Monday, April 30, 2012

Week in Review: Apr 23 - Apr 29

Another solid week of base building training with a bunch of variety!  I love these weeks of training.

Swim: 1250 Yard / 26 Minutes
Bike: 33.62 miles / 2:11 Hours
Run: 13.37 miles / 1:43 Hours
Weights: 1 Hour

Totals  47.7 miles / 4 Hours 20 Minutes

I only got one strength training workout in this week but that's because I was fitting in my cycling and an actual swim in!  I am signed-up for one triathlon (so far) this year, so don't want to end it in the first discipline.  I could tell it's been a while but that's fine.  I'm not that far off my time from last year. Until I join a Masters swimming class (which I sort of know the instructor for), I'm going to live with that.

My bike miles are based on two rides.  One of 17 miles and one of 16 miles, which was actually a commute into work on Thursday last week.  Sweet!  I love riding to work and, thanks to some completed construction, is a little safer now.  I did not commute back home because we had some plans that didn't allow for it, so TKB picked me up from work.

I should mention that the swim and ride to work happened in the SAME MORNING!  I love that my YMCA started opening at 5:00am instead of 5:30am this year.  So now I can ride to the gym in my tri shorts, get a swim in and then bike into work without being late!  This would have been used so much more last year but I'll do it every time I can this year (even though I'm not focused on triathlons).

I also got in a "pace" run this week as well.  I'm planning to run Hospital Hill around an 8 minute pace, so I'm doing a run at that pace in order to get used to running that speed.  That's faster than what I've been running in the previous 4 weeks (around 9:30 - 10) as I was just focused on building miles and strengthening my right knee so it's ready for the high mileage weeks that are coming.  This coming week I will start adding more interval type of training.

Now that I'm adding in some speed work, my weekly training plan is based on getting certain workouts in.  When they actually occur isn't set.  I'm trying to juggle hard sessions with light sessions so as to not add to much stress to the body.  This last week was no exception.  I did a 5 mile pace run Wednesday morning, weights Wednesday night, then my Swim/Bike brick on Thursday morning.  During the day on Thursday my knee was starting to give me the stink eye so I rested the next two days in preparation for Trolley Run.

With Trolley Run, I started my string of 6 events in 8 weeks.  Next up is the Corporate Challenge 5k.  I'm being very careful not to make the knee cranky again, so for this week and possibly next I'm shifting my training schedule to do my long run in the middle of the week and turn these short distance races into tempo training runs.

While there seems to be many different definitions of a "tempo" run, I consider it a run that is faster than a "pace" run.  Many say  to run at your 10k pace (which looks to be at 7 minute mile pace for me).  The goal is to get your anaerobic system used to running at a speed to remove the lactic acid buildup more efficiently.  This will make it easier (read: less painful) to run at that speed as you continue to train.  So my hope is that in July or August, my system has improved so that I could run a 10k at 6:30 pace or faster.  You get the idea, right?!

You might have noticed that I said I have 6 events in 8 weeks.  In last week's weekly training report I said I had 7.  I got moved into the backup role of the KC Corporate Challenge Half-Marathon in favor of a faster runner.  I had the option to say "no" and keep my spot but deferred.  Doing that half on May 19 made me worried that I was "crashing" my training plan so I was happy to give it up.

Enough of that, lunch time is over so back to work!!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

2012 Trolley Run Race Report

I originally hadn't planned to do the Trolley Run but my company is a sponsor of the race, so we got some registration spots for teams and I put my name in the lottery for bib.  I was selected and placed on the "fast" team.  Not sure if that was a wise idea, considering...

As with previous years, this race uses the corral system and I had times to be placed in the first corral (sub-7:30 minutes miles).  Considering my training over the last 5 weeks which has been mostly on base building with a low heart rate, I wasn't confident I could even hold that pace.  I have had no sort of speed or tempo training, so I was planning on running a pace that would be respectable for the first corral.  Don't get me wrong, I raced this event.  I decided it would be a baseline race to see where I am.  This race is known as being a downhill so if I ever check against my baseline, it would be best to test on this course.

My pre-race routine was the same as last year with a toasted bagel with peanut butter and a banana.  We arrived around 6:45am with temps in the 50s and rainy.  I put on a trash bag as a rain coat and took off for the buses.  Every year I swear these busses drive 10 miles out to the start line because it seems to take forever.

