Monday, December 26, 2011

FRIM Trail Map & Entrances

Hey folks! I have heaps of stuff I would love to post about, but wanted to get this out right away, so here you are. I've marked four entrances to FRIM: the KBG (Kepong Botanical Gardens) entrance charges a smaller fee than the FRIM Main Gate, and parking there gets you closer to your Steroid Hill run/bike. (More info on KBG and FRIM).
I'll update with more trails as I continue to explore. Come join me for a run some time! :D

A click on any ad below this post will put a few cents in my pocket, from the advertisers. Thanks for supporting my blog!

xo Gracie

Friday, December 16, 2011

November Notables and the Laguna Phuket Triathlon 2011

So, the last time I blogged was 29 Oct, 5 days before Spencer arrived in Malaysia for our 1 month adventure. November was just a really great month! How to do you condense a month's worth of happenings into a short blog post? Answer: You Don't. Heheh. You have been warned, this is gonna be a long post but this is my blog and I'm allowed!

I'd like to dedicate this blog post to all my friends and family... and Spencer. Thank you for always being there for me. Love you all.

Pre-LPT Secret Training ;)
Quite a bit of what we did in November was geared toward the Laguna Phuket Triathlon at the end of that month. Neither of us had done a long distance triathlon before. The LPT calls for a 1.8 km swim, 55 km bike and 12 km run. Spencer has done a few sprints these past few years, is good on the bike and is a strong swimmer, but not runner. I took part in a few sprints this year, but had never cycled more than 20 km (blame my bike phobia!). So we went running to get him used to the heat. In preparation for the purportedly crazy hills on the cycle leg of the LPT, we also got some rides in: 25 km bike ride halfway up Genting Sempah, 35 km at Putrajaya with Raymond and Mich (thanks for the tour!), and 58 km at Hulu Langat with Yip (to whom we are forever indebted for loaning us his babies for that month, Thanks Yip!). The Hulu Langat ride was a huge confidence booster for me, because after that, I knew what 55 km feels like. Even then, nothing would have prepared me for the Naithorn Hills in Phuket... (more on that later). While Spencer and I packed our days with activities, we were careful to keep me to my sleep and diet regimen. Throughout Nov, I continued weaning off the hydrocortisone with no relapse.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Can Swim Straight?: Port Dickson Open Water Swim and other happenings

Whoa my last post was nearly three weeks ago! It’s been BUSY! I was going to get busy again today with a trail run in FRIM then it started chucking down rain, so I thought I’d dash off a short note here. But first, here's a route map of the PD Open Water Swim that I yak about at the end of the post:

Errr.... I can explain this (see end of post)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Desaru 116 International Triathlon 2011 Race Report: My Mish Mash!

For Mama

Pre-Race Training
Unfortunately, training wasn’t as much as I woulda liked. I had a relapse of my autoimmune condition early in Sept that left me quite weak. I readjusted my goal and training from trying to do well, to trying to finish. As I pulled out of the relapse, I gradually increased training, which was mostly done at home on my Pseudotrainer. If I could keep going for 2 hours, I would be able to finish the race.

Friday, The Day Before the Race

Friday, October 7, 2011

Putrajaya Night Marathon Make That Change Reality Show: My Thoughts

Summary of Post
What I think of this whole Reality Show Contest thing. My personal struggle deciding which entry to vote for ('what, you don't vote yourself ah?'). A voting strategy that I feel comfy with now. And a pledge, if by some miracle I win, half goes to my friend with SLE, and half goes to Jiana's friend with DLBCL Stage 4 cancer. Be warned, a rambling blog with no pics!

Back in July
I was approached by Anand of Hooha.Asia to be in a video promoting the PNM Make That Change Reality Show.

I didn’t hesitate to say ‘Yes, I want to help’. I have wanted to run for SLE for ages (but was held back by my own illness), so this was a great chance to help raise awareness of this killer disease. The result: Make That Change Promo Video.

In the video, I was the friend who wanted to help another friend, who suffers from a lifelong autoimmune illness called SLE (Lupus). Viewers were asked to think of people in their own lives who needed financial help and to submit a 90 sec home video highlighting their ‘cause’. The five best submissions would be interviewed and re-taped. Then the official videos would be open to public for voting. A RM6000 cash prize would be awarded to the person/cause voted by the public as most needing the money (read more HERE).

This promo video, and also another sample video were publicised on Hooha.Asia, emailed to everyone who signed up for the PNM and etc. I thought there are 10,000 runners in the PNM, if 1% answered the call to ‘Make that Change’ that would mean 100 entries!

For whatever reason, by the Sep 3 deadline, only 2 vids were received, including my video. I suggested that Anand extend by another week, to give more time to people to submit. After the extension there were 4 entries total. Hm…. I think a post-mortem is needed to find out why response was so poor. Was it insufficient publicity, or people were intimidated by having to put out a 90 sec vid, or apathy (‘tidak apa’)?

Fast forward three months

The public is now voting enthusiastically for the four video entries each featuring a different cause, all noble ones.  (View Vids HERE)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Teaser Update! Desaru 116 Triathlon, Singapore Total Immersion Swim Race, Putrajaya Night Marathon etc.

