Ran 2.4 km today (in American terms, about one and a half miles) and it felt so good to finally break 14 min! Been trying so hard since secondary school to run faster, but it’s only this year that I’m getting serious about self-training. Good job to me *pats self on back* because we all need a little self-love once in a while.
PLUS! As I was typing this we just got our configs and I’M IN K4! I’mso so super pumped right now, you wouldn’t even believe this has really made my night goodness me
For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, a K4 is a crew boat with four paddlers, as opposed to a K1 which is a single-man kayak. A K2 is a double-man kayak.
I love sports. There’s a kind of beauty in its simplicity- on the court, nothing matters but the goal. There’s no drama to be resolved, there are no deadlines looming, there’s nothing but you and the game, you and your team, you and the sweat and exhaustion dripping from every pore in your body until the final whistle blows and you know that you’ve done your best. Sports lets you let go.
On 15 January, 9:00 a.m., it was finally time for us to take part in our first actual race: the Singapore Canoe Marathon, or, as we called it, SCM.
We didn’t win anything besides one prize, a first place for the girls’ K2 event, but I still felt really proud of my team and the effort they had put into both preparing for the race and finishing it well. 16 km (for girls) and 21km (for guys) is really no joke, but I think my school made a pretty good showing, especially when the boats made their final sprint towards the finishing line.
I wasn’t able to participate in the marathon, so I and the C-boaters (basically the paddlers who use C-boats) signed up to volunteer our help for the event. It was pretty lit. Like, literally lit because we spent something like six hours on the pontoon under the sun.
The thing about canoe marathons (and, I’m guessing, any marathons) is that all the action is in:
The first twenty seconds, or
The last twenty seconds.
Because those are the only two times the boats are in sight.
Despite being exhausted, sunburnt and very sweaty, though, it was kinda fun.
The only thing was, that my teammates and I had opted to stay over at on-site because we didn’t want to have to travel all the way there, so naturally, we got almost no sleep. I don’t have pictures, but we were basically screaming and running around in at two in the morning. The boys had their shirts off and one of my friends blasted music from his speakers as my other friend pushed him around in an abandoned shopping cart they found in some shady industrial unloading bay. A worker there saw them take it, but it was like half-past one and he kind of looked at us with I’m not paid enough for this written all over his face and walked away.
Then at about three-thirty, we went back to the sleeping area and someone produced poker chips and cards, so we sat down for a game.
We ended up playing until four-twenty, and considering it was my first time playing poker I didn’t do that badly.
After that, we went to sleep, and were unceremoniously awoken an hour later by someone’s hideous alarm. I thought I was dreaming at first but it was, sadly, time to get up (I forgot to mention- reporting time was 6:15 a.m.). The boys had all forgotten their toothbrushes, so they just sat in a circle to play poker with unbrushed teeth which was so gross.
Then, it was time to get out and do our jobs.
By the way, I’m not sure how many other countries have dragon boating, so I’ll just briefly explain.
They’re basically gigantic kayaks with room for ten or more people. The people row in pairs, one paddling on the right side while the other paddles on the left. The sport requires crazy strength and mental willpower because literally the entire objective of it is to drag yourself, your teammates, and a 250 kg boat across 1000m of (probably very choppy) water in the shortest time possible. The originated in China.
There are different stories among us Chinese as to the origins of dragon boating, but to the best of my knowledge it commemorates Qu Yuan, a high-ranking, loyal official who fell out of favour with the Chinese Emperor and was banished. In grief at the state of his country, threw himself into the river. The common people, who respected him, rowed boats out to find his body and threw rice dumplings (粽子) overboard to prevent fish eating his body. I honestly don’t know how this ties into dragon boat races, but that’s the story I grew up with. This is also the reason we have rice dumplings when we celebrate 端午节, which is the name of the festival to commemorate Qu Yuan.
So, after that totally irrelevant and uninteresting segue…
There were all kinds of boats that I’d never actually seen in action before, like the surfski (sadly, I have no pictures) and what we call outriggers.
Also, I recognised a lot of people that I usually see at the river where I train.
I was pretty excited to see a female C-paddler (the one kneeling upright) because at the inter-school level, we don’t have a category for female C-paddlers. I would use a C-boat if I could, but sadly we aren’t given the choice to.
The national team had some really cool kayaks with designs on them, like a spiderman symbol or stars. One was decorated like the Flash’s suit.
All in all, I came back very sunburnt and very tired, but it was a good experience. Would do again.
Plus, I got a free T-shirt! And I managed to buy the “Life’s Short, Paddle Hard” shirt that every kayakist has in their arsenal of canoe-related wear.
