Friendly hills in parks around Selangor/KL

For this week I decided to try something different and hit some elevation instead. This will hopefully make me a stronger runner to hit the hills and add variety to my training plan.

Day 1: Bukit Sapu Tangan, Taman Botani Shah Alam

Total elevation: 230m

Total distance: 6km (Entrance – peak – entrance)

Difficulty level: 2/5 (Very easy)

In a bid to encourage my colleagues to adopt a healthier lifestyle and support my employer’s outdoor event, I found myself back in Taman Botani Shah Alam again for a “hike” at Bukit Sapu Tangan. Disclaimer: “Hike” is a relative term here – If you have been running or a fairly fit person this small hill is very easy.

Riada pants are perfect for leisurely walks like this

Riada pants are perfect for leisurely walks like this

After some quick warm up we proceeded to walk towards Bukit Sapu Tangan. It was still drizzling, and since the route was paved most people walked with their umbrellas too. Some of my colleagues brought their children along too, as the route was kid-friendly.

What I love most about Taman Botani Shah Alam is that you tend to forget that you are still in the city.

After about 1.8km of walking, we reached the peak. It was easy. Unfortunately, there used to be a lookout post at the peak where you can see the whole city of Shah Alam but that facility has fallen into a sad state of disrepair.

No entry to the look out post

Day 2: Gunung Nuang

Total elevation: 1072m (Entrance – Pacat – Entrance), 301m (Entrance – 3km – Entrance)

Total distance: 16.65km + 6km

Difficulty level: 4/5 (Challenging)

Gunung Nuang has always been my favourite place to train for trail runs. Trail runs are never flat and straight, and some routes are technical, and Gunung Nuang provides the perfect terrain and distance to train for trail runs.

Gunung Nuang was challenging, as always. Despite conquering the peak for 3 times, it never gets easier. Mother Nature always throws unexpected challenges along the way, such as rain, fog, and temperature. I have learnt that this is a part of trail runs, which is one of the main reasons why there are loads of mandatory items when entering a trail run event.

Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the peak as it was slippery and muddy from the rain. After lunch, we descended from Kem Pacat and make our way back to the entrance point. After a quick change of clothes and prayer break, we continued another small 6km loop from the entrance point. So total mileage for that day was around 23km.

A friend we made on our way down

We spotted a bamboo collector. He will sell these to ‘lemang’ stalls for less than RM1 per bamboo

Embracing elevation at Gunung Nuang

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My partner had no idea what she got herself into when she agreed to go on a hike with me!

People hike for various reasons. Some love breathing in the fresh air, some enjoy the meditative feeling of being close to nature, or some are addicted to the thrill and exhilaration of a strenuous sport. I, on the other hand, learnt how to embrace elevation.

Hate it or love it, hills and slopes are a part of any run regardless of the distance. A few hundred metres of elevation adds challenge and fun to a run, however, a few thousand metres that I will encounter in my next ultramarathon is a different league of its own.

Running in loops at the base of Gunung Nuang, that I affectionately call as Nuang loops (from the entrance up to the first checkpoint before Camp Lolo) is my favourite spot for trail runs because of its elevation and long stretch of uphills and downhills. Since this is the last week of training before Cameron Ultra, I decided to go all the way to the peak, giving myself 2 weeks to recover if anything goes wrong. At 1493 metres, it is the highest peak in Selangor, providing the perfect spot for some last minute elevation training.

What we plan to accomplish for that day.

What we plan to accomplish for that day.

We hiked up at about 7am and reached the peak of Gunung Nuang at about 12.45pm. Overall, it took us about 10 hours of hiking from Pangsun entrance – Peak – Pangsun entrance. While still in Nuang loops area, I proceeded to run-walk to the first checkpoint, Camp Lolo, because it is the easiest part of the hike. The real ‘fun’ begins after Camp Lolo. The distance between each checkpoints are reducing, but the route was getting more challenging. From the starting point to the peak, it was around 10-12km. It was definitely not a hike for beginners. Not to mention that it was drizzling too, so the ground was muddy and slippery. Personally, I found the hardest portion of the journey was between Camp Pacat and Puncak Pengasih. There was a lot of natural obstacles such as big rocks and fallen tree trunks that required using all 4 of my limbs. It was also very steep, so I had to use a lot of my quads to push myself up (strength training was slowly paying off!).