I'm baaaack! It's been a busy three weeks since my last post 'Why I Love Triathlon' and it's possibly gonna stay that way until December! Here's what (I hope!) will be a short recap of the past three weeks, and brief of what shenanigans Gracie will be up to in the next month or two. I will follow with detailed race/event reports some time in November when I have a chance to sit down for the full day it takes me to produce each of these things. Ya, I'm so pokey, but hey, it's worth the wait right? ;)

My health was generally ok this month, kidneys somewhat behaving, though joints hurt a bit. I put in decent effort training on my Pseudotrainer (elliptical machine = pretend bicycle since I still too chicken to cycle on road), some swimming and a good-ish running mileage. I probably spent 1 to 2 hours a day doing some exercise, i.e., 1 hr swim, bike or run, sometimes combined. All great fun!

Gracie in pretend aero position on Pseudotrainer

10 Sep: Port Dickson Open Water Swim, organized with the help of consultants Kash, Jaja and Dogpapi.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Why I Love Triathlon

It’s been a while since my last post where I posed the question ‘Why Do A Triathlon’ and received incredibly heartfelt and inspiring responses. Thank you so much. Your comments, and the events of the past two weeks have caused me to dig deep and truly examine my motivations for doing triathlons.

My motivations now are different from two years ago, when I loved the idea of Triathlon, but had not done one. Two years ago, I thought I was completely cured from the autoimmune illness that had put a serious damper on the previous 10 years of my life. I had been medication-free for over a year, and running 5 minute miles – feeling strong.  Triathlon sounded like an extreme physical challenge that would be my way of saying ‘Hey Life, I’m back!’. I imagined my healed, new body pushing through the limits of endurance, something my sick body could not do. I said to myself, ‘I will know without a doubt that I am strong and whole again when I finish my first triathlon’ (More background HERE).

Well, they don’t call Henoch Schonlein Purpura ‘chronic’ (lifelong, incurable) for no reason.

When I actually completed my first mini-triathlon ('Hoohathlon'), I was sick – in early stages of a relapse. During my first Sprint triathlon, and my first Olympic distance swim the following day, I had barely recovered from yet another relapse (Also read 'First do no harm').  Both at the Hoohathlon and Sprint triathlon, I was happy beyond words that I had crossed the Finish Line, but this happiness was tinged with a bit of sadness. This wasn’t how I imagined it would be.

I had imagined a ‘comeback Grace’ sending a powerful message to myself and others with chronic illnesses that ‘Yes, it is possible to take back your life!’.

Instead, here was a frail and still-sick middle-aged woman swimming, biking and running with the dream of one day being whole again.

I will be whole again!

Here’s why I love the sport of triathlon:

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why do a Triathlon. No, Really. Why?

What’s your motivation?

Photo credit: John Howe at
Are you a triathlon ‘virgin’, never having done a swim-bike-run of any distance (but want to)?

Or a seasoned triathlete with a few Ironmans under your belt?

Why do you want to do a triathlon?

If you have done one or more, why do you continue doing triathlons?

(Also, is there anyone out there who has stopped at just one? Is it possible?)

And a Triathlon is What? A History Lesson-ette
The first ever ‘modern’ triathlon was held California in 1974 by two dudes who put both their ‘strange race event’ proposals together to come up with the Mission Bay Triathlon:

·         Held after work on Friday evening. Convenient!
·         Fees: $1. (Yes folks, thats ONE DOLLAR)
·         RUN 6 miles (9.7 km), BIKE 5 miles (8 km) and SWIM 500 yards (460 m).

I think it was genius putting the swim leg last. After running and cycling nearly 20 km, it would have been very refreshing for the participants to plunge into the sea and splash around in deep open water with Jaws. 

Risks Triathletes Take 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Total Immersion Basics: Bambi does the Superman and more!

Summary of Post
Basics of the Total Immersion Freestyle Balancing Workshop, where I got grounded in the core concepts of effortless, fishlike swimming with the Superman Glide, Superman Flutter, Skating and Overswitch (How it all started HERE). I describe how to do all these, aided by (as promised) a hot and willing model!


Friday, August 12, 2011

Total Immersion Works! HUGE Stroke Count Drop!

Hey everyone! Just a quick update: So as you know I did the Total Immersion Freestyle Course recently (juicy details HERE and HERE). Yesterday, for the first time since the course, I ventured into my apartment pool and ... Guess what? My stroke count for 50 m has dropped from 62 strokes to 48 strokes, while maintaining the same times as before (some laps even lower!)!!!

Needless to say I am thrilled at this warp-speed inter-galactical hyper-space jump in my swimming efficiency. And it's just going to get better! (more on this below, and also in future updates)

The negative wet-blanket party poopers out there will say 'well Grace, that means you are burning less calories covering the same distance'. To these naysayers, I say naught. It's an insignificant detail. Appearances are WAY more important, i.e., how amazing I look nowadays whenever I grace the water with my presence. In future, I may even look like TI Coach Takeuchi when he swims. No splash, relaxed shoulders, neck, whole body relaxed, graceful yet powerful gliding through the water.