I happen to pick a bus with Denise,  one of my company's ruthless Corporate Challenge coordinators, and then saw another co-worker, Todd, as I got off.  I chatted with Todd and his running mates for a while as I hit the port-a-potty.  After taking care of business I found a member of my Trolley Run Team and talked about our times.  The top 3 times on the team are used.  I knew there were three people on our team that would be running 24:xx minute times but Jeremy informed me that one of the three was not running so my time was going to count.  Oops.

I took off for a warmup jog of half a mile or so and then walked over the the corrals where I met up with Joe VI.  During the National Anthem, I spotted Ryan and waved him over.  We chatted up until the "Go" call.  I don't remember when but the rain had pretty much stopped by this time or down to a slight mist.

Mile 1 - 6:47
My goal here was to simply not go out too fast, as usual.  I managed to run at a comfortable pace that I thought was fairly slow, I noticed I was going at a sub-7 minute pace.  That surprised me but I didn't change anything.  Comfortable is comfortable.  I figured my warmup run helped keep me from feeling like I was running too fast.

Mile 2 - 7:03
I had set my watch to my "race" setting before the start.  This puts my current pace and average pace on the same screen.  At this point I couldn't remember which one was current and which was average because every time I looked, one was higher than the other number.  It was different every time.

This section had the last of the hills for Trolley Run.  I started thinking about my knees and hip.  There was some slight pain but it was manageable, so I focused on my form.  I took a peek at my Heart Rate and it was 170 - 175, which is where I expected.

Mile 3 - 6:55
More of the same.  Focus on form.

Mile 4 - 7:07
It's at this point where I start thinking, "You'll be done in less than 7 minutes."  Probably not the best mantra.  I knew my miles were coming in around the 6:55 - 7:50 miles, so I kept pushing.  The course flattens out here.  I tried to kick it up near the end as I always reflect back thinking that I should have (of course those reflection do not recall the pain my system is in at the time).  I managed to push through the pain to hit sub 6 minute miles, but it was only brief.  I was motivated on finishing under 28 minutes as I was hurdling down on the finish chute.

The splits were based on my automatic mile splits on my Garmin.  I actually have an additional 7 seconds before hitting the stop button.  Assuming Trolley Run's mile markers are correct, those seven seconds are probably evenly distributed in the above splits.  I need to do manual splits on all run races.

Overall: 380 / 5,929
Age Group: 64 / 421
Time: 27:54
Average Pace: 6:59

Everything was the same as last year, that I can remember.  One of the nice things about finishing in the top 7% of participants is that there is no trouble getting post-race food.  Plenty of water, gatorade, bananas, rolls, yogurt, chocolate milk, donuts, pizza, popcorn, etc.

My right knee and quad was feeling a bit sore on the drive home.  So I iced them before my shower.  They were feeling better within an hour.

I am pleased with my time, considering it was all downhill.  It's under 7:15 pace per mile (which is my BQ pace, which will likely need to be 7:10-ish).  My cardio seemed to be taxed more than I thought it would, considering my leg speed/strength is what I figured would be my delimiter.  I'm sure as I work on leg speed (started last week), my cardio system will also improve.

The Proof
Hmm.  I actually didn't get any photos there.

Up Next
Next weekend I have the Corporate Challenge 5k race.  I'm planning to move my long run to Wednesday to effectively make this race and next weekends 5k speed workouts.

UPDATE:  It took a day to post the team results.  Our team members did get screwed up and so we were all on different teams.  That meant that my mens only team was now a co-ed team.  Had it been correct, we would have placed 4th in the mens only division, instead my team placed 14th in the co-ed division.   So my score not only counted, it was best in the team.  In addition, my team was the fastest team of my company.  Woo hoo!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I'll Take My Clothes Hand Tailored, Please

Another industry that Bangkok is known for is having hand tailored clothes made on the cheap.  While I don't have a need for many suits, I do enjoy a nicely fitted shirt and pants.  If you've ever met me, you'll probably quickly notice my 6 foot, 4 inch (193 centimeter) body that is even further punctuated by a lankly body type.  I often got the string bean comment during my younger years.

The biggest issue I have when finding shirts is that I need a large or extra large so that they are long enough but that is too much fabric around the waist. I feel like I'm wearing a tent.  I've found a good shirt size at Banana Republic but it's still too short in the waist.  When I got the opportunity to have good hand tailored clothes made for a reasonable price, I jumped on it.

I got fortunate in that I didn't need to do a lot of research to find a tailor.  An employee of my client recommended someone that she used when she was in Bangkok for a college trip.  I lucked out in that his store wasn't too far from my office. It was only two BTS SkyTrain stations away plus about a two block walk. So with only 3 weeks left of my trip, off to Raja's Fashions I went!

