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.