I started out with the snorkel, so I could focus on my form. It took a couple of laps to get used to snorkel breathing again. Did the Superman glide, Skate, Zen Switch and etc, which I plan to describe in detail (with pics of hot and willing models!!) in my next few posts (stay tuned!). I went slow and really enjoyed just feeling the water and how my body moves in it. I think this is one of the best things I gained from the TI Course - Mindful Swimming. Makes me really want to swim more.

For the last 20 minutes I ditched the snorkel and tried to incorporate breathing into the swim. It went okay, but I need a lot of work. I could sometimes do four strokes per breath, but that was kinda stretching it. I also am having difficulty coordinating my two-stroke kick to the arm entering the water. Supposed to be left arm in, right leg kick.

Despite all that, my stroke count is now 48, down from 62!

The next free Total Immersion talk (90 minutes) is at Bukit Jalil, 7.30- 9 pm on 19 September 2011 (Monday). The course will probably be the following three days that week, so keep your schedules free if you decide to sign up for the course after the talk! Sign up for the FREE talk HERE. (Update 25 July 2012: No more free seminars - instead now it's take-the-plunge and sign up for the course. You can call Advanced Aquatics (03-78735608 or 012-6017946), or send an email to ask about signing up for the program. Say Grace sent you, and receive $25 off your TI Level 1 course :)

A click on any ad below this post will put a few cents in my pocket, from the advertisers. Thanks for supporting my blog!

xo Gracie

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Before Total Immersion: Video Analysis Workshop of Some Lady Trying to Swim

Hi everyone! As promised, here are the highly anticipated - and extremely embarassing (thank heavens it's not me!) - video and selected photos of the Total Immersion Video Analysis Workshop held on Day 1 of the inaugural TI Freestyle Course in Kuala Lumpur last week.

First things first
The subject in the photos and video IS NOT ME! For your information, I am an awesome swimmer, and in fact I am so amazing that I can swim 750 m and even 1.5 km (See evidence HERE and HERE). It's obvious the lady swimmi... no, make that *trying* to swim in the vids here is moving a lot but going nowhere. No way she will last even 25 m. Now that this important fact has been established, let's start tearing into her stroke style :D

Underwater screenshots of video of some lady trying to swim.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Desaru Triathlon 2011: Hotels, Resorts, Where to Stay?

Obviously the best place to stay would be the Lotus Desaru Beach Resort because it is the official hotel / venue for the Desaru Pengerang Long Distance Triathlon 24 - 25 September 2011. That saves travelling time and avoids the hassle of finding parking on race day, when there are more important things to think about, e.g., 'how to swim in a washing machine?' and 'did I update my will?'
IMPORTANT: when booking at Lotus, make sure you ask for the special rates /package for triathletes / the triathlon. These are: 
3 Bedroom Apartment Suite (max 6 pax) : RM650.00 nett per night
2 Bedroom Apartment Suite (max 4 pax) : RM430.00 nett per night
1 Bedroom Apartment Suite (max 2 pax) : RM250.00 nett per night

Rates include daily buffet breakfast and welcome drink, PLUS free Water Park Entrance so it's a great deal for triathletes and supporters. (For Lotus address, reservation number, T&C, click HERE.)
If you don't ask for the special rates, you'll be quoted an expensive rate of RM430 (full board) or RM394 (breakfast only) for a 1 bedroom apt. Although the RM430 comes with all meals, I'd rather drive 30 minutes to Sg Rengit to chow down on seafood!
Other good options 10 minutes from the race venue transition are:
  • Pulai Desaru Beach Resort (also '4 star', and quieter). It's $198++ (government servant rate yay!) or $330++ (standard rate) for 1 room if you call in (07-822 2222). Online rate is $240++ per night at Agoda (limited time only - thanks for the tip Cyn!)
  • Desaru Penawar Inn, a brand spanking new budget hotel just 2 km from Lotus. (Call En Shamsudin at 019-7190102. If you can't reach him, try the head office 07-8221964). Weekend rates start at $98++ (single), $108++ (twin sharing or queen), $158++ (queen + single). Includes breakfast. Non-smoking. This hotel is managed by Koperasi Pelaburan Kejora and you would be banking into Bank Islam account number 01135010000404. Thanks Tajudin M. for the info. It's GOLD! 
If you're desperate (and brave), you could try Desaru Damai Beach Resort, a 1 star budget dig, that has received shockingly bad reviews on Tripadvisor (read reviews here).
NOTE: Desaru Golden Beach Hotel, a previous race venue, is CLOSED for renovations until 2014 (I just spoke with them)
I booked Pulai Desaru at the government rate for 23-25 September and was told that I can cancel a week before with no penalty. Then I decided to cancel Pulai and have booked with Penawar Inn so I can splurge more on seafood!  I may wait till Sept 5 to register for the triathlon (that's the last day to sign up or max 900 participants). For more info and to register for the Desaru Tri, visit Triathlon Malaysia

Check back once in a while as I will be updating this post with new hotels!
See you at Desaru!

A click on any ad below this post will put a few cents in my pocket, from the advertisers. Thanks for supporting my blog!

xo Gracie

Total Immersion Has Come to Malaysia!