This was just the beginning

This was just the beginning

The second hardest portion for me was going down. I confess that I am scared of heights, so the sight of a really big gap forced me to get down on my bum and slowly slide down until I trust my footing. However, once I gained the rhythm and technique, I jumped and ran down at every opportunity possible. I was also rushing to get back to Camp Lolo for Zohor prayers. It resulted in a few miscalculated landings, but hey, what is hiking without a few bruises and cuts.

What goes up, must come down. The question is now HOW do I get down???

What goes up, must come down. The question is now HOW do I get down???

Resting and zohor prayers at Camp Lolo before we head back to the starting point. There is a waterfall and stream, perfect for washing up and ablutions. Previous campers also left tarps and kiblat indicators.

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Resting and zohor prayers at Camp Lolo before we head back to the starting point. There is a waterfall and stream, perfect for washing up and ablutions. Previous campers also left tarps and kiblat indicators.

Now I understand why hikers like to subject themselves to the ‘pain’ – there is an indescribable sense of accomplishment once you complete the trek, and it’s a addictive. While nursing your legs in pain, you find yourself wondering which mountain or hill to scale in the nearest time. You just want to go on and on. Runners, does that sound familiar?

Until next week,

The Weekend Runner.

Pink 50 Ultramarathon

A friend once said “Never trust a runner. If he/she said that we won’t do it again or won’t be running just as fast, you know they are lying”.

 

I wasn’t lying when I said I was done with loops when I ran my first [incomplete] full marathon. But a few days later I when heard that there will be a female-only ultramarathon, I knew that I just had to sign up for it. Plus, a part of me wanted redemption for not being able to complete a looped full marathon. Initially, I signed up for the 50km solo category, which required me to run 17 loops of 3km (17 X 3KM = 51KM), but as the event date approaches a male friend of mine decided to run with me, so we upgraded to the 100km duo category (each participant will run 50km) because that’s the only category that allows male participants.

 

My ultramarathon objective is simple: Just finish the race within the cut off time of 9 hours. To be able to do that, I must prepare myself physically and mentally. For first timers like me, it is advisable to clock in at least 200km in one month before the race, and run at least 30-40km one week before race day so your feet is used to moving slowly but consistently over long distances. All of that training will wear you out, you will feel exhausted even before race day! So spend at least 1 week before the race tapering and resting. Most importantly, you have to come to the race mentally prepared. It is going to be hot, at 42°C there is nothing else that keeps you going except your inner motivation. It is going to hurt, but keep telling your mind to fight through the pain. Like 2 straight lines moving together, both mental and physical preparation must be parallel to able to finish an ultramarathon.

 

My ultramarathon strategy is equally simple too: Run 30KM continuously at a very comfortable pace (8:00 – 8:30 min/km), then power walk (10:30 – 11:30 min/km) for the rest of the way. I was glad that the training paid off. When boredom or negative thoughts started to kick in, I turned up my music or randomly chatted to other participants. There is an encouraging vibe to a women-friendly event, I even made new friends along the way! To avoid wasting precious time, I had to refrain myself from stopping too long at the checkpoint. All I did was quickly drank some water or Coke, refill my bottle, or mix my hydration tab or Gatorade powder, and grab a quick snack, all in less than 3 minutes.

 

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I think my partner’s shirt almost matches my top. True to it’s Ultra name, this top is highly recommended for long distance running. It is bright to minimize heat absorption, evaporates sweat quickly, and very light.

 

IMG_2870The familiar faces that greeted me at the finishing line.

