Month: March 2010

NUS Biathlon 2010

Race day!

I’d forgotten how much I love competing.  There are always pre-race jitters, but once the gun goes off they turn into smooth strokes and a steady rhythm of stroke-stroke-breathe, stroke-stroke-breathe.  Today’s swim was in a pool (not a lake), and although lengths do not generally have enough variety or interaction to keep me interested, racing is a great motivation to keep going – particularly since that girl in the lane beside me who keeps alternating breast stroke with freestyle is getting a little further ahead with every freestyle length.  The second half takes some digging because I haven’t been swimming very much lately, but I want to get out of the water and 400m really isn’t that far.

As usual, I exit the water with my heart pounding at about 195bpm: for some reason swimming always makes my heart rate spike.  I decide not to push too fast on the slippery deck, particularly since standing suddenly has made me a little unstready.  Transition is effortless with no confusing cycling shoes, and then I’m off on the run.

And what a run it is!  It starts off much easier than usual, mostly because I came out of a pool and not off a bike, so for once my feet do not feel like bricks.  My heart is still under the impression that anything under 185bpm is a bad idea and the hill at the beginning of the route is not helping convince it otherwise.  Little do I know that this so-called “hill” will be the least of my worries on this run.  It quickly gets worse.

After my first real hill I decide that pushing really hard on the way up only makes going down even more painful, and vow to take it easy on the rest of the hills.  As I’m running back down I catch a glimpse of a red jersey on the turn in front of me, and that’s all it takes for me to break my promise and chase her up the next hill.  I gain substantial ground on the slope and subsequent downgrade, then see the halfway-point water station at the top of what has now become a mountain in my eyes.  This is the first (but not last) hill I walk up.

I’ve finally dried off a little from the pool, and am now realizing that running on hilly terrain in 35 degrees and high humidity is very different from my usual racing climate.  My legs are turning to jello and I still have nearly half of the run left; this is what I was worried about.  I am relieved to turn on to a shaded winding road which would be quite relaxing if I wasn’t in so much pain, and again I see a pair in front of me: this time I catch up so quickly I almost run into them around a corner.  I offer a couple words of encouragement (which is always easier when I’m the one doing the passing!) and continue on.  I haven’t seen a single person gaining on me and have passed three others – I’m untouchable!

This euphoria lasts until I round the next bend and see a 45 degree slope rising along yet another hill: how many of these things can they possibly find?! Really, campus is only so big!  I decide that another heart rate spike is not in my best interest and walk up the majority of the climb.  Fortunately this is the last big hill I will have to tackle on this race, and I quickly settle back into the steady jog (probably closer to a limp by this time) that has served me well so far. What goes up must come down, and the next downhill is a flight of stairs which in my opinion should count as torture.  My only objective at this point is to remain (somewhat) standing, and it’s fortunate that I accomplish this because I don’t think I could get back up once I’m down.  After this last feat I surprise myself by finishing the last 300m with relative ease, and if I do say so myself, a very impressive finishing kick!  As I run across the finish line I am intensely aware of how alive I am, and what I have just accomplished.  This is why I race.

I had several impressive results: I finished 8th out of 17 competitors in my group, and I made a new friend.  My first international racing experience was a success!

Breakfast in Malaysia

There’s something about the name “Malaysia” that sounds so exotic to me – it’s one of those places that seems like it’s part fantasy and not completely in the real world.  I think it’s because my only encounter with Malaysia has been at the Toronto Zoo, where the Malaysian pavilion was one we always visited; but I was only familiar with it in the sense I am familiar with the Aztecs: as an abstract concept. Notwithstanding, I have now traveled to Malaysia twice and as a result is has become a real place with real people and politics.  As one of Singapore’s closest neighbours (both politically and spacially), it’s hard to go a day without hearing about some aspect of Malaysian society – in fact, for a brief period of time after independence, Singapore was part of Malaysia.  Goodbye Peter Pan.

My trip to Pulau Penang was very enjoyable, and a little less hectic than when I visited Kuala Lumpur.  Penang is a reasonably sized island in northern peninsular Malaysia, and its capital is the very British-sounding Georgetown.  The architecture matches the name and with the exception of the Buddhist temples and Muslim mosques scattered throughout the city, it is like visiting a little piece of Europe instead.  Dad and I stayed at a very modern and friendly hostel named Hutton Lodge, and spent the first day walking all over Georgetown to see the various sights and attractions.  On day two we had a relaxing breakfast (which lasted until lunch time) then hit the malls for some shopping before flying back to Singapore in the evening.  The cost of these little trips continues to amaze me – we spent less than $100 each on the entire two day trip, including all transportation, flights, lodging, shopping and food.  Nowhere else can you experience so much for so little.