Walking into the store front you immediately see suit and slack fabric on your left and shirt fabric on your right.  The middle is overflowing racks of completed tailored clothing.  

Pardon the blurring cam. 

The store had Bobby and his father working with customers in getting measurements or fitting rough cut suits.  There was also 4 or 5 females helping customers pick fabrics.   The place was small but busy.

Stepping in the first thing I was asked wasn't what kind of suit I wanted or how many pairs of pants I could buy.  It was "what would you like to drink? Cocktail, Beer, Soda, Water?"  Before I knew it I had a beer sitting in front of me and about 15 books of suit fabric samples.  

One of my Thai friends came with me, Pom, and she helped me go through the books.  I let her know what kind of fabric I wanted and we went to it.  As it turns out, I ended up going with the sticking with the very first fabric I looked at in the very first book.  We flipped through some style books to pick out the style of suit that I wanted.  Before I knew it, I was being fitted.

Bobby did the measuring himself.  While he spoke fluent English, he rattled off my measurements in Thai.  He was quick and determined at getting the measurements and his assistant wrote the numbers down in a leather-bound book.  It is actually quite amazing that he keeps track of this information in these booklets.  In fact, there wasn't a single computer in sight at the store.  I ordered a package deal that gave me a suit, tie, and 4 shirts.  I was then charged with figuring out the fabrics for the shirts.  Before I knew it I was done and handing over 5,000 baht as my deposit (~$166).  Bobby requested that I return in 5 days for a rough fitting.  I don't know for sure how long it took, but it felt like 45 minutes from entering the store to leave.

I will say that I left that fitting feeling somewhat frustrated with myself because I didn't do any negotiating.  I decided that the price he gave me was worth it to me but there's always leaving something on the table that didn't need to be.  It's similar to finishing a race with plenty of energy in the tank.  Who knows what would have happened if I tried.  I might not have gotten anywhere.

I returned on a Tuesday for the rough fitting and it was a similar process in that I was offered a drink but I needed to get back to the office as soon as possible so I was hoping for a quick fitting.  My pants looked to be 90% done and one of my four shirts was ready to try on.  Everything fit quite well and I tried on the suit jacket, which still had plenty of work to go.  He asked me to come back in three days for the final fitting.

On Friday I stopped in and tried on everything again but this time with a second shirt.  They were to make a few more adjustments but he indicated that it would be ready the next day to take home.  Wow!  I actually deferred to the following Monday because we were going out of town to Khao Yai National Park.  So Monday night I stopped in and tried everything one final time:

A nice close fit!
The night before I had talked to TKB about picking up the suit and she recommend I consider getting some slacks.  When I was trying on the suit for the final time, I noticed my current slacks were starting to look worn so Bobby set me up with 4 slacks.  When we talked about it, I did try to negotiate with him about throwing in a shirt or whatever.  We chatted for a minute and he wouldn't budge.  When I resigned to go with his price, another customer, a westerner, in the shop commented that he was looking forward to see if I could work out some sort of deal because Bobby didn't relent on Hillary Clinton when she worked him for a discount.

Well, that made me feel somewhat better!  The skeptical person I am makes me wondered if he was just saying that to make me feel better; however, Bobby's shop is full of autographed photos and letters of appreciation from military personnel.

Yes, there is a signed photo from Bill Clinton in there.  Maybe it is the truth!
So in three days he had made 4 slacks!  Very quick but I could have probably gotten them sooner if I really needed.  It worked perfectly because I picked them up the day before I left for home.

I was quite pleased with everything from the process to the packaging.  On my way out I asked Bobby about future orders.  He said he would send me swatches in the mail to the US and since he already had my measurements, could make something and ship it to me... all via email.  I'll take it!

When I think about what I paid and what I got I am pleased.  Thinking about my frustration with myself goes back to the fact that you can walk up and down Sukhumvit and you'll find tailors on every street block.  Many of which have signs out to have a suit made for $150.  I paid more than 3 times that much for a suit, four shirts, and a tie.  One thing thing though is that those same stores are always empty and there is usually someone out front barking at you to come inside.  Bobby's shop was ALWAYS busy.  Usually two people being measured, someone trying on clothes and one, two or more people waiting to be helped.  I think I'd rather spend more money for reputable, quality clothes.

In addition, I was in Halls at Crown Center a couple weeks after my trip to pickup some cuff-links. The gentleman who was helping me mentioned that in August and February they produce fitted, hand tailored shirts.  He mentioned that prices were between $100 - $150 per shirt.  Bobby's price is easily 1/4 of that.