Summary of Post
My experience with the Total Immersion (TI) Freestyle Mastery Level 1 three day course at the National Aquatic Center, Bukit Jalil. Day-by-day brief of what we did, and how my swimming has been totally transformed. Links to the detailed daily stuff, including video analysis of my swimming. Tips on how to improve your own swim and links to free TI resources. And... a $25 discount when you sign up for TI Level 1 in Malaysia! (Just say Grace sent you). TI is for swimmers at any level. The only requirement is that you can swim 25 m freestyle (i.e., forward crawl / front crawl). It is especially helpful for triathletes because it improves stroke efficiency by at least 20 %, thus conserving energy for the bike and run legs.

Dead Man’s Float Cannot Die One
I learnt to survive water and even enjoy it at an early age. My dad brought us kids to the public pool every week and early taught us the “dead man’s float” and drown-proofing (but I’m still afraid of drowning!). I always thought of swimming as tiring and thought if I increased my fitness through swimming lots of laps, I would tire less easily. I learnt to relax more in the water and recently completed Sprint and Olympic distance swims without feeling too tired at the end (read race reports for PD Triathlon Sprint Distance and Olympic Distance, and about an EPIC swim). However, my mindset was that swimming is a ‘good workout’ for my arms, legs and whole body – I need to reach and pull with my arms, kick to propel myself forward, etc. TI has totally changed the way I approach swimming.

What is Total Immersion?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Port Dickson International Triathlon 2011 Race Report Olympic Distance

The Olympic Distance Event of the Port Dickson International Triathlon took place on 24 July 2011 at the Avillion Admiral Cove. This year – the 10th year this event has been held – a record number of 1450 folks from 36 nations took part. I did the Sprint Distance the day before (Sprint race report here) and stayed back to cheer on friends and racers. Also I’m just a 'kay poh', and wanted to see if the PDIT lived up to its reputation as one of the best organized, most well-attended, and bestest, funnest triathlons in Malaysia! It does!

All photos in this post by Tey Eng Tiong. Thanks Tey! And a big shout out to Paul for helping fix parts of this post! Thanks Paul!
GO! Hong Kong's top triathlete Lee Chi Wo leads the men's 30-39 wave
while also making a fashion statement in his neon pink swim cap.
Ramping up the competitive field were a bunch of elite triathletes who had flown in from Hong Kong, Macau, Australia and the Philippines. There were 50 mixed-relay teams and 53 all male relay teams. Together with the almost 700 individual age groupers, standing on the beach that morning were over 800 people ready (or not!) to launch themselves into the Straits of Melaka for the 1.5 km swim. 
Among the youngest was Salman Ali Shariati, who at 11 years of age had already earned the title of Double Iron-Man (8 km swim, 340 km bike, 84 km run). Now at 14, he would be up against the 16-29 age-groupers. The youngest was Yeong Yik San, 11 years old, who hails from a family of triathletes (pic below). The oldest was 74 year old 15-time Ironman finisher Yee Sze Mun. Also incredibly inspiring to see at the start line was the one-armed Mohd Sabki, out to prove that disability is no barrier to participating in this endurance event (pic below). Then there were the age-groupers - the bulk of the participants - a colorful mix of first timers, veterans and people who come back every year to PD to meet friends, maybe improve on a PB, or just have fun and finish!

Putrajaya Night Marathon 2011 Make a Change Promo Video Shoot $6000 Cash Prize

Just a quickie before I get back to work. Anand and Akmal of Hooha Asia interviewed me against the gorgeous backdrop of the Kepong Botanical Gardens during lunch just now. This was for a promo video that will be now up at the Hooha Asia website for the Putrajaya Night Marathon (PJNM). View promo video HERE.

In a nutshell, if you know someone who is in need, and for whom $6000 would make a difference in their life, and you are going run 10 km, 21 km or 42 km at the PJNM, you are eligible to participate in this 'reality' competition where you submit a 90 sec to 2 minute video that states who you are, why your friend should be given that $6000, and what change it will bring to their life. The public will vote on the best video and decide who gets the prize. 

I will be doing this for my bestie, who has to remain anonymous for now. I first met her when I was hospitalised at 24 years of age, for my own mystery illness. She was a patient too. My age. We hit it off. She has lupus (SLE) and I have a more rare autoimmune illness (Henoch Schonlein Purpura). For both, doctors don't know the causes. There is no known cure. In lupus, the body attacks itself, in some victims it is the skin, or kidneys, in others the joints, and for my friend, it is her skin, joints and her brain. Life expectancy ain't great. A few of my friends that I got to know while warded in hospital have already passed away. Too young to die....

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Trying to Run Away from Myself

Summary of Post
My first 10 km! Also my first 10K in Vibrams! Also my first 10K with kidneys on strike! Could be a depressing post, don’t know yet. You have been warned!

Gracie's Komodosport Vibram Five Fingers.
Best bday pressie ever! Thanks hubs!

Post Port Dickson Triathlon Sprint – Onward Ho!!! Not…
Right on the back of my first tri (wonderful, perfect, dream tri for this tri virgin hehe), and completing my first 1.5 km open water swim with Cynthia (Olympic Distance phwoaarrrr *happy*), I was on top of the world! Best of all, my kidneys were behaving nicely, and fingers crossed I set my sights on a Half-Ironman at Desaru International Triathlon September 24 & 25. I forked out US$30 for 6 months membership at, for access to their great training plans. I was a member 2 years ago before being sidelined by illness, so I know they are good. I figured if I am not ready for Half-Ironman closer to the registration deadline, I’ll just do the Sprint instead :).

