Saturday, April 27, 2013

Weekend #8: The Longest Night Run

The NightHawks were all excited about doing their longest run to date, and a night one to boot.  Along with the Kookaburras who are into their 3rd week of training program, the trainees gathered at the MacRitchie Reservoir (MR) Amenities Centre with their respective pace group trainers and guides on what was a relatively cool evening.

The training briefing was kept short to get the run underway as we expected a long night of pounding the pavement and connectors.  This being the 8th session of Ops NightHawk, the participants were all too familiar with their respective training groups and objectives, including the target paces they would be training at.  With all the blinking lights and watches set, we were flagged off in our respective groups and headed in the direction of Pierce Reservoir Road.

It was great to see that most participants had hydration and fuel belts on them, and we didn't spot a single headphone on any of the trainees - good observance of the night safety training protocol.  The run along Thomson Road, Pierce Reservoir Road, Old Upper Thomson Road (OUTR) was pretty smooth with the good marshaling by the Pacers and Running Guides.

The Kookaburra HM were the ones to U-turn first at the end of OUTR (to/fro 16km).   The rest of the groups proceeded on along Upper Thomson Road and then Sembawang Road.  The NightHawk HM were the next ones to turn back at the Sembawang Road/Mandai Ave junction (to/fro of 21km).  

The NightHawk and Kookaburra FM proceeded along Mandai Ave, still pacing along nicely in their respective groupings.  Kookaburra FM made a turn at the SLE flyover (to/fro 25km) with their respective guides, leaving the bulk of the NightHawk groups to go along the connector along Mandai Road all the way to the turn into the Zoo.  

A few groups took some nice photos at the U-turn (to/fro 32km) point where there were mock animals with a large billboard display, to demonstrate that they had made it to the extreme point of the night's training.  Target Marathon Pace (MP) were well maintained by the runners all the way on the return.  It was not till 25km that some of the runners were feeling the effects of low glycogen stores and insufficient hydration.

The Pacers and Guides made a few quick stops for the runners to get drinks from the stores - a run-saver as it allowed the effects of the marathon 'wall' to be delayed. enabling the runners to continue to sustain their paces for more km.

The run back along OUTR was one of quiet and calm in the serenity of the night.  Flanked on both sides by forests, it was cool and away from the bustle of the road traffic.  Running along this stretch in groups certainly help the trainees to push through the 'mental' states as well as offering good company and safety.

A final quick pitstop was made at the Pierce Reservoir toilet, before finishing the final 4km back the the MR Amenities Centre.  It was sweet relief and a great sense of satisfaction for many of us to have made the night's objectives (21km-35km distances @ MP), and we might not have done it without the good leadership of the group Trainers and Pacers coupled with cool, crisp weather.

The NightHawks have completed their longest run in good shape.  The next run will see them going for the maximum of 35km (FM) before the tapering phase sets in.  The Kookaburras did well in their basebuild mission, and they too will be looking forward to face-face group LSD with Team FatBird in a fortnight.

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Weekend #7: Sundown Lead Up Run #2

With the first successful Sundown Lead Up Run in March, lots of interest were generated after the runners enjoyed themselves thoroughly.  So, it is with no surprise that we received news that registrations for Lead Up Run #2 was closed way ahead because of very good response.

 More than 300 participants showed up bright and early at The Playground @ Big Splash for Lead Up Run #2.  Additional tents, hydration, bananas, resources were prepared in anticipation of the large crowd, which went away very satisfied with the long run at Marathon Pace.  

The weather was warm but that did not stop the enthusiastic Half Marathon (HM) and Full Marathon (FM) participants from pursuing the morning's objectives of 21km and 30km respectively.  The dedicated Sundown Ambassadors (Pacers) were all prepared to accept their biggest challenge to date - pacing, marshaling and motivating the large moving groups of runners to train at regulated paces according to their respective pace timings.

While there were many repeat runners joining us for the 2nd Lead Up after their very good experience with the first, there was also the fair share of new participants joining in for the very first time.  Regardless, they all melded as one with the Pacers once they were flagged off to the sounds of the air-horn, just after the group photos at start line were snapped.