 

IMG_2863Congratulations for finishing 3rd! You go, girl! Oh and the 2 faces behind me and on my right requires no introduction, right? 🙂

 

IMG_2852This medal is for my family who have never doubted my capabilities, my official and unofficial pacers during the event, Nashata for always keeping me covered, late night training sessions, pre-dawn LSDs,  support crew for coming to cheer, messages of encouragement, well wishers, and advisors. Thank you for being a part of my ultramarathon journey.

 

In the end, I completed all 17 loops in under 9 hours, thankfully without any major injuries or cramps. There was the usual muscle fatigue and soreness the next day, but that is normal. I expect to start running again in less than one week, and hopefully I am at least 80% recovered by then. So, what’s next for me? Would I do it all over again if I had to?

Until next week,

The Weekend Runner.

The Perfect Workout for Your Fitness Goals

When people think of diet and exercise, weight loss is usually the first thing that comes to mind. However, there are countless reasons why people engage in a healthy lifestyle and weight loss is just one of the reasons. People may decide to take up exercise to build strength or muscle, to get faster, to improve overall health, or even as a means of socialization and keeping busy. Whatever your aim may be you need a proper workout plan that will help you reach your specific goal most effectively.

One Size Fits All

Here are the best ways to reach five of the most common fitness goals.

 

Goal: Weight Loss

Plan of action: When it comes to losing weight and keeping it off, there’s a lot to think about. It is recommended to dedicate 3-6 days a week to cardio for 30-60 minutes. It’s also a good idea to incorporate strength training into your routine about 3 times per week. Building lean muscle tissue will aid in the fat-burning process.

If you really want to burn a lot of fat but don’t have the extra time HIIT workouts can take as little as 8-20 minutes. It involves short bursts of energy followed by an active rest period. Examples of HIIT workouts are sprinting and plyometrics.

 

Goal: Build Muscle/Strength

Plan of action: Although I’ve grouped muscle building and strength building together they are actually two different goals. While both goals call for resistance training, muscle builders are training for size while strength builders are training for strength and endurance.

In general, muscle building requires lighter weight as you should be lifting one to six sets of eight to 12 repetitions. Building strength requires lifting heavier weights for less repetitions. A strength goal should incorporate one to five sets of weights for one to eight repetitions.

 

Goal: Overall Health

Plan of action: Some people neither want to gain nor lose weight but aim to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In order to maintain a healthy weight/lifestyle one should workout 3-5 times per week and should mix it up between cardio and strength training. Lean muscle helps to burn fat even while at rest so strength training is great tool to keeping your body in maintenance mode. Cardio can be anything you enjoy like walking, running, biking, swimming, yoga, etc.

 

Goal: Increase Speed

Plan of action: If you want to increase your running speed whether it’s for a 5k, a mud run or a marathon, consider adding specific drills into your routine. Sometimes people think that if they want to run a faster mile they should train by always running a mile until it gets faster. But the real way to amp up your speed it to switch up your routine. Try adding some sprinting and strengthening drills into your normal running regimen like sprints, pushups, lunges and squats. Drills can be added in as part of a dynamic warm-up, they can be added after your regular run, or you can even dedicate a few sessions per week just to drills.

Goal: Socialization

Plan of action: If you want to get your workout in all the while interacting with others, try a gym membership. Group fitness classes are a great way to interact with others who share similar interests. Many times you will see the same people attending the same classes so it’s easy to get to know each other. Not to mention the motivational atmosphere of ‘all being in it together’ really helps give you that extra push.

 

Goal: Stress Relief

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Plan of action: First you have to figure out what relieves your stress. Some people might benefit from light yoga classes that involve meditation and relaxation, while others may find that a sweaty kickboxing class really helps them to take the edge off. You may even benefit from a mix of both. Take one or two days a week to engage in relaxation and take another few days to attend a kickboxing class and let it all out on the bag.

 

 

 

If you feel you have been putting everything into your workout but are not seeing that outcome you would like, it may be that you are not training the right way for your specific goal. I hope this post can help to shed some light on the different methods of training that go along with different goals.

 

 

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