and I don't have to talk to anyone. It's a good mental workout, and it's really easy to pretend to be robot and keep moving my legs. I think I'm getting the hang of it.

The hubs is feeling rather strained when the weekend comes, as he is forced to run with me on both days. Not a great way to spend the weekend, I know, but unless I move the back to back runs to the middle of the week, I would still need a long run during the weekend, anyway! He can't escape, regardless. Muahaha!

Oh hey!
The sun is out. Yay!

Oh, about that blueberry muffin? I've found a recipe which really works, especially with frozen blueberries. I've made them twice already, and I reduced the sugar and added some choc chip the second time round. They may not be as gigantic as Starbucks' but they taste equally good, if not better. 

*does a Snoopy jump*


Friday, August 8, 2014

Runner Profile: Chris Roberts

When I first met Chris Roberts, a.k.a. Robbo, a.k.a. Surf Goat, I felt rather intimidated. He had just completed 3 loops of the Wild Wombat that day, and concluded his run by guzzling the a bottles of beer he had brought as part of his recovery fuel. I could only stare at him in awe, as I was still in pain after completing 2 loops.

The gorgeous hula dancers from left to right: Tim, Chris and Isaac.
Photo credit: Bin Wong.

He wore a grass skirt for Two Bays Trail Run 2014 to keep up with the Hawaiian theme, and a Super Mario costume for the recent Wild Wombat costume run. (A shame he didn't run the entire thing in it.)

Since then, I can't seem to take him seriously. Not sure if this will ruin his street cred, but he just cracks me up all the time!

Here's our little interview:

1. What is your weekly mileage like?
Hey, I might be old, but I still talk kilometres, not miles! My ‘mileage’ varies on whether I am training for a race, coupled with work and family commitments. I like to do at least 60km a week in the ‘off’ season, and this will build to 110 – 120km per week in the lead-up to a big long-distance (100km) event.

I have started looking at the quality of the running I do, not just the distance. For example, the 20mins of a Brewster’s Bullet Proof Legs session, although zero mileage, is worth more than a 12km ‘easy’ run. I couldn’t do what I do without the support of a very understanding family. I love them to bits.

2. Are you careful with what and how much you eat, or do you eat everything and anything (without putting on an ounce of fat)?
I may not look like it, but I can put on the kgs. I am struggling to weigh 68kgs when wet these days, but there was a time when I weighed 86kg. My wife once told me that I was ‘a bit chubby’ – and that was the beginning of the transformation. It started with drinking less Guinness, eating (slightly) better, and undertaking the occasional 3km run that exhausted me (and I needed to stop half way for a break).

I am a big eater – I’ll finish off the kids leftovers from their plates. So I do eat everything and anything, but if I wasn’t running it would rapidly begin to show.

Yvonne: Dion calls you a greyhound, you know.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Choc Chip Cookies And I Are Not Meant To Be

I have been asking people to share with me their foolproof choc chip cookie recipe but no one has recommended me one.

I gave the ones I have in my recipe folder a second chance but they didn't turn out nice. 

My current 'go to' cookie recipe is a sable cookie one.
Brushed with melted dark chocolate, they are more sinful than usual.

I know it's bad to ensure that the cookie jar is always full.
It's not good.
It's terrible.

But sometimes, I need a couple of cookies for my afternoon tea.
Or a pre-run snack.
Or a post-run snack.

Checkered sable cookies. Who needs an occasion for cookies?

Sable cookies are as good as my butter cookies (cough) but sometimes I want some chocolate in them!

And sometimes, I spend AUD$2.50 on a pack of Tim Tam's, just to try its latest flavours.

Have you tried the peanut butter ones from Coles? Don't bother. They're yuck.
The red velvet one (an Adriano Zumbo's invention) is OK, but no biggie.

I'll stick to the dark chocolate one, thank you.
But this indulgence (buying Tim Tam's) is rare.

(In fact ... yes, I know, I know ... don't nag! I must stop eating cookies!)

A Maggie Beer recipe.

Some time ago, I tried Maggie Beer's jumbo choc chip cookie recipe and I was disappointed. Sigh.
I really have no luck.
Or is it me, too much of a perfectionist in find the right choc chip cookie recipe to satisfy my taste buds?

I think I'll have to give up my quest for my perfect choc chip cookie recipe.
It's futile, and a waste of ingredients.

And bad for the complexion.
And waist line.

So I tell myself. :)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Weekend Run: Somewhere In Yarra State Forest, Warburton

I have no idea how to describe this whereabouts exactly, but I know that the Big Forest Run event is held there. We took their course maps as a guide and ran a small part of the route. 

Two Sundays ago (27th July 2014), we took the hour long drive towards Warburton. By the time we arrived at our destination at 10 in the morning, I was ready to go back to sleep. Sitting in the car always makes me sleepy, like a baby. Hah!