St. Patrick’s Day

Although St. Patrick’s Day is not really celebrated by Singaporeans, a bunch of us managed to find an Irish pub to celebrate in.  O’Bama’s Irish Pub is most certainly named after President Obama, and the crowd was mainly ex-pats and tourists – the most white people I have seen in once place since I got here!  It was a very enjoyable evening sitting on a patio and drinking Irish beer.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

The Local Experience

Last night I had the opportunity to see some of the sights in Singapore with some local students working on a school project; their goal was to help a group of people in some way, and they chose exchange and international students as their target group.  They chose six foreign students to tour Singapore with, and everyone was very helpful and shared a lot of knowledge and perspectives that are hard to get without talking to a local.  I feel like I got to know Singapore better in a single evening than I have for the two and a half months I’ve been here already, and made more than a few friends with both the local and foreign students.

This is where our tour ended - along the Singapore river.

Part of the experience was doing interviews on what this meant to me, and how it impacted my stay in Singapore; they will be putting everything into a 7 minute video for the class, and I will get a copy (or access to one).  I’ll be joining them again Wednesday morning for some day activities, and some more excellent company!

French Toast

Surprisingly, some of the best french toast I have ever had is at an engineering cafe on NUS campus.  Seriously, this stuff is amazing – there are two pieces of bread, about 6 eggs and everything is covered in syrup.  Probably not the healthiest way to start the day, but it creates some otherwise nonexistent motivation to get to school on a Monday morning.

The rest of my day is set to be significantly disppointing in comparison – linear systems homework is about as exciting as it sounds (i.e. NOT AT ALL) but unfortunately it won’t finish itself and must be handed in on Friday.  I’m still a little sore from my 10km run yesterday, which turned out to be quite nice since it was drizzling for the majority of the time and hence was not stiflingly hot as usual.  It feels great to be working out regularly again, and it also helps the greasy food decide that my tummy and hips are not the best place to live.

Happy Monday! (if that’s what you call it)

Posts from HK, Macau and Vietnam

While I was away on my recess week tour, I wrote several entries in a journal I haven’t gotten around to posting until now.  If you scroll down to the entries between February 14th and 19th you can get a glimpse of what my trip was like.

Lazy Mornings in the Tropics

The fact that I can even write an entry with this title is exciting!  Hmm, let me catch my train of thought again…

I’ve had several late nights in the past few days, two because of school work and one due to a huge international student party.  Wednesday night was spent with a couple of my roomates and friends at Home Club, a party with attendance by international and exchange students from National University of Singapore, Singapore Polytechnic and Nanyang Technological University to name a few.  Needless to say, it has not been all work and no fun while in Singapore!  Unfortunately, I had to buckle down on Thursday and since then have spent the majority of two days working on a major robotics project (you can imagine my face as I say this).

After working so hard in the latter part of the week I decided Saturday would be my one day off, which leads me to the title of this post.  I slept in this morning, and decided to stay in bed and read for an hour or two before getting up; I haven’t accomplished anything significant since then and I plan to continue this trend for the remainder of the day.  I’m contemplating a trip to Chinatown, but for now I am content to revel in the absence of work.

It’s Raining, it’s Pouring…

I woke up to a slow steady rainfall this morning, which is uncharacteristic for Singapore.  It seemed like the perfect opportunity for a cool relaxed run, and that guess turned out to be right.  I started out along my usual route, which takes me either 2.7km or 5.4km depending on whether or not I take the shortcut, and enjoyed the gentle rainfall which turned to huge drops as I ran under the trees along the sidewalk.  The back road was quiet since school had already started for the day and the winding road is an inefficient route for those still on their way to work.  I got soaked as I brushed up against some low-hanging branches, but the cool water was a welcome relief from even the moderate heat of the morning.  As I reached the 2.5km mark I turned around and retraced my footsteps home.

Settling In…Still

My goodness, such a busy month has gone by! My trip to Hong Kong, Macau and Vietnam was fantastic, as you may have inferred if you have been checking out my photos. Hong Kong and Macau were rainy and cold – well, cold if you call 8 degrees cold; I’ve been spoiled with all the nice weather in Singapore. Vietnam was much warmer and I had a great time exploring Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and the surrounding areas for a week. I met several Australians (I swear they’re taking over Vietnam) and even started picking up an Australian accent! It was a great learning and personal growth experience and inspired me to travel more in the future.

I’ve settled into a great routine in Singapore, and have met a few more friends through classes and mutual interests. I now have a swimming buddy from Switzerland, Fransetiska, and several American friends, Kathleen and Katrina in other classes. I’m also getting to the pool two or three times a week, running twice a week and yoga/pilates on Thursdays. I got adventurous on Sunday and tried to make it through the P90X yoga video; I didn’t even complete half of the workout before my muscles gave out, and I’ve been sore all over ever since. Lesson learned: start new workouts slowly, even if it seems easy!

I’m starting to accelerate my training as the 2010 triathlon season looms closer – I have registered for the Gravenhurst tri on July 18, and will be fundraising for the Ride for Heart in June (click here to sponsor me). Simcoe Shores 240km ultra-relay will be held in August, and I will be running 30km for my team. I’ve heard great things about this event!

That’s all for now, talk to you soon!