My plan for now is to put these clothes in my work attire rotation over the next four to six months and see how they last.  More people from my company will be making this 2 month long trip in the future so I might have some more shirts/slacks ordered and hand delivered back to me!!!  

So, if you want a handmade suit.  Buy a plane ticket to Bangkok and schedule a week long vacation.  You will spend less on that trip + the suit than if you were to go to a tailor in the United States.

Bobby's shop is moving and will actually be more convenient for customers.  He is current down a side street that can be hard to find.  He's moving his shop that will be right off the Nana BTS station instead of a couple blocks from it.  Keep checking his website for location and information on the move.  The location can be found in the bottom business card in the image above.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

To Be A Two Year Old Again

Ever wonder what it's like to be a two year old?  Ever think back to those simple times when you were in information overload learning new things such as colors, numbers, words?  Well, the best way to take the "Delorean" back to this innocent days is to live in a foreign country for an extended time.

I knew when I was preparing for this trip, I was neglecting to learn some of the basics of the Thai language, such as numbers.  I think knowing the challenge of the tones derailed me.  I did purchase a phrase book at the Barnes & Nobles gave me enough ammo if I needed it.  During my plane flight over the Pacific Ocean, I pulled the phrase book out and started reading up on simple greetings such as sawadee khrap (hello/good morning/good night) and khob kuhn khrap (Thank you).  That should be more than enough to get me from airport to hotel!

The next two months turned into a complete emersion into the Thai culture.  You couldn't help but learn some of the language. From the first meals with the Thai associates where we learning things such as Pork, Beef, Chicken, more spicy, less spicy, delicious, etc.  It didn't take long to pick up some of those words.  Then over the course of the month we moved on to numbers and very simple phrases and grammar.  For example, the word for delicious is "a'roi", pronounced "aloy" (yes, the "R" and "L" stereotype lives true in Thailand).  If you add the word "mai" to the end, it turns it into a question as "mai" is used to negate things.  So "a'roi mai" means, "Delicious, isn't it?".  You would then respond with "a'roi" for "delicious" or "mai a'roi" for not delicious.  You can add emphasis to things by adding "mak mak" to it, meaning "more" or "very".  So "a'roi mak mak" is very delicious.

One thing I've noticed about Thai language written in the "English" letters is that it is more of a courtesy and not something that is based on specific rules.  I've found many versions of the same words "translated" to our alphabet.

One thing that I did get translated was my name: สก็อต.

Another aspect of feeling like a 2 year old is simple doing things for the very first time.  Now there is the aspect of learning how to get around in a new country or learning the culture, but this is more about food. I'm not a very picky eater but if there are other options to choose from, I will likely pick the items I enjoy. In Thailand, I took the stance of "if it won't kill me, I'll eat it".  So I lived that mantra to the fullest:

Fried Baby Crab - A'roi mak mak!!!

Squid tentacles

Snake Fish

Squid... Lots of it!

Squid pieces from the above platter.  It's Squidy!

This is the post-race food.  Lychee, Coconut Gel, Red Beans, sweet syrup and ice.

Somewhere in this photo is squid and frog legs.

Fried Fish.

Fried Alligator

Some sort of fried fish.  This were tiny and about the size of a minnow. 
Mushrooms.  Not exotic, per se, but I'm not a huge fun of the fungi.
Other exotic (to me) food was Octopus and Jellyfish.  When you take these Cephalopod foods together, I have a hard time discerning a flavor.  The food just seems rubbery to me.  I'm sure if I had a lot of the food I would be able to enjoy it more.

It seems many people I talk to back in the US getting freaked out about the large whole fish, which I find rather odd.  This is a cooking style in the US but maybe not as prevalent.  The fish is quite good; however, I have a hard time with it because of the fish bones so I started just asking the veteran Thai associates to get me a piece to avoid the bones.  I also do that because I'm more likely to destroy the fish trying to get a piece.

Overall, I like how food is fried in Thailand.  There is a sweet flavor to it and because most is small pieces, they don't have to cook it long so it's not overcooked.

I will say that food I did turn down was raw fish.  I've had it and don't like it.  I have a hard time getting over the texture of the food, so I have a hard time tasting it.

There was definitely a lot more exotic food but I couldn't find pictures of it to remember it.

How To Eat
In Thai restaurants you don't get knives.  You have a spoon and fork and that's it.  In reality, you don't need a knife.  Pretty much all foods are already served in small pieces so it's not necessary.  Using the fork and spoon isn't necessarily that straightforward though.  You are suppose to hold the knife in the left hand and spoon in the right.  The fork then pushes food onto the spoon and you serve yourself from the spoon. Stabbing food with the fork and eating from it is considered rude, so I avoided it.