Then, I got Food Poisoning. (Note to self: AVOID Jusco Aeon Sushi King!) Day Two of Food Poisoning, kidneys started to leak protein and blood in trace amounts. Day Three, food poisoning symptoms less, but too late, proteinuria already serious (3+). By that time I already upped my meds – those hated corticosteroids (e.g prednisone, but I use hydrocortisone). Today is Day Five, massive proteinuria. I can just hope it will come back down in the next few days. I don’t want to get any weaker. I can't afford to get any weaker! Please meds, please work!

Anyway, yesterday I managed to complete my Bronze Medallion life saving certification at the Titiwangsa Golf Club. Today my training plan called for a 1 hour easy run. Usually, when I am relapsing like this, I don’t exercise much (re: 'Exercising with illness: Can?'). At the most, I get on my Orbitrac for 10 minutes and just move a bit.

Today was different.

Today I felt really frustrated. I’m sick of being sick. I’m fed up of ‘babying’ this body. So today, I tried a different strategy. I love running. I was desperate to run. So I did.

The Run

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Life Saving Society Bronze Medallion in 1 Hour Course?

What? One hour can get Bronze Medallion?
After I accompanied Cynthia on her first 1.5 km open water swim at Port Dickson last Sunday, and following Raymond’s suggestion, I called up the Life Saving Society Malaysia today and was referred to an instructor who could certify me for the Bronze Medallion. Cost RM250. After work today, I drove to the Titiwangsa Golf Club, quick introductions with Azahari, a tall bear of a man, and right down to da business.

This was da business:
  • A test 50 m just to see if I could swim.
  • 300 m (which I did in forward crawl). Must be under 9 min. Pass!
  • 100 m in breast stroke.  
  • 50 m on my back, doing the frog (breast stroke) kick
  • 50 m as above, this time holding a kickboard in front of me.
  • 100 m on my side, one hand in front, and the other hand at back, holding the kickboard.
  • 50 m towing him while he relaxed on his back, his head and hands on the kickboard. Best nyer dia tu.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Port Dickson Triathlon 1.5 km Open Water Swim: Taming the Fear


This post is dedicated to Cynthia Gan, who on 24 July 2011, against crazy odds, overcame her paralyzing phobia of swimming out to the deep unknown, and swam her first 1.5 km open water swim at the Port Dickson International Triathlon 2011. She went on to complete the bike and run and finished the triathlon (her first of what will be many) that day.

Summary of Post
I wrote this post for three reasons. As a written record of Cynthia’s first Olympic distance open water swim, as I remembered it, and corroborating with Misni and Lina’s account (they were on the beach). For Kash, because I know you wanted to be there in person for Cyn but could not. And also as an encouragement for those of you who are struggling with the fear of swimming in open water (sea/lake).

A Bit of Background
I first got to know Cynthia at the Hoohathlon 2011, a first mini-tri for us both. She was already an accomplished ultra-runner, but had floundered on the 150 m swim leg of the Hoohathlon. She had only learnt how to swim not long ago, and her water confidence was poor. I didn’t realize how terrified she was of deep water until the PD tri clinic, where together with Kash, we tried to encourage her to jump into the water off the jetty. She did get up the courage to dip her feet into the water, but no further. She did swim in the shallower water along the beach that day, but could not go deep.

That was the day I ‘adopted’ Cyn – I have three younger sisters whom I love to bits and you just gotta love this girl; also, seeing the fear written all over her face struck a chord in me because I myself am afraid of the water (I’m afraid of drowning, and although I love swimming, that fear has never really left). I was concerned because the PD Tri was only 2 weeks away. This girl had run 100 km – proof of her tenacity and mental strength. I know lots of people would think she wouldn’t have a problem overcoming any fear at all, but I understood that this Fear of Deep Water is a whole new other kinda monster.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Port Dickson International Triathlon Sprint Race Report Result 2011 – A Perfect First Tri

I would like to dedicate this post to good folk who suffer from Lupus (SLE, a chronic autoimmune illness), who face everyday the challenges related to their illness, and who continue to be productive and positive. They are among the unsung heroes in our world. For those of you who cannot run, this run was for you. 

Summary of Post
What coulda gone wrong didn’t go wrong. Everything that coulda went right, went right. Result: The most wonderful, perfect, first triathlon for yours truly.

I went into this event with some worries because I was quite weakened from a relapse of my autoimmune disease two weeks prior. While I knew I would at least be able to stand at the start line on race day, I wasn’t sure if I could finish. I promised myself that I would be a responsible racer, and first, do no harm. I made peace with coming in last. I would savour every minute of this event.

A first triathlon – you only get one first time. I’m glad my Ma was there to share this experience (my support team & photog, thanks Ma!). 