The first 3km stretch towards Fort Road was always filled with merry runners chit-chatting, getting to know one another, and interspersed with loud cheers and applause as each of the groups pass one another.  As the lead up runners, averaging 50-70 in each pace grouping ran along, they looked like tight units in formation, running tall and with pride to achieve what they have set out to do.

The runners kept to the pedestrian pathways as much as possible for safety reasons, and although there were some minor slowdown at certain spots due to the crowd, the Sundown Pacers were able to bring their groups back to target average paces.  The weather grew from warm to HOT, with Brother Sun rearing its full head by 8am...and he burned all the way through to 11am, the cutoff time imposed for this distance (to avoid overtraining), especially in such temperatures.

The Maxinutrition hydration point at Extreme Skate Park was strategically placed to cater to both the HM and FM participants to benefit from its Viper drinks at least 2-3 times.  It was well stocked and manned with water all poured out into cups, ready for the runners to just pick up, drink and continue, without losing much time and keeping to a smooth momentum.  

Along the way, runners had opportunities to take quick technical halts at one of the many toilet stops along the way to cool their bodies with water from the taps.  The U-Turn Point at NSRCC was the next point where the groups crossed paths with one another, and again, words and applause of encouragement were given to keep the motivation and spirits high.

The runners maintained good paces, while aiming for the 17km mark where they would see the Maxinutrition hydration point again.  After the top-up, the groups regained some lost power because of the heat to head for the Playground again to complete 21.5km - a good achievement for the HM runners definitely.  

Bananas and 100Plus were served well by the big HiVelocity crew who were the first to be on location to set up, and the last to leave the place after the tear-down - thanks for all the organization, support and management of the entire Sundown Lead Up Run series.

The satisfied HM runners went on for some trials of the compression boots to get quick and effective relief of their tired and achy legs.  The FM runners, after refuel with bananas and 100Plus, went on for their final loop of 4-9km at target pace to eventually complete the training run of 25-30km by 11am.  With the spot-on pacing and some neat timekeeping by the Sundown Pacers, most of the runners were brought back to The Playground within the cutoff and in good form, in spite of the soaring temperatures.

This Sundown Lead Up Run #2 was a good success.  Feedback from the majority of the 300 participants were very positive and many were already booked for the final Lead Up Run #3 on May 5.  The Organizer in getting many requests for an earlier start, have kindly agreed to change the start time to 6:30am on May 5.  We will be looking at doing 21km for HM and 32km for FM, in what will be a good test of the runners' abilities to maintain paces past their respective 'wall-hitting' limits.

Sundown Marathon 2013
Show Your True Colours!

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Official Photos by Sundown Organizer (HiVelocity)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Weekend #6: Clearing The Coastal Challenge

Although the weather was looking dismal, a good group of enthusiastic runners were already registering their attendance and having a couple of group pics to warm things up.  

With some effort, we managed to get the large group for the training and route briefing, at the same time providing intelligence updates of the group of Infantry 'patrolling' along the main Changi Coastal axis for their advance into the Floating Platform for their POP mission.

The run alongside the serene Changi Beach was rather refreshing, and a sight to behold with all the flashing and blinking of headlights and other light sources coming off the Pacers and trainees.

The target was to hold a sustainable target Marathon Pace (MP) for the 21km and 28km distances for the various pace groupings, and to build up a good foundation and base to eventually tackle the entire Half or Full Marathon distances at the Sundown Marathon.  

When we reached the Changi Coastal axis after about 3km, we ran smack into the long lines of Infantry POPers (Passing Out Paraders) executing their mission finale.  They were organized to afford a narrow, but passable access for our we ran pass the lines, there were lots of encouragement for our runners from the friendly troopers.  It was quite entertaining to listen to the troops singing along to keep motivation levels high, and that perked our own flock to fly at very good paces as we headed towards the NSRCC.

The Trainers and Pacers were working overtime to lead and guide the flocks of Kookaburras and NightHawks along the mentally-challenging Changi Coastal route all the way to their respective U-turn points at NSRCC (21km) and ECP F2 (28km).  Because of the dark areas of our advance routes, the extra lighting and observance of night running protocols helped us to attain the smooth paces we were targeting.

