Jamie is an avid triathlete and a purple lover. Her eyes get drawn to things in purple and it doesn’t help when she’s a shopaholic. When she sees things on display in purple, her wallet says “nooooo” but her heart says “yesssss”. And she always ends up listening to her heart. Basically, she has everything in purple; singlets, shirts, shades, socks, shoes, nails, bags, water bottles and etc. She also loves traveling, having a cup of coffee at Starbucks, gorging down good food, hanging out with friends and basically, trying to live life to its fullest.
Ripley: Jamie, how did you get first get started into running?
Amethyst: I used to be in my school’s Track & Field and X-Country team. But I went into what I call my “hibernation” mode mid way through my Polytechnic days and didn’t do any running for years. I have always wondered what it would be like to do a marathon but never had the guts to sign up for it alone. I needed company. The furthest distance I had done then was X-country distance and I couldn’t imagine doing a distance 10 times of it. Having a friend around would help motivate me and it wouldn’t be that lonely but none of my friends were game for it back then.
It wasn’t until 2010, that I got to know a good friend in University and my interest for running rekindled. I was inspired by his participation in various marathons and asked about his experiences. He was kind enough to share them with me and told me that if I wanted to participate in a marathon, I should just go ahead with it and not wait for friends to sign up. What prompted me to sign up for my first race eventually was when some of my guy friends commented that I couldn’t do a 10k run. Much as I knew they meant it as a light-hearted joke, I still wanted to prove them wrong. So, I signed up for Shape Run 2010 and the rest is history. I soon found myself signing up for more and more runs, of similar and longer distances.
Ripley: What have you accomplish so far?
Amethyst: Earlier in March this year, I completed 85km for my first attempt of an ultra – Twilight Ultra Challenge. Everyone, including myself was pretty surprised at the mileage I managed to cover as prior to it, the longest distance I had ever done was 42km and I didn’t train specifically for the event. I even went for a bike ride and swim earlier in the day before Twilight. I just turned up, feeling quite tired, and hoping to complete my target of 60km.
A week later, I completed the Aviva Half Ironman 70.3. It was an experience I would never forget. That morning itself, I was feeling jittery. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to complete the race within the cutoff time. Not being a strong runner, I felt like I was dying by the time I got to the run leg of the race. But the grueling 7-8 hours were one of the best hours of my life. The euphoria I got the moment I crossed the finishing line made the pain and fatigue all worth it.
In May, I did both 10km and 42km during the night of Sundown Marathon. People thought I was insane but I just saw it as a challenge and a good chance to work on my endurance. I am also pleased to have completed 7 marathons and set new PBs this year. The first at Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, and the second at Gold Coast Airport Marathon. Running in both countries was awesome as the cool climate was a far cry from Singapore’s humid weather. It was also refreshing to run along different sceneries, rather than the usual Nicoll Highway or East Coast Park.
Ripley: Do you do any other sports besides just running?
Amethyst: I swim, cycle and also take part in triathlons. I thought about doing more than just running after OCBC Cycle in 2011 and signed up for a mini-distance race under MetaSprint and got addicted to it after that. Sometimes I looked back and would never have imagined myself doing distances more than an x-country distance. Yet I have completed 10km, 21km, marathons, triathlons and now, ultramarathons!
At times, when someone asks about what I do, and expresses how they can’t see themselves doing it, I would let them know that I was in their shoes once. I like to encourage people to get into doing what I do, that they don’t have to be great to start or to win the race. All they’ve got to do is to try.
Ripley: How do you train for your ultramarathons?
Amethyst: I don’t have a specific training plan or train religiously. I’ll just head out for a run and run according to how I’m feeling. If I feel like I’m up for more, I would just go on. I’m like any other person; I do let laziness and procrastination take control of my decisions. Most of the time, I treat my races as training. When it comes to nutrition, I have no special diet, as I’m very much a foodie. I LOVE FOOD! Each time I do a race, I think about the food I’m gonna enjoy after the race! More likely than not, I’ll indulge in sushi, sashimi or pasta, regardless of having an upcoming race or not. I’m also not a technical person, so I don’t have a set of protocols for recovery after an ultra-marathon or any race, for that matter. I just do some stretching, give myself “off days”, have some good food as a reward and allow myself to clear off some sleep debt.
Ripley: You recently attempted the Craze Ultramarathon 100 miles race and The North Face Singapore 100km. How did you fare?
