25 November 2010

The Thing About Running Is... It Effing Hurts.

Last weekend (well, 10 days ago now - time seems to have gotten away from me again in that delightful way that it has) I ran in a race.  Not a big race, mind you - nothing that would inspire an epic 7-month training regimen and an underdog-makes-good video montage set to the Chariots of Fire soundtrack.  Just a little race: 12 kilometers.

This was not my first Singapore race: about a month ago, I ran in a 10K (Mizuno Something Or Other).  It sucked, but not as badly as I thought it would.  Or maybe I was just hallucinating from the heat and blacked out all the bad parts.  It's definitely possible that, in my postrace jungle-humidity-drenched fever dreams, I somehow decided that I had won that race and was now invincible.  At any rate, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to DO.  IT.  AGAIN.  So I did.  Only this time, I upped the ante to 12, count 'em, 12, kilometers.  I know.  I live on the edge.  For the non-metrically inclined, that's 7.45 miles.

This race was held at MacRitchie Reservoir, which was part of the reason why I chose it: an easy way to get to see a part of the island I might not otherwise drag myself to (it is in no way close to our house and I am phenomenally lazy).  It was also sponsored by Salomon, which I thought was cool because I think I used to own a pair of their shoes once.  Maybe.

The morning of the race dawned: dark, damp, hot.  Yes, even at 6:30 am here, it is not cool.  I don't care what the locals try to tell you.  The temperature here - at all hours - resembles nothing so much as being stuck in a steam room with the door locked.  I was sweating before I got to the bus stop.

The following is a list of things I learned, and pithy observations I made, during this race (helpfully recorded on my iPhone on the bus ride back for posterity):

Lesson #1: When the race website says that the race will be a "trail run," this means that there will be an uninterrupted 4K of uphill on a 4-foot wide trail.

Uphill.  Please note that I am not an asshole like the one I so eloquently excoriate in Lesson #9; all of these photos were taken by race photographers.  So they get all the credit/blame.

Lesson #2: When the race website says that the race will be an "out-and-back," this means the race officials will not have notified hikers that there is a FREAKING RACE on the trail that morning, so in addition to running single file UP, and dodging the super-fast runners coming DOWN, the average runner (read: me and 5,000 of my new best friends) will have to navigate around curious (and delightfully slow!) day-hikers out for a morning stroll.  And did I mention the 4-foot-wide trail?

Lesson #3: When the race course is described in the race packet materials as a "difficult hiking trail," it would probably be best to train on hills beforehand.  At least a little.  In fact, it would probably be advisable to investigate the race packet a bit sooner than the night before the race.

Lesson #4: When the race program says that the men's race starts "promptly at 7:30" and that the women's race starts "promptly at 7:35," with a firm cutoff for both of 9:30 am, what it really means is that the mens's race starts promptly at 7:30 and the women's race starts at 7:55, and oops, I guess you ladies don't have that extra half hour after all, so you'd better move your asses.

Ladies' start.  Only a few minutes late...

Lesson #5: Wear a poncho, because there's a lot of close-range spitting going on up in here.

Lesson #6: Bring your own water.  Apparently Singaporeans are truly accustomed to running in jungle heat, because there were only 2 water stops.

Lesson #7: When running uphill in a single-file line because the trail is too narrow for more than 1 person to run in each direction, please yield to oncoming traffic.  If you do not, I WILL CRUSH YOU.

Lesson #8: When running uphill in a single-file line because the trail is too narrow for more than 1 person to run in each direction, please do not pass someone only to slow down to a walk directly in front of that person.  If you do this, I WILL CRUSH YOU.

Lesson #9: When running uphill in a single-file line because the trail is too narrow for more than 1 person to run in each direction, please do not pass someone only to slow down, stop, turn around, and start taking pictures of your friends coming up the trail behind you.  If you do this, I WILL CRUSH YOU.

Lesson #10: When running uphill in a single-file line because the trail is too narrow for more than 1 person to run in each direction, and if you are faster than I am, please find a way around or wait for a gap instead of elbowing me out of the way to pass me only to immediately slow down because we just came to another soul-crushing hill.  If you do this, I WILL CRUSH YOU.

Lesson #11: If there is a guy with a prosthetic leg in the race with you, it is always best to sprint past him at the finish line.