We drove in from Big Pats Creek Road as far as we could go and parked. It felt dark, probably due to the tree canopies. Every now and then, we would hear rumbles from a distance, mountain bikes. Thankfully, none came our way.

We started off along the Upper Yarra Track, following it all the way to our 1st pit stop, Starlings Gap. The single track was of soft black soil, bringing me back to our tropical forests back home.

Except that it's cooler here and we're not sweating buckets. :D

The track was quiet and felt almost unused- we bumped into no one.

The track was lined with ferny undergrowth. Sometimes they were in our faces, so we had to brush them aside before making our way through, or sometimes they were just above our heads and we'd have to squat to get through.

I was thinking, how on earth do they race through the tracks with the ferns in their way??

Playing with jigsaw puzzle.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tony and Erin - Running Together

Many moons and months ago, Erin was extremely excited to announce to the whole wide world (and on Facebook!) that she had signed her dad up for the You Yangs' 30KM trail run on 20th July 2014. She was simply ecstatic, to say the least, as it was going to be her first run together with her dad.

We had the liberty of being introduced to Tony, Erin's dad, on the course that day. Both of them were looking strong, AND finished strong. They both looked like they could have tackled another 20km, had they been given a chance.

Her extended family at Surf Coast Trail Runners were there to share her excitement and I thought, why not have them share their story with everyone else here? How cool is it, to be running a race with your dad (or mum)? :)

Running up The Saddle at You Yangs 30KM Trail Run.
Photo credit: Aldonio / Trails+.

1. Tony, what was your reaction when Erin first mentioned to you that you were going to do a 30KM trail run?
(Tony) Erin first suggested to Helen (her mum) and I that we stay over one more day and travel back to New Plymouth on Monday, July 21st. When we asked why she said there was a trail run on and that she wanted to take part in it with me.

I became worried. When I asked what distance Erin suggested two – 30km and 50km. After a few days of thought, I opted for 30km. I am not that fit and 30km sounded a long way, especially as Erin is improving both in speed and fitness.

(Erin) He’s fitter than he's letting on... I’ve seen him complete marathons! How many marathons have you done, dad? I think the 30km was a good choice after such a busy week prior to the event. We really enjoyed it.

(Tony) I have completed 34 marathons: 21 Mountain to Surfs, 1 Auckland Marathon, 1 Christchurch Marathon, 5 Wellington Marathon, and 6 Rotorua Marathons.

The first was the NGC Mountain to Surf Marathon in 1993. You were nearly 6 years old then, Erin.
I finished in a time of 2 hrs 55 mins and 24 seconds.

Tony's personal best of  2:34:31 at
the Mountain to Surf 1999.
My fastest time was 2 hrs 34 mins and 31 secs, again in the Mountain to Surf in 1999.
My slowest is 3 hrs 16 mins 23 secs in 2013.

The last few years my pace has dropped a touch and now struggle to break 3 hrs.

This year I ran 3 hrs 5 mins and 42 secs for the local marathon, 11 mins quicker than last year. At 40 km mark I had to stop and take my right shoe off as one of my toe nails had blistered and the nail was starting to come off. I ran 2 kms barefoot before I could put my shoe on again. Came 1st in my age group.

That is something else we share, Erin. Runners toes.

(Erin) We do! Let me add that in…..

(Tony) I love the challenge of the marathon and I hope to carry on running them for some years to come.

Of special note, Helen has always tried to support me on my marathons. She has followed me on all 21 Mountain to Surfs - handing out drinks and encouraging me, and being there at the finish.

(Yvonne) I'm a bit speechless now ...

2. What did you both talk about during the run? Did you share any deep dark secrets that you've never shared with each other before?
(Tony) Of course, we talked about a lot of things BUT I have always lived by the rule that what gets said on the run stays on the run. If you want to know what got said then you will need to run with both Erin and I.

(Erin) Haha I agree with the what gets said on the run, stays on the run.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Rocking Rockwell Road Aid Station

Photo credit: Bin.
Manning an aid station at a race is never easy. Manning a main aid station is even tougher!

This year at the You Yangs Trail Run, the hubs and I volunteered to help out at the event. We were assigned an aid station to man and since we've had at least one prior experience, we were fine with it. 

It was a lovely day out at the You Yangs. The weather was brilliant, with just teeny pissy shower that was too weak to wash the grime off weary runners. We forgot to bring foldable chairs/stools as we were rushing that morning (what else is new?) but thankfully there were several rocks nearby which made good seats.