Many of the dishes are served with a specific dip.  You are not to mix with other dips of other plates.  In addition, you will be served rice with your meal and I eventually learned to not eat the rice alone but instead only eat it with the dishes.  I think this was one of the big reasons I gained weight out there (excluding the beer I drank, of course!). I would just sit and eat the rice while waiting for the next dish.

Why would I be waiting for the next dish?  Food is served to the table as soon as it is ready.  So if you receive your plate but your table mates are still waiting, you start eating.  It may be 5, 10 or more minutes before they get their food.  Eat now so your food isn't cold.  In the situation where a bunch of plates are ordered for the entire table to eat, you just eat what you are served when it is served.  This is the typical meal.  We would order 5 or 6 dishes and share.  In one situation we ordered 6 plates of food and it took nearly 45 minutes for the last plate to be served.

Not wanting to spend a lot of time on this but let's just say that most all toilets have spray hoses attached, similar to that of the sprayer on a kitchen sink.  I will admit to using it and glad I did!

One of the bathrooms I came across while at a pitstop on a road trip was a turkish toilet.  I could have used a manual.

Other "New" Items

  • Happy Hours are buy one, get one free.  You order one beer and they bring you two.  While in the US we have 1/2 price beers during happy hour, there is something pretty awesome about this.
  • Learning the transit system.  It's mostly because I always drive in the US.  There is no need to learn the bus system but in Thailand we how to use the BTS SkyTrain system.
  • Chopsticks -- I finally figured out how to use chopsticks; however, I've probably already forgotten. I brought two sets back to the US, so I'll take them to the next BBQ joint I go to.
I'm sure there are many more items but these are the big ones that come to mind.  Thanks for reading!

Weekly Training: April 16 - April 23

Time to return this blog to a blog about my training/racing, right?  Well, for the short term as I'm planning a handful of posts regarding my last month in Bangkok.  Since I have a tendancy to write fairly long posts, I figured I'd sneak in a "short" one about my training in the meantime.

Swim: zippo
Bike: 13 miles / 54 Minutes
Run: 20 miles / 3 Hours 9 Minutes
Weights: 2 Hours 30 Minutes

Totals 33 miles / 6 Hours 33 Minutes

I eventually need to add a couple swim workouts in since I have officially signed up for my first triathlon of the year this past week.  It's the same Corporate Challenge tri that I did last year, which takes place on June 17.  Just like last year, May and June are staking up to be busy months on the race front.  I have 7 races over the next 8 weeks.  My pocketbook is feeling pretty good though because I only have to pay for one of those races (Hospital Hill Half Marathon -- which I paid for last June).  The rest are Corporate Challenge related or I'm being sponsored by my company to do it (Trolley Run).

Looks like I really need to update my sidebar calendar of events as it still reflects last year.

Reflecting over my training since Ground Hog run, it's been rather sporadic.  A major reason is I didn't focus like I should have during my Bangkok times.  I'm also nursing a cranky knee back to health.  It was the result of ramping up from 13.1 half-ironman run to a full on marathon in 5 weeks. I have been focusing on heart rate training by starting with low and slow miles and building up my base. I've been happy with my progress on improving my speed at the same HR and healing my knee, so over the next couple weeks I'm adding in threshold runs to improve cardio further and speedwork sessions to improve leg strength. This weekend I have the 4 mile Trolley Run to gather some kind of data about my progress.  It's mostly a downhill run so it's easy to get some fast times out of it.

The next 8 weeks should be interesting.  I'm planning to adjust my schedule so I do my long runs in the middle of the week and use my races on the weekend as my threshold and pace runs.  In addition I plan to keep two sessions of weights a week in order to condition my legs to handle the workload and work on core strength.  In just two weeks of strength training, I can already tell a noticeable improvement in my knee issues.  I'm adding in a mid-week bike (or two) as my official cross-training but the weeks are already getting full!

The next two months look like this:

April 29 - 4 Mile Trolley Run
May 5 - Corporate Challenge 5k (Still confirming I'm slotted for this)
May 13 - Heritage Park Duathlon
May 19 - Corporate Challenge Half-Marathon
June 2 - Hospital Hill Half-Marathon
June 5 - Corporate Challenge 1 Mile
June 17 - Corporate Challenge Triathlon - Sprint distance
Hospital Hill is really my "A" race during this time period.  I will use the rest of the races as some sort of training run; however, the Corporate Challenge Half-Marathon I will try to actually race it to gauge my progress and set a realistic goal for Hospital Hill.