Lesson #12: Bring your own water (see Lesson #6, above), bananas, energy gels, carbs, etc. for the end of the race, because although the helpful and nice race officials waste no time in handing out finisher's medals, they don't seem to put as much stock in providing sustenance for exhausted racers dragging themselves across the finish line because they pushed themselves too hard at the end sprinting past the one-legged guy.  Sure, the medal is awesome, but can it cure heatstroke?  If I eat my medal, will it prevent me from stripping off my shirt and wringing droplets of sweat into my mouth in a desperate (and, some might say, humiliating) attempt to replenish my sodium levels?  I ask you.

 Finish: nary a water bottle in sight.

All that said, however, the race volunteers were lovely and helpful and encouraging, and it was certainly a beautiful course.  MacRitchie has some great trails, and I'm hoping to be able to get back there to hike (rather than run) some of them soon.  I'd just rather look like THIS at the end:

Middle girl: Yeah, I'm happy and ridiculously fit!  That wasn't a run, it was just me turning over in my sleep!  (Coincidentally, the guy on the left is the one with the prosthetic leg.)


 Ugh.  Why?  WHY??  Oh, the humanity!  Screw it, I'm walking.

Did I mention I got a medal?  Yeah, I'm cool.  If you're nice to me I'll let you try it on and take inappropriate photos with it.

11 November 2010

Happy Deepavali... to you...

The Indian holiday of Deepavali (also called Diwali) was last Friday.  In an attempt to be somewhat culturally aware of the most important annual festival for Singapore's third-largest population, I did myself a little research.  Turns out Diwali is actually a pretty complicated holiday.  I'm not going to go into great detail, but here are some fun facts I put together about this colorful, noisy, and crowded popular event.

Fun Fact No. 1: Diwali marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year and celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness.  It is celebrated by lighting clay oil lamps, visiting family, making offerings, and eating special foods.

Fun Fact No. 2: Diwali decorations include dangling shiny things, mango leaves hung in doorways, aromatic garlands, and... Ganesh (obvi):

Fun Fact No. 3: Everyone buys new clothes during this time.  Too bad i have no idea how to wear this stuff without it looking like a Halloween costume (or a bizarrely inappropriate and offensive Hindu Barbie).

Fun Fact No. 4: in the days leading up to the holiday (which is actually about 5 days long), everyone goes out to party, light firecrackers, toss confetti, and generally hang out with 100,000 of their closest friends.

Fun Fact No. 5: Henna tattooing is also popular at this time.

Fun Fact No. 6: There are a lot of interesting odors in Little India during Diwali: smoke from fireworks, incense, sweet jasmine, freshly cooked curry, spicy snack crackers, discarded food offerings, and, oh yeah, thousands of sweaty people crammed like sardines into Mustafa Centre and the Festival Market.  People!  Have you never heard the term fire hazard?

Fun Fact No. 7: Little India is one of my favorite parts of Singapore.  In addition to being probably the most authentic "ethnic" district in this (mostly sterile and largely personality-free) city/island/nation, it's also the most interesting.  There are always lots of people around, moving, fetching, building, praying, eating, buying.  The word "bustling" comes to mind.  It's got dilapidated (well, dilapidated for Singapore) buildings, stray cats, random groups of men chilling on sidewalks eating lunch and listening to Hindu pop on their portable radios, about a zillion great Indian vegetarian restaurants, stores selling $3 blue jeans and sandals, crazy-looking gold jewelry, stalls selling nothing but bindis and sequins, and of course the colorful ziggurat-topped temples with their riotously writhing statues of gods, goddesses, and... cattle.  It just feels like a real place (albeit kinda surreal as well), which is pretty much awesome.

* This particular temple is actually in Chinatown, but i like this photo because it shows the cows, gods, AND a blue sky.  =)

Fun Fact No. 8: In preparation for Diwali, Hindu families spend weeks cleaning and renovating their homes.  I actually got kind of excited about this particular tradition, because I figured I could use it as an excuse to get Husband on board with a full-scale apartment master cleanse (I'm anal that way), but all I really got was him, standing in the middle of the kitchen, holding a broom and looking confused.

Husband: What's this?

Me: A broom.  Don't pretend.

Husband (still pretending): I don't understand.

Me: We need to clean all the things.

Husband (eyes widening): Clean ALL the things?

Sorry, Kids, No Jack-o-Lanterns This Year

And this is why we didn't carve pumpkins for Halloween in Singapore: