Saturday, 26 July 2008

Everything SBR

I decided to give my blog a new look... and a new title. Instead of Happiness is a state of mind (which sounds more like an advertisement for alternative health treatment), I have decided to name it something more tri related. I'm not less happy... my mind in general, is mostly in a happy state. Just that most of my postings relate to triathlons, thought I'd better give it a more relevant title. So here's to my new looking blog, My TRIals in Life... Lil' sis did a splendid job with the banner... as I am hopeless with these things. Thanks sis, really appreciate it!

For the past two weeks, I have been volunteering myself as a lab rat for a UWA exercise science experiment (until my fingers are now numb from the blood samples extracted from them). A component of it is a VO2 max test that involves running 3 minute intervals on the treadmill (with one minute breaks in between each interval), and increasing speed after each interval. The highest speed I could sustain was 16kph for 3 minutes... I gave up partway through the 17kph one. My maximum heart rate for the 16kph was 185.

My VO2 max outcome was 76.6ml/kg/min (4.7 litres/minute). I'm pretty happy with that result. Considering that trained male athletes have an average of 70ml/kg/min and 7 times Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong's VO2 max is 85... so I'm only less than 9ml behind!

Oh... and the highlight of this post is...

Let me introduce you to Ah Rui...

Yeah, my cheesy attempt of following the herd by naming their beloved bikes. Why Ah Rui? I wanted to name it Rooey, but that seemed like a mouthful. So I thought a Chinese approach to a bike's name would be somewhat unique.

Yes... based on the encouraging comments to my previous post, I made the bold decision to purchase the bike from Total Triathlon. Here are the specs to my newly owned Quintana Roo Kilo 2006.

The service at this triathlon specialist store was much better compared to TBE. I had to set an appointment to get the bike fitted. Ian, the mechanic spent about 30 minutes fitting me onto the bike... as compared to TBE, where my measurements from the old bike were just transferred over.

A pair of Look Keo Classic pedals were initially just fitted on Ah Rui to let me give her a trial spin. But I had the intention of buying a new pair of pedals anyway. However, later on, while browsing through the store, I saw some cheaper options, including Shimano 105 and Shimano SPD.

So I just mentioned to David, owner of Total Triathlon store, saying that I didn't know that there were cheaper pedals available. He was reluctant to get the pedals switched as Ian was already busy bike fitting another person... triathlon and bike business here is amazing... there were 4 walk-in customer sales transacted during my 1 hour visit at the store! So David gave me a $30 off the pedals, to make it worth my while... and he threw in two complimentary water bottles as well!

Although the top bottle seemed a bit tight... I'll probably scratch the top stem each time I pull it out. Maybe I need smaller 500ml ones, rather than these 700ml ones.

So total damage to my wallet (or rather credit card for now) is AUD 1750 for the bike + AUD 100 (after deducting $30 off) for the pedals = AUD 1850.

I'm excited to take Ah Rui out for a ride! But that would have to wait until next weekend, as it is raining tomorrow. But at the same time, I'm a bit intimidated by the sudden change in the frame geometry and functions in handlebars. I'm even given an instruction manual to use the bike!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Dark wonder

Natasha had her 3rd anniversary of her 21st birthday (that means 24th birthday lah, but in denial, hahhah) celebration at The Brass Monkey, Northbridge on Friday night.

The theme was Alice in Wonderland. There were a few who were sporting enough who turned up that night, dressed as card knights of hearts... Natasha's mum and herself were the Queens of hearts (although both in different versions) and Natasha's sister came as Alice. I however, was not dressed to theme, as I did not have anything that is even close to resembling Alice in Wonderland.

A good night out, groovy music, tasty food and there were about 200 cupcakes, homemade by Natasha's mum and sis. Thanks, Tash for having us!

Yesterday, Li-Ann and myself watched the much talked about Dark Knight. It was INDEED a great movie. Action and thrilling throughout the entire movie. The plot was pretty mature, not sure whether young 10 year olds would be able to follow... even myself had a bit of trouble.

Bruce Wayne a.k.a. Batman was portrayed as a really smart guy, able to read all of the Joker's moves. There was so much talk about the late Heath Ledger's outstanding performance, some said he may even win an Oscar. I do give the guy credit. His acting did outshine the others, although the stellar cast did put up a credible show. So it was all good. Not sure whether the movie or Heath would win an Oscar though. I am somehow biased that comic book movies rarely stand a chance on winning Oscars. I may be wrong.

I noticed that Batman was in the aero position for quite a number of times during the movie. In the tank like Batmobil when it transformed into a leaning attack position and all throughout the Batcycle too.

Yes, I have been craving to get a new tri bike. My Avanti Monza has been great. My cycling has improved significantly from last year. But I'm yearning for an upgrade from its Sora groupset. When I first bought it, I thought with my mediocre cycling, it wouldn't make a difference if I bought a $1k bike or a $5k bike.

But I've got a feeling I bought a lemon. During the 7 months since I had the bike, I have had about 5 punctures (including one this morning!). And lately, the cycle computer keeps on falling out of its compartment. It used to be just once or twice when I go over a hump. But it is becoming more rampant now. It came out 4-5 times today and I had to catch it while I'm cycling. Today, it actually fell so hard that all the functions got reset!

I'm also very attracted to the handle bars on tri bikes. Yes, yes, I can just get the handle bars replaced. And the tyres, and the cycle computer. Don't have to get a new bike. But Total Triathlon is doing a clearance sale. Quintana Roo Kilo 2006 model reduced to AUD 1750. And it is just my size too.

I was keen to get the 2007 model, reduced to AUD 1899, but it was sold out.

So how? Some would say, if you really want it, go get it! It fits your size some more. But on the other hand, an expensive tri bike wouldn't help my average cycling much. And handling a tri bike is very different from a riding a road bike. I may even become slower.

I'm open to suggestions, opinions, comments etc.!

Friday, 11 July 2008

Status symbol

I've just got myself a new phone! Nokia N95 8GB...

It was on special offer on Three mobile plan. So I get to upgrade without paying much more than what I'm paying now.

You know, I've never had a Nokia phone before, although it is such a popular choice. I've had Siemens, Panasonic, Sony Ericsson but never Nokia.

I can safely say I have learned how to use about 10% of the phone's functions. Not sure whether I would make use of it's GPS capabilities as I need to download maps and will be charged for those downloads.

At the moment, I'm just enjoying the AWESOME 8GB memory... I have just transferred over 50 songs from my laptop, and it didn't even touch the free space memory!

Coincidentally, today is the release date for Apple iPhone in Perth. But it's camera only has 2.0 megapixels. My new phone has 5.0... :P

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Thirty, thirty, thirty...

*Edit* For official results and race pictures, click here and here.

30th Anniversary Perth Marathon... 42.195km...

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect from this race. I was away for holiday in Cairns the whole of this week. The only workout I did this week was a 4.3km swim and even that was at a slower pace as I was recovering from the holiday. And the week before I did no running as my knees were still hurting from the Perth Half Marathon three weeks ago.

The weather for Friday and yesterday was pretty crap... heavy showers with strong winds. But it all cleared this morning. Although it was a pretty cold morning when we arrived at WA Marathon Clubrooms, Burswood at 7am... 0.7 DEGREES!

As usual, I gobbled down my Powerbar. It was Banana flavour... the first one in my pack since my lil' sis hand delivered them to me during her visit in February. Washed it down with Powerade.

I then did some warm up jogs for about 10 minutes. Good to know that the knee pains were no longer there. It was nice having darling around, although the poor dear had to shiver in the cold while her boyfriend runs up and down around her.

Gun off was at 7.30am. There wasn't too much pushing around, no one was in a hurry. Everyone knew there was a LONG WAY to go.

My first 1km was done in 4:36... I didn't think I was going too fast, felt pretty comfortable actually. The course is actually very scenic. I forgot how beautiful it was until I drove back home from the race. It takes you from the south east of the Swan River from Burswood, over Windan Bridge to the luxury apartments in East Perth and back to the Causeway, where we move back to south of the river.

We then run along the foreshore up until the Narrows bridge where we head south, along the Kwinnana Freeway. From there, we head to Canning Bridge and head west until we reach Point Walter and make a turnaround point. All along the way we ran through bike paths, boardwalks and there was always a waterfront. The cloudless sky was perfect weather too... the temperature did rise up a bit later in the morning but it wasn't too hot as it was still winter.

An ang moh girl (whom I think her name is either Denuka or Meluka from the crowd cheering... something like that) caught up with me somewhere before the 2km mark. I stayed with her for quite a fair bit. None of us tried overtaking each other. We probably knew we were about the same pace and decided to make the best of the situation. We stayed around the 4:30 per km range most of the way, speeding up to 4:25 occasionally and dropping down to 4:35 a couple of times.

Having a pacemaker helps, as it wasn't long before I reached the 10km mark at the Narrows Bridge... 45:05 I clocked. There were a few drink stations before this, some serving only water, some with electrolyte drinks. I took my first electrolyte drink somewhere before the 11km mark. The ang moh girl was slightly quicker in downing her drinks, but she waited for me to catch up.

Last year, somewhere along the freeway, I suffered some spasms around my toes and quads but I did not feel these this time round. Maybe the compression leggings helped. I was a bit worried that we had to cross some pedestrian bridges along the freeway as the path was still under construction when I did my bike rides there a few weeks ago. Glad that the works have been completed and it was a smooth route all way until Canning Bridge, the 16km mark. I took my first Powergel just before this as there was a electrolyte drinks station there.

This was where the ang moh girl sped up her pace. I could still see her about 20m ahead of me and this remained for the next few kms but I somehow couldn't catch up.

Reached the 21.1km (half marathon) mark at 1:35.42, which was faster than last year's half marathon race time. I thought that even if my second half was slower by 5 minutes, which was the time I did my 21.1km run at the Busselton Half Ironman, I would be able to do a sub 3:16 finish!

Ang moh girl suddenly stopped. She said she only came to do the half distance. WHAT THE HELL??!! And I was foolish to follow her pace.

I came across the race leaders somewhere after this half marathon mark (the turnaround point is at 24km). And then IT STARTED... yes, I was REALLY foolish to follow the ang moh girl's pace. With ZERO running training for the last two weeks, what was I thinking?

My 23rd km was done in 4:50. And it started going downhill from there. I started going over 4:50 per km for the few kms after. And my feet were starting to feel like they were on fire. Hmm... maybe these lightweight Asics DS Trainers weren't really meant for marathons. But I did a mental calculation, that if I could hold just under 5 minute per km for the rest of the way, I could still do a sub 3:20 which is still a PB. I downed another Powergel somewhere around the 29km mark, about 2 hours and 15 minutes into the race.

If I thought I have hit the wall way too early, I was wrong as it came again. From the 30km mark onwards, I dropped down more than 5 seconds every km... 5.06, 5.11, 5.17, 5.23, 5.25, 5.37, 5.49, 5.59! It wasn't that I felt joint pains or severe tightness... it was just my legs were just TOO DARN TIRED... and it didn't help that there was slight headwind on the way back!

Don't know why but in almost every half marathon and marathon, I seem to be running alone. This was no different. It was less motivating running by my self, but the support crowd were just marvelous. There were some in fancy dress. My favourite is the Wonder Woman going around on her little bike with basket.

I was actually thinking of walking already since I can't do a PB... and I kept on telling myself... I'll run to the next km. One thing that kept me not from walking was Li-Ann worrying about me when I told her I'll do a 3:20 finish. I've also started to feel cramps around my biceps. Must be the stiff bent elbow position. I had run with stretched out arms for a while to ease the cramps.

Things didn't get better after that. At the 36km mark, my watch was showing 2:52.49. I thought that if could hold 6 minutes per km until the finish, I could at least do below 3:30. I downed my third Powergel soon after. I brought four but I thought I could keep one for future use. Yes, yes... stingy me again.

But the next couple kms were done in 6:08 and 6:01 respectively. It was here where the 3:30 bus, a group of pacers aiming to do sub 3:30, zoomed past me. Darn... if I knew I was going to do a 3:30 finish, I would have stuck to them in the first place and not suffer these last few kms.

Don't know why but the 3:30 bus overtaking me was like a wake-up call to my legs. I suddenly had the strength to power through the last few kms... 5:47, 5:45, 5:35...

The finishing was near... having Li-Ann cheering at the last bend... I gave all my might to sprint the last few meters... and finished in 3:28.20!

The time was 6 minutes slower than last year's marathon... but considering the circumstances, I can't do much complaining. Maybe a PB next year... ;)

Click here for full results. I finished 98 out of 366 runners and 5th in my category of 16 people. Here are my lap times and splits.

5km 0:22.38 22:38
10km 0:45.05 22:27
15km 1:07.49 22:44
20km 1:30.37 22:48
21.1km 1:35.42
25km 1:54.19 23:42
30km 2:19.19 25:00
35km 2:46.50 27:31
40km 3:10.45 23:55
42.2km 3:28.20

I walked around like a duck for a bit. Got my entry fee money's worth for the free massage and the food for the Canteen appeal. Runners get to eat for free but spectators have to pay. There were hot dogs, burgers, pancakes, savoury muffins and soup. Although most kiasu runners were getting food for their supporters, which defeats the purpose anyway.

Had a chat with Vanessa, a BodyPump instructor whose class I used to attend. She did a PB... 3:52, good on her! We waited until the prize giving which started at 1.20pm. The male overall winner finished in 2:37... same time as last year's winner but a different person. He lowered his PB by 4 minutes. The female overall winner finished in 3:03... over 10 minutes slower than last year's winner. Apparently, last year's female winner is taking part in the bigger Gold Coast Marathon, which is held on the same day.

No lucky draw prizes for me this time. Could be my race number of 114... I'm beginning to attract these sort of less auspicious numbers these days.

No running for the next 3 weeks!

Friday, 4 July 2008

Dodgy and quaint

Yup, if I can describe Cairns in two words. But don't get me wrong, I did have a good time. The following is a photo log of our 6 days trip in Cairns.

Day 1, 28 June 2008 Saturday

Our flight from Perth was delayed by about 1.5 hours... Qantas staff union strike, apparently the flight control tower in Cairns would only open after 5am. But it was to our advantage, as we would arrive in Cairns in a more reasonable time rather than 4.35am as earlier scheduled.

We arrived at Cairns airport at 7.10am, after 5 hours of flying. Greeted by a delightful warm weather of 17 to 27 degrees as compared to Perth's 5 to 15 degrees. When our shuttle bus dropped us off at our accommodation, Koala Beach Resort, our room wasn't ready yet. So we had to walk around the city for quite a bit.

Here's us looking very sleepy and needed some coffee...

Cairns city is an odd place. It has many nightspots, clubs, taverns, bars and pubs, which could be the reason why there are so many dodgy people. It seems like we were in a red light district in Thailand!

But I have many praises for how much effort the city council put into beautifying the place. The boardwalk at The Esplanade, places to sit and relax decorated in a fancy manner all across the city.

The place is also pretty tourist friendly. We have translations for Japanese, German, Italian, Spanish, French, Chinese, Korean etc. from information centres to fine dining restaurants and even your local ice cream stall!

Also, most of the shops open till late at night, unlike Perth. We spent the first night visiting the night markets, which is on from 4.30pm to 11pm EVERY NIGHT!

And also having a look at the Reef Casino dome. Again, adding to Cairns' dogdiness, we were worried that we would not be let in as I did not have a buttoned up shirt... but there were people there dressed in shorts and thongs!

Day 2, 29 June 2008 Sunday

We arranged for a bus pick up to Port Douglas at 7am, and arrived at 8.10am. Port Douglas is an even smaller town with coconut trees and tropical sun. Kind of remind me of another PD... Port Dickson hehheh.

We had a look at the Sunday markets, which had some interesting display.

Then, we had a look at the marina before taking a hike up to Island Point lookout.

After that, we went to the Four Mile Beach. It was a bit of a disappointment though. The sand was a bit rough. The water was not very clear and the waves were just dull. Looks like there is no beach like our Cottesloe Beach.

We ended our trip with a $9.90 fish at Ironbar pub, which apparently has toad racing on some nights.

Day 3, 30 June 2008 Monday

We had a full day tour, visiting rainforest and waterfalls in the Southern Tablelands. The bus picked us up at 7.40am and we arrived just in time for morning tea and freshly baked scones at Lake Barrine just about 1.5 hours later. This was also where we had our 45 minute rainforest lake cruise.

