Post-2019 Gold Coast Marathon: What Now?

It’s coming to 2 weeks after the race (GCM19 race report). I’ve not run a single step since then, staying faithful to the 2-week self-enforced rest. Sleep hasn’t been good, with frequent tossing and turning in the wee hours of the morning, the cause of which has been hard to pin down except to put it all down to the ingrained training routine. Now that the euphoria has died down, what’s next? Moving on with the next stage of the plan, of course! GCM19 was always about getting myself as close to the BQ standards as possible, or as Detective Allen Gamble put it in The Other Guys, “…establishing a beachhead…”

We’ve developed a system to establish a beachhead and aggressively hunt you and your family. And we will corner your pride, your children, your offspring…”
Allen Gamble, The Other Guys.

To put that into my personal context,

System” would be the 18-Week HMM/LHR Advanced Plan.
Beachhead” would denote a launch pad, a Forward Operating Base if you will.
Hunt” would refer to my quest to run the Boston Marathon.

I use this movie as a reference not only because I love Will Ferrell comedies, but my life is just as boring as the married Allen Gamble’s (not when he was Gator)! Like Allen, I’m a keen data guy when it comes to training analysis. That being the case and having a bit of time being off-training, I’ve completed piecing together my training plan towards racing a key marathon in the First Quarter of 2020. Having the plan down on paper, well Excel, means it’s tangible and reinforced on a daily basis.

PHASES

DATES

NO. OF WEEKS

PHASE SUMMARY

Foundation

Jul 22 – Sep 22

8

90% easy running incorporating post-run drills, 2 progression sessions and 1 10K race on Week 3 which I’ll race casually. 3 strength sessions at Dynamique will be inserted here. Weekly mileage averages out at only 59K. Objective is to rebuild aerobic fitness and consistency.

HMM/LHR 6- Week Base

Sep 23 – Nov 3

6

Weekly average is 64K, with 80% easy running. Speed-work are all short and non-interval based eg in the form of fartlek and progression only. At the end of the 6th week, I’d have gone through 14 weeks of consistent prep-work. A week’s complete rest with a massage session is planned before transitioning into the very challenging 18-week plan.

REST

HMM/LHR 18-Advanced Plan

Nov 11 – Mar 15

18

I already experienced it first-hand how hard this nut is. Plus, I’ll be running at much faster paces.

Coach Luke has cautioned against embarking on a plan that’s too long, because it’s counter-productive and increases of risk of burn-out and injuries. It’s for that reason I’m keeping the Foundation Phase very loose and easy, and inserting a week’s complete rest before the start of the main body of training. While it remains to be seen how much cushion is needed after the revision of the qualifying standards this year – read up the regulations and try out the qualifying calculator here running a just-in-time race is just too risky. A buffer of 5 minutes would be ideal to give the applicant some measure of comfort (but still no guarantees!), so you can imagine how hard it is just to make it to the start at Hopkinton. I’m hopeful and the numbers do suggest some possibility. But I’m not going to worry about that. Instead I believe that if I can execute the plan well, I’m in with more than a shout. The training paces have been updated into Final Surge and Garmin Connect. So here I go again!

 

Gold Coast Airport 5.7KM Fun Run 2019

I returned to run the 5.7K as a form of pre-marathon shakedown. The inclement weather meant that my plan to run with the Insta360 One X was scuppered since I don’t have the waterproof casing. Instead I relied on hand-holding the GoPro (without the gimbal) and the video came out all right. I ran 26:16 for the distance and got a good work out for next day’s big race. Taking into account carrying a camera, sling bag and water-resistant shoes! Enjoy the video!

*Follow this link to my Gold Coast Marathon Race Report.

Gold Coast Marathon 2019

The runners around me let out a collective groan as the rain came down, light shower at first before developing into something more threatening. I had on me 3 old race tees on top of my singlet, a disposable arm warmer, a cap and shorts. I’d completed my warm up prior but with the wind and rain, the body was quickly cooling down. Even the singing of the Australia National Anthem sounded listless. Memories of Kasumigaura Marathon some years ago came flooding back. Unlike Kasumi however, there was less fretting on my part as I was determined not to let 18 weeks of training go down the drain. The little tree cover above provided a bit of protection, enough to keep my 2 inner layers dry but my shoes were soaked through from the running rainwater. I hopped in place to keep some semblance of warmth as the emcee counted down the start. I had discarded 2 tees and decided to keep 1 around my neck just a bit longer. When the gun went off, I immediately lost Budiman who had been standing next to me. GCM19 was the second marathon we found ourselves participating together, after Nagano. I consumed a gel and kept hopping to keep my muscles warm. The gut issues I’ve endured the past 3 days due to being lactose intolerant, seemed to have abated. I’d been concerned about the power in the legs being zapped as a result of my visits to the WC but Saturday’s 5.7K Fun Run (26:16) seemed to suggest otherwise.