Recently I’ve really been losing motivation at a horrendous rate. I’ve played sports almost my whole entire life (netball for seven years and I’ve been in canoe for one and a bit) and I’ve always taken naturally to an active lifestyle. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t wake up at 7:00 a.m. at least three times a week during the holidays to get ready for training, and now I have to get up at 7:00 on Saturdays, too, because of canoe.
I think this is probably a really common issue faced by a lot of amateur sportspeople out there. There’s always this sense of being initially super pumped for training and improving yourself, but after a while, you kind of hit this “wall” where you don’t seem to be making any significant progress and you start losing the drive to train hard.
For me, as a person with very low physical and mental stamina, training becomes a chore real fast. I start dreading the mornings, dreading the days I have to hit the gym even though my muscles are still aching from all the rowing I did the day before.
I attribute part of this problem to the fact that I am a person that picks things up relatively quickly. Maths concepts, books that are hard for people to understand, different sports. Whenever I start out something new, I make really fast progress for a while with minimal effort, but then after I hit the point where natural aptitude doesn’t matter any more and real, hard work has to come into play, I tend to give up. Which is why I am currently, from being one of the fastest in my team, now one of the slower ones. That’s why, when my juniors join us in a few weeks’ time, I’m going to tell them that it doesn’t matter where they’re starting from: whether they have experience or no experience, whether they’ve been in sports before or not, whether they’ve even exercise before or not. Because it’s not about where they’re starting from, it’s about how much effort they’re willing to put in.
Canoe is an incredibly demanding CCA, even in the highly competitive landscape of Singaporean sports CCAs, and I have never experienced such intense physical exertion during trainings in all my short life. In the past year, I’ve run more, sprinted more, sweat more and come closer to dying than I ever did during the seven years I played netball.
But I’ve also learnt so much more. I learnt that the body is capable of almost anything the mind tells it to do. I’ve learnt that, with a strong and bonded team, running 11km under the scorching sun becomes somewhat more bearable. I’ve learnt that you’ll never regret pushing- you’ll only regret not trying hard enough.
Still, I’ve really been losing steam. Hopefully some of you guys can sympathise with me. I’m really going to try harder, because I feel like I’m really letting my team and my juniors down if I don’t push myself to get better and better every day. Plus, my coach has put us on a food ban, meaning that we now have extremely restricted diets, and the lack of sweet drinks in my life is taking a toll, man, it’s taking a toll. But I really want to be able to stick to it. Wish me luck guys.
“It comes down to one simple thing: How bad do you want it?”
2012 More thoughts about training.
When you join a sports CCA (for the non-Singaporeans, CCA stands for Co-Curricular Activity and they’re basically after-school activities. Most Singaporean students participate in at least one), you’re basically making a commitment to do your best for your team and your school. So those people that don’t put in effort really need to step up their game. I understand that training is tough, and to be honest there are loads of better things you can do with your time like study or hang out with friends, but when the whole team is working their ass off to make sure we don’t disappoint our:
I really don’t understand what makes people think they have the right to slack off and not give 110% in every training.
There’s a huge difference between being good at a sport and working hard for a sport. Since my netball days, my coaches have always told my teams that they never cared about how good we were, only about how hard we were willing to work.
There’s a guy in my team who could be so fast if he wanted to, but he just misses way too many trainings to the point where his technique is honestly really bad. If you aren’t going to commit and contribute to the CCA you’re in, what’s the point of remaining in it? How can you look around you and see your teammates putting in everything for their sport, and continue to put in so little effort to better yourself? I get it if canoeing really isn’t for some people, and I’m not one to judge people that quit the CCA because I understand it’s really very taxing, but if you’re going to remain in the CCA, it’s kind of expected that you put in some work, y’know?
When one of the guys left the CCA, we found his paddle in the shed and realised that he hadn’t paid money to get a grip for the shaft. My friend took one look at it and said, “he literally put nothing into canoeing. Not his time, not his effort and not his money”. Which was pretty true, but he quit so at least my coach wasn’t wasting time and we weren’t wasting a boat on him.
Just some random thoughts.
I can’t wait to start sprint trainings. So far it’s just been mileage (meaning that we go for really long distances to build endurance for the marathon instead of training our sprints for racing) and I absolutely hate mileage because my endurance is really bad. I die at about 6 km. My sprints are much better, but still not that good. My secret dream is to paddle in a K1 boat for competitions, but considering my lack of experience and how competitive that category is, I think I’ll be in a K4 crew boat. Which is okay by me, at least I still get to paddle!