The first water fall we visited was the Millaa Millaa Falls. Wasn't intending to jump in the water as it was pretty cold but a Canadian guy in our tour went in first, so I couldn't resist following suit. And it was REALLY COLD!

A short turn to the Curtain Fig tree after that, followed by cheese and yoghurt tasting at Mungalli Creek Dairy. We then had lunch by Mungalli Falls, the tableland's tallest falls.

This was where my camera fell into the water. Good thing I was able to take some pictures with my phone, but its battery was dying out too.

Our final stop was the magnificent Paronella Park, a castle built by an eccentric Spaniard in the 1930s.

We returned to Cairns at about 6.30pm and decided to have Korean for dinner for a change.

Day 4, 1 July 2008 Tuesday

It was a good thing my camera started functioning again, thanks to hours of blow drying! As today was the main reason of coming to Cairns after all... snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef!

We chose the cheapest cruise available, Compass Cruise for $60 a day trip. But we were pretty lucky as I think we got upgraded due to small numbers. The ship was elegant with cute decorations. We had bacon and egg rolls for breakfast. The ship left the docks at about 8am.

We were each given a snorkeling mask, flippers and a wetsuit, which was really useful as the water was really cold and it helped us float, so we won't be too tired snorkeling for hours in the open sea.

We stopped at two different outer reef locations. One before lunch, one after. I found the snorkeling mask a bit uncomfortable, water kept coming in through my nose. And with my poor eyesight, I could barely see any fish. I opted for my own prescription goggles after a while. I had to swap my flippers too as the first pair were hurting my feet.

We spent about an hour at the first spot. Lunch on board was mainly salad with BBQ chicken and ham for the bread rolls. Then we cruised to Hastings Reef, where we spent about 2 hours here.

The marine life and coral reef at this second spot was much better. Too bad I didn't have an underwater camera with me. Darling was pretty excited. We didn't snorkel for the whole 2 hours... I had to take a break as I was freezing.

We returned to Marlin Jetty at about 4.45pm.

That night, we actually watched Kung Fu Panda at Cairns Central. It was Cheap Tuesday, tickets were $8.50 each. I didn't find the movie very funny. It was entertaining nonetheless. The kung fu moves were pretty cool. Jack Black was a bit annoying though.

Day 5, 2 July 2008 Wednesday

Our bus transfer brought us to Caravonica Skyrail Terminal at about 8.15am to catch the cable to Kuranda Village.

There were two stops before arriving at the village. Both had rainforest boardwalks and lookout points to the Barron Gorge. The whole cable journey took just over an hour.

Arriving at the village, we find ourselves visiting markets again, selling some pretty interesting stuff.

We visited the Venom Zoo, which claims to be the only anti-venom producer in Australia. The display of spiders, snakes, lizards and toads were pretty cool. Then we talked to an eccentric old bat lady at BatReach. It was pretty amazing how she spoke to the dozens of bats and how they listened to her like obedient puppies.

Lunch was at German Tucker, where I had crocodile bratwurst. We spent the rest of the evening taking pictures of the odd looking pathways and shops.

We managed to do one of the walking trails by Lake Placid before catching the Kuranda Scenic Railway back to Cairns, which took just under 2 hours.

That night, we treated ourselves to Tjapukai aboriginal nightshow. We were greeted by flaming torches and big men dressed in loin clothes.

We each were given a choice of wine, beer or juice for our welcome drink. Then the evening started with some traditional face painting, followed by a fire making ritual.

This was followed by a scrumptious buffet dinner with excellent dessert. The night ended with a stage performance as we enjoyed our meal.

Day 6, 3 July 2008 Thursday

Our final day in Cairns... we checked out of our room at 8.15am in the morning. The reception was kind enough to let us keep our luggage in their storage room. We then caught a public bus to the Flecker Botanic Gardens.

We spent just over an hour there before returning to the city centre for lunch. Buy one get one free pizza at The Coffee Club, courtesy of the vouchers at our resort reception... hehheh.

Our shuttle bus picked us up at 12.15pm to Cairns airport. That's where we bid farewell to our holiday... and back to the cold weather in Perth and reality. For more pictures, please click here.