Very happy to have met Erin again, my 3:40 pacer from GCM18.

My goal time was a conservative 3:30 (4:58/km) but I carried some confidence from having completed my longer MPs and a tough simulator quicker than that. While several weeks didn’t turn out as planned in terms of mileage, I’ve kept up with the SOS workouts once I’ve readjusted my initial 3:25 goal time pace from Week 10 onwards. I even scaled back the easy miles on certain weeks to allow the body more time to recover. Despite cutting back, I still ran more miles per week over the course of 4 months than I did training for GCM18. I was confident that I caught myself, just in time, from tipping over into the burnout zone, so anything between 3:25 and 3:30 was a possibility on a good day.

The crowd moved hesitantly at first but quickly progressed to the target pace when the road opened up 300m after the start. As sudden as it had came down, the rain stopped right about then. I closed in on Sally and her co-pacer, but due to the crowd, I only caught up after the course hooked a left towards Main Beach, and because I was cloistered within my own little pack of runners, I occasionally  found myself running ahead of the pacers! There was a danger in getting bunched in, and I extricated myself from the pack to avoid going out way too fast. Racing at this pace certainly required a bit more situational awareness and being mindful of the goings-on within and around ourselves. That is why I love the marathon. The goals you set, the distance to be run, the miles you’re required to put in, and the mind games you play with yourself, all elevate the marathon to a very cerebral undertaking!

Back to the race. The running was effortless and got to the 5K mark at Surfers Paradise in 24:25 having taken my 2nd gel.  I was pretty much in my own world, trying to get into a meditative state of pacing when Hee Boo suddenly appeared next to me having chased the 3:30 bus all the way from Pen B! As we chugged along smoothly, I pointed out to him the upcoming aid stations and course turns so that we could adjust our trajectory. The post-rain weather was fantastic. By 7K, we realized that the pacers were holding a much faster clip than necessary for a 3:30 and definitely not slowing down, an observation validated by some runners around us. The duo were pulling 10 seconds quicker than goal pace and once we recognized that the pace weren’t going to be sustainable for us, we let them go.

After a few turns along familiar streets, we finally joined the Gold Coast Highway, the new section of the course, at the 10K mark (48:53). This wider stretch certainly more accommodating for the masses. By then the sun was up but conditions were generally cool and pleasant to run. I removed and tucked the disposable arm warmers into my shorts waist. We continued our merry way to the Southern-most u-turn at Burleigh Heads, which once again in my opinion  retained its reputation as the best supported section of the marathon. I low-fived as many adorable kids as I could, supporting us that morning. This time around, runners made the left u-turn as opposed to right the previous years. We hit 15K in 1:13.00, just 2 minutes off April’s NatGeo 15K of 1:11.28. We hit the halfway mark in 1:42.04, 2-minute PR over Jan’s Twincity Half of 1:44.06 and couldn’t help but feel over the moon about the whole thing. It served to illustrate just how much quicker the pacers were going even if we held ourselves back. Had we been that crazy and completed the 2nd half in a similar pace, we’d have run a 3:24 marathon! Hypothetically speaking of course, since to produce that effort was simply beyond us at our current fitness levels. Instead I kept reminding Hee Boo that we needn’t be running any quicker and just needed to stay loose and relaxed – 4:50 to 4:55/km were plenty good!

We kept a very consistent average pace and with buoyant spirits, in no small part due to the raucous support from the crowd lining the streets, we arrived back at Surfers Paradise in 2:02 (25K), determined to get to the 30K mark in as good shape as possible for the final assault. The sparse crowd between 25K and 30K allowed for some introspection and warming up of the mental resolve that would be called upon pretty soon. After all, my legs were already reminding that they were a little tired. Other than that, I was good for the race. Burping was always a good sign to me – an indication that my gut was still functioning well, which also meant that the gels ingested would still be converted to fuel.

30K. Only 12 to go! We’ve got this!