Amethyst: I did not manage to complete both races. I had contemplated for some time before signing up for both races because I wasn’t confident that I was prepared for them. Ultimately, I made a decision to give myself a chance, instead of being left to wonder “what if”. I told myself that I would do my best and try to complete them. If I don’t, I’ll just pick myself up and try again the next time. I see no harm in trying, to take a risk and discover how far you can go instead of being stagnant and denying yourself a chance.
The race was almost twice the furthest distance I had ever done. I wasn’t looking to set a record or aimed for a particular timing. I just wanted to complete the 100 miles within the cut-off time. My strategy was to just go slow and easy, just like I did for Twilight Ultra. All was fine until around the 20km mark. I felt a sharp pain around my hips and I couldn’t move for a while. I stood there frozen and was in utter disbelief, as I had never encountered such pain after just 20km. Things started to go awry. My ankles started to hurt as well and I began to panic. I wasn’t even halfway done and I was already having all these problems. All I could do was to press on, and make each checkpoint my goal. All that was in my head was “let’s get to the next checkpoint and see how you’re feeling.” Slowly, I made it and had 15km left to the halfway marker (50 miles).
I had to at least make it to 50 miles, I kept telling myself. The last 15km was the longest and most excruciating 15km I had ever done – it took me 4 hours to cover that distance! My ankles were hurting very badly and I had to sit and take a rest every few hundred meters. Fortunately, I had the company of Hayden (a fellow 100-mile participant) and Jason (who decided to be our pacer while on his bike). If not for them, I would feel as miserable as hell. When I finally reached the 50-mile checkpoint, I took off my shoes and noticed my swollen feet! I finally decided that I wasn’t going to risk it as I had upcoming events to do. It certainly pained me that I had to bow out of the event.
TNF 100 Singapore
As a precaution, I bought ankle guards and wore them for TNF 100 Singapore. Again, I wasn’t aiming for any particular timing. I’d be happy enough with a completion. I was grateful for my friend, James’ company during the night/wee hours of the morning. I couldn’t imagine running alone in the trails, in the dark. I told James to go on ahead as soon as the sun rose, as I knew I was slowing him down. Things were going well until around the 30km mark, when my ankles started to act up again. The pain was bearable probably due to the support of the ankle guards. On my way back to completing my first loop, I crossed paths with those doing the TNF 50km race. Friends called out to me, gave me a high-five and a hug. I was overwhelmed and it gave me some needed encouragement. Unfortunately, time wasn’t on my side. I slowed down considerably after my ankles started to act up, but I just wanted to go as far as I could and hopefully, make it to the finish line. But I had to stop and DNF-ed at around the 65km mark as I was supposed to be at the 83km checkpoint at that time.
It was definitely disheartening to have to bow out of a race, again. Both races were new and humbling experiences for me. I was upset that I had 2 “DNF” on my “resume” now but at the same time, I knew I gave myself a shot and have no regrets.
Ripley: What advise would you give to others thinking of jumping from the marathon or shorter distance onto the ultramarathon distance?
Amethyst: Pray hard that you wouldn’t get any sort of injuries! Seriously, I personally believe that anybody can cover any distance. It’s only a matter of will, a matter of time, and a matter of physical condition. What I think is important, is that you’ve got to be willing to try and give yourself a chance in the first place. The only person stopping you from doing anything is yourself.
Truth be told, when I did my first ultramarathon distance at Twilight Ultra Challenge, my furthest distance done was a marathon. Though I did not train properly for the ultra, I managed to complete it. Believe in yourself and train for it. Don’t be intimidated by the distance. If you’ve never done an ultra before, you’ll probably want to take things slow and easy. You don’t have to go all out and set a personal best.
Ripley: In what ways would you train differently to ensure you make it to the finish?
Amethyst: I certainly need to sort out my problems and injuries before I proceed on to doing more strengthening and conditioning exercises to prevent such injuries from happening again. I’ll probably up my mileage and aim to go for longer runs more often, not necessarily faster but definitely at a comfortable pace for a longer period of time.
Ripley: What are your race plans for 2013?
Amethyst: I’ll be heading to Tokyo and Cebu for Tokyo Marathon and Ironman 70.3 Philippines respectively. I also plan to do Twilight Ultra Challenge again, as well as to finish my unfinished business at Craze Ultra and TNF 100. I’m also looking to sign up for Sundown Ultra if it should be confirmed and last but not least, I’m really looking forward to attempting my first full-distance Ironman at Ironman Western Australia.