The return onto the Changi Coastal axis provided the final 'killer' touch to the training as the mentally-drained runners were fighting the zzz-monsters as well as fatigue along that LONG and LONELY stretch.  There was just too much temptation to slow down, and even walk.  If not for the groups running together, it would be difficult for many of the runners to keep up with their target paces.

There were delightful faces at the Changi Beach toilet point where the runners finally got out from that 'challenging' stretch to get a good breather in that humid weather.  It was close to 11pm, and with 3km to the end point, the runners had to make one final mental push to get their machinery moving towards completion.  TRAIN HARD, RACE EASY is what we always hope for our trainees to attain - overcoming the different challenges during training will put us in good stead for an easier but fruitful race day.  

Everyone received cheers at the end as they crossed the finish of the night's training, and recorded with pride their distances and timings covered.  It was definitely a hard day at the office, but it brought a sense of satisfaction to many of the trainees and trainers as well, knowing that we put in our best efforts to prepare for and eventually complete well the training.

The NightHawks will advance into week #7 with the Sundown Lead Up Run #2 (21km, 30km) as an intermediate trials of sorts, and it will be interesting to see how their foundation will take them to sustain MP for 30km (a point where the 'wall' will be seen for many runners in a marathon).  

NightHawks, NightHawks, Cleared The Test!
NightHawks, NightHawks, You're The Best!

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

NightHawks At The Hills

The massive CTE traffic snarl and the threat of a thunderstorm could not stop the more than 100 NightHawks from showing up at Mt. Faber ClubHouse for what would be our first visit in the Program to the famous hillslopes of the Western Region.

Kevin gave a good brief of the morning's training objectives and routes, followed by the customary Group Shot before the various Pace Groups were dispatched along the rolling hills into Labrador Park for the main menu.

Most of the trainees have come into this 5th week of training with a stronger base than when they first started with the Program, allowing them to tackle the slopes with better confidence while knowing to keep reserves in them for the main workout.  For many of them, Labrador Park have always meant to be a place for family and tourist activities, leisurely walks and BBQ parties, rather than for the conduct of training workouts.

As the respective groups went with their Pace Leaders into the figure-of-8 routines, they soon realize that the lush but undulating terrain of the area present interesting workouts while offering much eye candy in the form of scenic forest and ocean views.  Training as a group also meant that the workouts meant more fun rather than drudgery, surprising most with their ability to complete the 60-90min moderate-intensity training objective.

Once out of Labrador Park, the runners continued on with the remaining part of the training, a dessert of continuing slopes from the Kampong Bahru side before arriving back to Start Point.  The HM trainees were happy to call it close with 17.5km in their meters, while the FM trainees went on for another 5km loop to round off training with 25km-28km total distance covered, depending on Pace Groups.

With the increasing distances and challenges of the Program as we make progress, there will be more instances of tightness of muscles due to the increasing mileage and paces being covered, leading to potential risks of injury if not properly addressed with R.I.C.E. treatment after each training run.  It is also important to space out workouts to avoid the perils of over-training, and worse, over-racing (for those who have an interest to participating in the ever increasing number of races every weekend).

To that, our NightHawk Trainers and Pacers will continue to remind our trainees to stretch themselves well after training runs, go for Deep Tissue massages for very tight/knotted muscles causing aches, Myofascial Massage for some self-help in releasing those knotted areas and relieving tension, as well as seek advise from respected authorities when there are  issues that need to be addressed.

With rest and recovery built into our training program and weekly schedules, we cannot emphasize enough the need for adaptive recovery for our bodies to strengthen and improve form the hard workouts and endurance runs that we do weekly, leading all the way to race night.  

As we move into Week 6 of the NightHawk Program, we will be honing in to our target marathon paces during training, and ensuring that the target paces are able to be sustained by each and everyone of the trainees for their respective marathon targets.  We are confident to bring all to 95% confidence levels at the start line on race night, leaving them to just go out and perform what they have been training to do, and getting the results that have been very consistent with all past cohorts of the Program.  

NightHawks, NightHawks, Will Not Rest,
NightHawks, NightHawks, Be The Best!

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