This year, the 30K mark (2:26) came earlier on the course. Instead of being on the Sundale Bridge, it was right at the foot of it. No worries, flash our best smiles at the camera and get on with the job! As usual, the support in Southport was fantastic. Crowds were thick on both sides and they gave us runners fantastic support. Hint: To those with a rather difficult name to shout out, be sure to adopt a simpler one for the race bib, like Alex, Tim or Ken! You’ll appreciate the hollers coming your way!

I grabbed 2 packs of Endura gels from the table and hurried along. I believe Hee Boo dropped off sometime along this stretch and I was suddenly alone. I lost 5 seconds heading up the hump at 31K mark but regained back the pace the next 2Ks. The pace dropped again over the next KM, but clawed back the next. My mantra was, “There’s no pain, there’s no self.” as long as I could. This went on rather frustratingly until the finish, firstly trying my darndest to sustain the effort going up the Land’s End Bridge and then decided to walk 6 steps when drinking from the 2nd last water station.

Cleared the Land’s End Bridge and about to face off with a malicious head wind.

Yet, that wasn’t my slowest split. The slowest was when my fellow comrades and I were battling head wind along Marine Parade. 5:23 was all my tight legs could muster. It was inspiring to see how the runners around me didn’t throw up their hands and walked. Except for one of the 3:30 pacer who had headed out too quickly! Everyone else put their heads down, leaned into the wind and fought the final 2Ks. Shuffling as quickly as I could was I could do and when I saw that iconic Macca signage, I knew the worst was over and it was time to enjoy the run in. My name was easy to scream and thus I was able to just take it all in, even if it was all a blur.

Someone screamed my name (it was Jessie and her friend) just as I took the final left onto the final 250m. I couldn’t turn my head around so I just raised my hand in acknowledgement – thanks guys! The Emcee worked the crowd hard as we pushed and sprinted the final 200m to the finish line. Sally, the other 3:30 pacer was there jogging and urging the runners on. I’d lost visual contact of the pace team since the 30K mark, so that was quite unexpected. Only then did I allow a peek at the official clock on the gantry, which flashed 3:30 and change. It was just a matter of how much I managed to dip under it.

Even as I’m typing this now, it’s a little difficult describing my feelings of crossing the finish line – just so many emotions. A mixture of joy, relief, and pride I guess. I did nearly jumped for joy when I spotted Stella right after the finish line! She definitely needed a little vacation herself, having run around chaperoning the SEA athletes!

Post-race opportunistic photo with Sally, the 3:30 pacer and Han Chee, the GCM 10-Year Club legend from Singapore.

Pace breakdown:

4:59 > 4:47 > 4:50 > 4:58 > 4:52 > 4:50 > 4:49 > 4:58 > 4:59 > 4:51 > 4:53 > 4:49 > 4:50 > 4:50 > 4:45 > 4:49 > 4:53 > 4:47 > 4:51 > 4:53 > 4:51 (HM PR – 1:42.04) > 4:54 > 4:54 > 4:55 > 4:54 > 5:00 > 4:57 > 4:52 > 4:55 > 4:50 (30K PR – 2:26.14) > 4:55 > 5:04 > 4:51 > 4:53 > 5:08 > 4:53 > 5:03 > 5:14 > 5:12 > 5:11 > 5:23 > 5:03 > 4:19

Congrats guys! Sub-3 to 3:33 – just very well done!
Collectively, we wolved down plenty of burgers!

Post-race notes:

I don’t think I’ll need to change much of my current approach. Just a tweak here and there and looking after myself better.

  1. There’s been little downtime from running since GCM18 and even if there was a dip in Macao (3:48), the accumulated mileage certainly helped. Over the 18-week period, I logged over 1,300km but I’d like more. The challenge would be finding a solution around time constraints – despite resorting to train commutes, I’m still spending too much time traveling to and from the office.
  2. I ran a great 30K (sub-2021 BQ Standard) and if I could train well, stay healthy and injury-free and pray that the planets align themselves, I could be in with a chance next year.
  3. I’d neglected drills and strength work and it was clear that there’s room for improvement in my ability to run the final 12K very well.
  4. Pacing was consistent, the hallmark of the LHR/HMM program. Even though my pace dropped the final few kms, I didn’t slow down as much as the other runners.
  5. My next Goal MP is going to be between 4:47 to 4:50/km. I ran 14 secs/km quicker this time around compared to last year, but I’d be very very happy with an 8 to 10 seconds improvement next year. It gets harder and harder.
  6. I’ll still be going with the LHR/HMM program for my 37th marathon. Since adopting elements of it in 2017 and fully integrating it for the 2018 and 2019 races, I’ve shaved off close to 30 minutes off the 2016 timing.