What coulda gone wrong? Well, a gazillion different things from:
  • ‘annoying’ e.g. forgot bicycle, to..
  • ‘embarrassing’ e.g. faint and taken away in ambulance,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gracie vs Dean Karnazes

Now before you say who is this ‘Gracie’ and who does she think she is hah?, trying to compare herself with Dean Karnazes The Ultramarathon Demi-God, let me tell you, Dean and I actually share quite a few things in common. Here are some similarities between Dean and I.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

First, Do No Harm

Less than a week to go to my first Sprint triathlon at Port Dickson (23 July 2011) and it’s not quite ‘all systems go’ for Gracie. My kidney function appears to be better, but I’m weak from the couple days of peeing away all that protein and blood.  It usually takes a month to regain my strength after a relapse like this. And I don’t have a month. Not even a week.

Funny thing is I already know I could complete the sprint, thanks to the Tri Clinic on 3 July. Where I did the 800 m swim in 30 minutes, 20 km bike in 1.5 hrs and a 4 km run in 30 minutes. The last woman in the sprint (35 yrs & above) last year took 1 hr 45 minutes. So with my time of over 2 hours, I would be solid last! After that clinic, I had started looking to better my times tee hee. Just didn’t want to have the glamorous position of being last lah.

Well, today I re-revised my target for this race. I just want to finish.

I want to cross that finish line.

But I won’t say that cliché ‘I will do whatever it takes’, because… I won’t. I’m not going to push myself at the expense of my health and recovery.

I’m going to go slow and enjoy my first sprint triathlon. Every. Single. Minute of it.

Just you watch me!

Looking forward to last place J

A click on any ad below this post will put a few cents in my pocket, from the advertisers. Thanks for supporting my blog!

xo Gracie

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Can Cycling Do THIS?! The Horror

That's Hincapie's varicose vein riddled calf?
I have a phobia of cycling. The bloody carnage that I have been seeing on the Tour de France 2011 (whenever I dare watch) is making me even more afraid to get on my bike. Not only does cycling pose a danger to life and limb, it may sometimes turn your legs downright scary-looking things. George Hincapie's varicose veins are attributed by the Sock Doc to cycling and adrenal stress. I probably do not cycle enough to get this kinda problem, so much for trying to use this as an excuse tee hee. At least I have a relatively safe place to cycle at Kepong Botanical Gardens where there are no cars to run me over!

A click on any ad below this post will put a few cents in my pocket, from the advertisers. Thanks for your support!

xo Gracie

Friday, July 15, 2011

Races This Year: Help Grace Pick!

Summary of Post
Here's Grace's 2011 Race List with cost, categories, links to more info and registration. Since I currently cannot train (kidneys boycott), I instead spend my time fantasizing about what race to do next. Or rather, what race I have some small chance of being at the start line or race day. It's a bit frustrating about this uncertain health problem, but hey a gal can dream right? Note:are= Confirmed done or (hopefully) will finish, and = Eye-ing it... 

What do you think, which should I go for? :)

June 19    Hoohathlon 2011 - 150 m swim, 10 km bike, 5 km run (RM150). Success! Kow Tim 100%!
July 23     Port Dickson International Triathlon 2011 - Sprint 800 m swim, 20 km bike, 5 km run (RM80)
                 I think still got chance to make it to the start on race day < 2 wk away though health not 100%.
                 Afterall, PD Race Clinic already Kow Tim.
  July 30     Shape & Men's Health Night Run 2011 - 5 km fun run or 12.3 km run (RM60)
  July 31     Segambut Charity Park Run 2011 - 5 km (RM90 Family 3 pax)
  July 31     5A Charity Run 2011, Klang - 6 or 10 km (RM25/30. Info. Reg)
*Aug 28     Hua Hin Int'l Triathlon 2011 - 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run (RM150. Info. Reg)
  Sep 10     Vietnam Int'l Triathlon 2011, Hoi An - 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run (USD135! Info. Reg)
*Sep 11     Salomon X-Trail Run 2011, UPM Serdang - 10 km (RM60. Info. Reg.)
*Sep 24    Desaru Int'l Triathlon 2011 - Sprint 750m swim, 20 km bike, 5 km run (RM90, Info. Reg)
  Sep 25    The River Jungle Marathon 2011, Hulu Langat - 42 km (RM90. Info. Reg)
  Oct 1,2   Relay For Life 2011, Penang - 6pm to 10 am (RM10. Info. Reg)
*Oct 15    Putrajaya Night Marathon 2011, Putrajaya - 42 km (RM? Info. Reg)
  Nov 5      Sabah Adventure Ultra Trail Marathon, Kinabalu - only 25 km left (RM120. Info. Reg).
  Nov 13    Powerman Malaysia 2011, Perak - Sprint 5.5 km run, 32 km bike, 5 km run (RM100. Info. Reg.)
*Nov 20    Penang Bridge Int'l Marathon - Fun, 10, 21, 42 km (RM20, 45, 50, 70. Info. Reg)
  Nov 27    Laguna Phuket Triathlon 2011 - Swim 1.8 km, bike 55 km, run 12 km (> RM650! Info. Reg)

Please feel free to leave a comment at the end of this post! Peace!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ouch I got a Stitch while Running! WHY?

Summary of Post
I sometimes get a stitch in my side while running and wondered WHY?! I DON'T LIKE! I'm sure everyone here has kena before. Here's what might help.