We failed to realise, or keep forgetting, that our aid station was the hub of all activities. We were located at an intersection/crossroad where runners from 80km to 50km to 30km to 15km and 5km would come by our station. Basically, all runners. With runners coming from 3 different directions at times, it was one heck of a party! :)

It never ceases to amaze me how polite participants can be. They thank us for being there that day, and every time someone said, "Thanks for being here today. You're amazing/kind/wonderful!" 

I would fumble a lame reply, like, "No worries, uhh, have a good run! Enjoy your run!"

They are just SO polite!!!!!!
So sweeeeeeeeeeet.
I want to thank them in return, for having such wonderful manners. 
And for being awesome runners!

Kirra was 1st female in the 50KM, finishing in 4:42

Watching the lead packs come through in all seriousness was interesting. Not everyone would stop and refuel, as I suppose they would have done so at other aid stations or have enough in their hydration packs. Besides ours, there were 3 other aid stations along the course (for the 50 and 80km).

Photo credit: Gary.

We enjoyed cheering them on, having the chance to ring our Buffalo Stampede cow bells like crazy. Gary's little bub, Angelena was the star attraction when they were with us for a short period of time. She's a little Mashimaro! :)

There were a lot of happy smiley faces and there were a lot of weary ones, too. Some of the runners looked exhausted and on the verge of collapsing, and some were still smiling even after a long, long day.

One guy had a bloody knee and I offered him a wet wipe/tissue to clean it up but he declined. I felt like a mother hen when I tried insisting, but he firmly declined.

I realised later on that it would be unmanly to clean up a little cut. :)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Runner Profile: Kirsten Maplestone

with Mr Pinchy.
Meet Kirsten a.k.a Kirk, who is a member of the crazy pants gang (if there is such a thing). This tall lass is usually decked in her bright tights when on the run, so you will definitely recognise her from afar. When she's not running, you'll see her volunteering at events. 

Didn't you spot this clown at the Rollercoaster Run this year? Or a mad woman passionately cheering the runners at Buffalo Stampede? :)

Last month, she had the spotlight focused on her when she completed her first marathon ever at the inaugural Surf Coast Trail Marathon. Talk about a huge fanfare! 

1. Ms Funny Crazy Pants, how long have you been running?
I’ve been running on and off for about three years and trail running since September. I was never good at or interested in running and only started as my work did the promoting for a 5k event and paid for our entry. Then a girl at work conned me into Run 4 Kids 14km, then quickly had me signing up for Run Melbourne half marathon (justified by saying it was just another 7kms).

I must admit I got swept into trail running too, I went on a running camp and on my return I signed up with 5 days to go for Leg 1 of Surf Coast Century with a relay team I’d never met before (BONUS I’m still great friends with you/them). SCC scared the heck out of me, battling 21kms of soft and hard sand, running through ocean water up to my waist, slippery mossy rocks and climbing sketchy cliffs with a massive drop below, all while my cheap hydropack was chaffing my back off (I’ve now invested in a quality pack). I had nightmares but signed up to battle it all over again this year for 50km.

2. In this short stint of time, do you believe you have grown as a runner? What are the positive changes you see in yourself?
Well I couldn’t have gotten worse, hahaha. I’ve always been a run/walker and struggled to get my asthma under control when I first started. I’m now finding the breathing easier and can keep a constant pace up for a while. Most of the battles are fought in my mind but I’m a stubborn cow and will NEVER give up. Quitting is not an option for me but I do like a good fight. I experienced a lot of pain as a teenager/young adult (with major jaw and facial surgery) which toughened me up. Maybe too tough as it took me over a week to realise my leg was fractured even when I heard the snap and was in denial.

(The fracture happened in January this year.)

I’ve gradually become more confident in my ability with the help from my friends...it might be a Facebook post, a hug before a race, a message to say I’ve inspired someone to sign up for a marathon (please don’t hate me after), even a special loom made by a friend's child….it all helps to make me stronger. And of course there is the training, you can’t improve without the hard work and qualifying for Two Bays 28km was my turning point. Being in a race with qualifiers and cutoffs was stressful but what an accomplishment. Crossing the line with my six year old niece holding my hand and a giant grin on her face was golden.

Crossing the finish line at Two Bays Run 2014.

3. And the negatives, if any?
Injury. I’d always been jealous of people with crutches and I took it all back when I had to deal with them in January from a fractured fibular (leg). Getting my fitness back was a surprising struggle but has made me more focused. It broke my heart to cancel the solid racing I had planned (Roller Coaster, Buffalo Stampede and North Face 50) but then I discovered volunteering and saw what happens on the ‘other side’ and it has been a blast. I’ve dressed as a clown (one of my greatest fears), strapped a cow bell to me for a whole weekend of cheering and extremely hard work, hung out with international champion runners such as Anna Frost and Dakota Jones and collected life long friends from around Australia who I’ve made plans to run with in the future.

So technically there are no negatives to running.

(Talk about extreme positivity! :D)