A successful execution depends on so many factors and elements. My heartfelt thanks go out to Tourism and Events Queensland, Events Management Queensland and Holiday Tours for their hospitality and professionalism once again, for allowing me to be part of the 5-Star Family. GCM19 was yet another stupendous edition despite the weather challenges. They’ve always looked out for me and always seeking to improve the event. The number of runners keep rising year-on-year and who knows, entries in the near future may be going to the ballot! Back at home, the support from the family, running mates are not forgotten and when others are racing this year end, it would be my turn to return the favour (even if a 4:42 MP pace sounds impossible!). Team work rocks, and congrats to all the runners for toughening out!

Until the next race!

New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon – 120K Review

The Beacon may be well received by the running shoe geeks (RSG), but they weren’t really in my list of to-try shoes simply because I already have more than enough for the current training cycle. But as fate would have it, while poking around Rakuten, as any RSG worth his salt is wont to do, I spotted the shoes going for just RM260 including shipping! It was quite an easy decision to make *shrugs*.

9 days later, the package arrived. I did the usual unboxing just to check the product, marvelled at their lightweight feel and excellent upper construction but resisted taking them out for a run. I fully intended to use them only post-GCM19 as recovery shoes.

As luck would have it, the shoes were called to active duty just a month later. It was clear by then that the Rival Fly (RF) that I bought (also very cheaply from Japan) needed more time breaking in and the Zoom Fly (ZF) would not be working as go-fast tempo shoes on the roads that I run. My daily route consists of 12 90-degree turns each 2K loop, and the ZF isn’t suited to quick and constant changes in direction. I’d long ago retired my tempo shoes for GCM18 which was the Zoom Elite 9 (ZE9), something I initially hoped the RF would replace once broken in. Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait for the breaking-in period and after testing the Beacon out on an easy 10K, I was knew enough to know that they would be great for tempos.

The shoes are everything that others have written about – light, superbly constructed upper that’s breathable, accommodating fit. At 7.5oz (US9), 26mm/20mm stack heights for a 6mm heel to toe drop, (per Runningwarehouse specs), there’s nothing superfluous about the Beacon. They fit true to size too. You would think that not having any overlays would render the shoes unstable and sloppy but you’d be wrong. It could take the twisty roads, return a good feel of the road for a fast push-off yet providing adequate cushioning for races up to the Half Marathon from the get-go. They’re surprisingly stable too. Efficient and lighter runners will have no problems taking them to the full distance.

As mentioned earlier, the mesh upper is light and breathable. I believe they’re even lighter than knitted options that we see so prevalent these days. The stock laces are rather long and has a bit of stretch. I found myself having to tuck the extraneous parts under to prevent them flopping around. The padding around the collar and on the tongue are just nice and I’ve absolutely no complaints there.

For midsole duties, NB uses what they call Fresh Foam Ground Contact (FFGC) and they’re essentially a more durable version of the traditional FF. Visually, the stack height of the Beacon appears thick but they don’t feel that at all mainly because they’re anything but mushy. They don’t ride anything at all like the Pegasus Turbo nor Clayton 2 but there are some similarities to the Epic React, which incidentally was one of my favorite shoes.

The lateral side of the midsole features concave hexagonal cut-outs.
The medial side, on the other hand, has convex cut-outs, hence the stability without the need for a medial post.
Another view of the convex design of the medial side. Clearly shows how NB builds stability into a neutral shoe like the Beacon.

I’ve only ever worn 2 other NBs the past 5 years – the OG Zante and the Vazee Pace. Of these 2, only the Zante is made of FF, with the Vazee built on top of Revlite midsole. While I prefered the Zante over the Vazee, running in both always beat up my legs. The Beacon’s FFGC, however, has that extra bit of cushioning and over the several 13-14K tempos I’ve ran in them, my legs didn’t protest as much compared to the Zante days. I was still able to resume my easy running the very next day. The sweet spot of the Beacon is really in the midfoot area. If you’re predominantly a midfoot striker, you’re going to be in for a treat – that’s where the shoe’s cushioning and responsiveness are best experienced.

Just like the upper, the Beacon’s outsole is also a design in simplicity. 90% all-foam with the 2 small areas of rubber plugs, to provide durability on take-off and landing. The exposed foam areas wear rather well. Even though there’s noticeable wear in the center of the push-off area, I suspect the phenomenon is akin to that of the Epic React where the rate of wear tapered off after the initial 100km. Photos below show their state of wear after 120km. There should be no problems hitting 350km and, if lucky, 400km. It’s appropriate to mention that I’ve yet to run in wet conditions in the shoes to be able to comment about their traction.