"The docs like to call it 'Exercise-related Transient Abdominal Pain' (ETAP) because 'side stitch' is too easy" (Pam Perdue)

The Physiology of a Stitch
A stitch is when your diaphragm (a muscle separating your lungs from your guts and organs) SPASMS. A stitch actually feels more like a hunting knife being plunged bloodthirstily into one's side. There's no blood externally, but you gotta wonder if something awful is going on in there where the sun don't shine. Good news is, nobody seems to have died from a stitch yet.

The diaphragm moves down when you take a breath, and moves up when you exhale. Your guts and organs are attached to the diaphragm. When I am running, it's all a big jostling mess inside, even though on the outside I look quite cool ahem. The Liver – a heavyweight hitched to the right side of the diaphragm – is what you can blame for the Right Side Stitch, the side most runners get it. As you breathe out, your diaphragm moves up, but those pesky guts (what are they good for anyway) pull down on it. Even worse if you are The Type (like me) that breathes out while the right foot hits the ground. I received enlightenment today that my breathing actually synchronizes with my stride, that is, I always exhale on the same right leg. It's amazing what nuggets of wisdom pick-up-able from surfing the World Wide Web.

Formula for Right Side Stitch = Exhale while landing on right foot = Diaphragm moves up + Liver on right side of body moves down = Right Side Stitch.

Un-Stitch Me!
I found these tips from J. Johnson extremely useful:
  1. Belly breathe instead of taking shallow breaths. So the diaphragm lowers right down and the ligaments (that attach your guts to the diaphragm) can relax.
  2. Switch up your 'footedness' and exhale as the left foot hits the ground instead of favoring the right foot. Give chance to the left foot la. There are less weighty guts stuck to the diaphragm on the left side.
  3. Don’t run on a full tummy. Heavy stomach from that large super supreme pizza, nasi lemak and char koay teow equals more strain on your diaphragm. 
Here's to stitch-free running y'all! Please feel free to leave a comment and/or additional tips on preventing stitches at the end of this post. Peace!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Exercising with Illness: Can?

Summary of Post
I love exercising but can get sick if I push too hard. What kind of sick? My kidneys signal their protest by going on strike, leading to relapse of a chronic autoimmune disease that afflicts me (Henoch Schonlein Purpura). Yet, exercise is good for me, so I continue to do it. I need it! For now, I have to do it in moderation. This post outlines my exercise routine. 

Just what is my problem? Can I exercise?
Good question. I google 'Henoch Schonlein Purpura and Exercise’ and come up with just about zilch. Not surprising since only 5 people per million are diagnosed every year. HSP is quite rare. Last I heard I am one of less than 10 people in Malaysia who have this. So, can I exercise? I guess I will have to figure this out myself. 

There’s information on exercise for a more common autoimmune disease Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) or Lupus. Lupus sufferers can have joint pains (like me), skin rash (like me), fatigue (like me), sometimes kidney problems (like me), and sometimes their immune system attacks their own blood and brain (thank god, not me!). Some have debilitating joint pains that really limit their mobility and ability to live a normal life. And some die from complications involving the kidneys, blood and brain. There is no cure.... yet. 

One difference between my friends with lupus and myself, is that I get hit with everything, plus gastrointestinal problems - my insides bleed. I know, I know, I’m just

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Kepong Botanical Gardens KBG FRIM

Summary of Post
Short blurb on what to do and see in this lovely spot in FRIM just 20 minutes north of the heart of Kuala Lumpur. And how it is the perfect place for bike-run bricks for a triathlete wannabe (yours truly). :)

Waterlily in full bloom in July at the Kepong Botanical Gardens

Kepong Botanical Gardens (KBG)
The serious/real purpose of KBG is 'ex situ conservation', that is, as a collection of living plants from all over Malaysia (read more on FRIM website). These plants have been thoughtfully incorporated into various themed gardens, which themselves were designed to blend harmoniously into the Gardens' landscape. The result is a breathtaking oasis accented by precious and beautiful plants with the verdant green-cloaked hills of Bukit Lagong as its backdrop.

Ginger Garden, one of the many themed gardens in the Kepong Botanical Gardens 
What to do
Entrance fees are RM1 per person and a few bucks more for mountain bikes (Rates here). Visitors can jog, cycle,

Sunday, July 3, 2011

PD Triathlon Race Clinic 3 July 2011

Summary of Post
Insider information on race route and some great tips from Uncle Chan. I did the Sprint distance (800 m swim, 20 km bike, almost 5 km run) today!!

So far so good
I signed up for the PD Tri on the very last day (1 July), after I was 51% sure of making it to the start line on Race Day (see also 'PD Tri - in my dreams only?'). Kidneys working? Check. Joints working? Check. Overall health status: alive and can move? Check. ALL SYSTEMS GO! Then I found out about the free Tri Clinic (Thanks Reza!) and almost fell over myself signing up for that too. I was afraid of swimming in the open sea by myself, so this clinic would be the perfect opportunity to do so.

Uncle Chan gathering tri clinic participants for the briefing

The Clinic – Uncle Chan’s Briefing
The briefing started 8.40 am with about 50 attendees. Uncle Chan informed us that

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Templer's Park Natural Swimming Pool

The Taman Rimba Templer Swimming Pool is a great place to practice swimming laps in semi open-water type conditions. Excellent pool close to Kuala Lumpur for folks who want to practice for the swim leg of upcoming triathlons. The pool is about 50 m long and 20 m wide, and is fed by refreshingly cold water from the Templer Waterfalls further upstream.
The Pool fed by icy cold water from the Waterfalls further upstream (steps to Falls rear left)

I’ve played in the Pool before, but never tried swimming laps in it, until today. After work I drove there from FRIM where I work (about 10 minute drive). I parked at the carpark (there are public toilets and changing rooms there). The Pool is a 500 m walk gentle uphill walk into the park, on paved

Saturday, June 25, 2011

PD Triathlon 2011: In My Dreams Only?

Summary of Post
Struggling with kidney problems, all I can do is wait and see if I can recover before registration closes for the PD Tri (July 1). At the moment, it looks unlikely (Note: 23 July 2011, I did it! Race report here.). Nice thing though is, in my dreams, I am strong and whole, and running free!

Recurring Dream
It’s pretty cool that even when my real body is sick and weak, sometimes in my dreams Avatar Grace is whole and strong. I love my flying dreams, where I soar above the green fields and dodge the occasional power line.  My current favorite is my running dream. I am running lightfooted as a deer along a forest trail. Although I am going fast as can be, I don’t feel like I will ever get tired. Every breath I suck into my lungs revitalizes me. My body feels powerful. In this running dream of mine, I don’t have kidney problems bothering me… don’t feel weak from losing protein and blood in my pee ... don't have sharp arthritic pains shooting through my joints … I just … feel … good…  

OCD, Me?
“Don’t be so obsessive!”, my wonderful doctor of 12 years lectures when I tell her that I test my pee (with a dipstick)  for proteinuria every morning. I smile as I remember her kind-hearted scoldings, and I am still smiling as I journal the results of this morning’s dipstick test: “Trace” proteinuria, the dipstick says. Muuuuch better than the 4+ (ridiculous) reading on 18 June (which was the day before the Hoohathlon). Once I get down to “negative” proteinuria, and feel settled, I can again start tapering off the dratted meds (corticosteroids) that I take for my illness (Henoch Schonlein Purpura). Hopefully that happens in the next few days, so I can sign up for the PD Tri! If not? Well, if not, I’ll just go to PD and do the triathlon distances there whenever I am good and ready. There’s much to be said about ‘Mind Over Matter’, but if I push mindlessly when I am ill, it will indeed matter – it will kill me. :p . Don’t even get me started on ‘What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger’…

The Week Past
Didn’t do a whole lot of training this week but put in some time every day after work. Just enough to break a sweat, which is 30 minutes on my elliptical machine. My body is limited to gentle namby pamby exercise, however, my mind seems to have gone into Quantum Hyperdrive Fantasy Mode. I imagine myself swimming the 800 m (sprint distance) with the salty waves lapping against me… the transitions … the 20 km bike ride on my trusty road-slick-tyred mountain bike, wind against my face … my legs pumping through the 5 k run. I am grateful that I have memories of my past life (before and between bouts of illness) that I can draw on for my imaginings. We'll know by next week's post if the PD Triathlon is 'Only in my dreams'...

“A healthy man has many wishes, but a sick man has only one…”

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xo Gracie

Monday, June 20, 2011

Hoohathlon 2011 Race Report: A Taste of Tri

As I sat down to write this race report, a plethora of emotions washed over me. The Hoohathlon that I participated in yesterday, 19 June 2011, was incredibly meaningful to me because I had always wanted to do a triathlon, and this was my first taste of a tri, an 'appetizer'. My journey to this point has been derailed so many times because of illness, and this flicker of hope almost snuffed out in 2009, that I barely dared to hope again to tri. A few years ago, I had thought my illness conquered, and had planned to do my first tri ('Tri-ing for Me: Triathlon after Illness). It never happened. A family crisis brought on the worst relapse that I had had since diagnosed with the rare illness (Henoch Schonlein Purpura) ten years ago. Instead of triathlon training and brick workouts, in a desperate bid to get better I ended up camped in the Florida Everglades with alligators, rattlesnakes and other friendly wildlife as my companions!

Humbled... and grateful. That is how I feel right now. Because I know I could never have gotten here without the support of the people in my life… my devoted husband, also my biggest cheerleader … my family and friends … my employer, FRIM, who accommodated for my illness… and my God.

Pre-Race Prep
For months I had been slowly tapering my medications under my doctor’s supervision, while preparing for the race. When I first started training I was very weak but I faithfully put in time on my elliptical machine every evening after work, increasing from 10 minutes to an hour a day, over two months. After I signed up for the race, I started training in earnest. The week before, I had successfully completed the Hoohathlon distances: 150 m swim in my apartment pool, 10 km bike and 5 km run at the scenic Kepong Botanical Gardens in FRIM. Unfortunately, I relapsed from food poisoning two days before the race. I wasn’t sure if I should/could/would do the race at all.

Race Day
I woke up 5.30 am, felt 'okay' (as much as a relapsing person with protein and blood in the pee could feel, which in the early stages