While I’ve mostly employed the Beacon as faster paced shoes, they’re versatile enough for easy days as well. That said, I prefer softer shoes for those ambling miles.

Other than online sources, and perhaps NB’s factory outlets, good luck finding the Beacon now. You might as well wait for the Beacon 2 coming out sometime Q3 or check out the Fuelcell Rebel. The New Balance Beacon gets my firm recommendation.

Jaybird Tarah Wireless Sport Headphones Review

Weather are nuts these days – mostly muggy mornings, scorching afternoons and wet evenings. I’ve even resorted to putting on a layer of sunscreen before I head out for lunch these days. The adoption of casual wear in the office make things a little easier, at least. T-shirts, jeans/khakis and running shoes certainly beat the typical formal wear. Needless to say, I return from every run dripping in sweat and in order not to leave a trail of sweat in the house as I head to the kitchen to rehydrate and prepare my protein mix, I’ve even resorted to sliding around on a piece of rag. All these perspiration had cost me some money too. Over the past 3 years, I’ve had to replace 3 sports earphones. Touted splash-proof and for sports, they didn’t stand a chance with the “torrential out-pores”. After some research and reading the reviews written by runners, I decided to splash out more money for the then top-of-the-line Jaybird X3.

The X3, which is still on active duty today, is easily one of the best sounding sports earphones out there and they come with long battery life of 8 hours, app support, separate silicon ear tips and hooks, Comply foam tips (if a piece of audio hardware comes bundled with Comply tips, you know the brand puts a little more thought into sound quality), and casing. I’ve had to replace the X3 under warranty after a couple of months’ use due to non-charging, but the replacement unit’s been working well since then. The only issue I’ve had with the X3 is the fit for my right ear, which can be downright painful. As you can see from the photos below, you’ll notice that the section of the earphones that you jam into your ear are not as tapered nor at an angle that’s comfortable for my right ear. No issues with the left, and people are unique that way. I’ve tried the various tips and hooks but they just don’t work, either slipping off when I sweat or just too uncomfortable for extended use – by “extended use” I mean for duration exceeding an hour. That pretty much encompasses all my workouts these days.

My issue with fit has, thankfully, come to an end with the Tarah, one of 3 models released by Jaybird a few months ago, the lowest cost option. The other 2 being the substantially more expensive Tarah Pro and X4. I won’t go into the X4 as the biggest difference they have over the X3 is the IPX7 rated waterproofing. The X4 is, of course, an upgrade of the X3. The Tarah and the Pro version are, however, completely new from Jaybird. To know about each of the differences, check out Jim’s excellent review below.

The olive-coloured X3 above, Tarah below.

The Tarah is decidedly a lower spec’d unit than the Pro. It’s almost by default that we expect “lower spec’d” as feeling cheaper, they’re not too shabby in other aspects. Since they don’t have the Pro’s nylon cabling, they’re lighter than the X3. In a nutshell, battery life is still rated at a very decent 6 hours, they’re IPX7 (sweat and waterproof), capable of delivering 1 hour playtime on 10 minutes’ charge, and sound customization via the fantastic Jaybird app. The negatives are the absence of a carrying case, the continued use of an easily misplaced charging cable (as with those used for the X series and Tarah Pro). The Tarah is also non-compliant with Comply tips but instead uses all-in-one ear-gels, which is can still be customised to a degree.

While the earphones are charging up, you should go ahead and download the Jaybird MySound app (iTunes | Google Play). Pairing is expectedly easy and firmware updates delivered quickly once the app is opened. Out of the box, the Tarah’s sound signature is flat so the app is where you head to, to tweak your preferred sound profile, or just use one of several presets offered. You’ll see that Jaybird has signed up ultra-running elites such as Rory Bosio and Tim Olson. In fact, head to YouTube and enjoy their running series. Other than presets, the MySound app also offer podcasts and playlists hosted out of Spotify. Once you’re in Spotify, it’s easy to lose oneself just checking out its voluminous content. Since I don’t run with the phone, my music are all played out of the iPod Nano. If you’ve the latest watches from Garmin such as the music versions of the 245, 645 or 945, you can ditch the iPod or any MP3 player.

The app also allows the user to customise button controls, set the preferred voice prompts as well as battery-saving time window but I’ve found the defaulted settings to be good enough. I’ve not tried the “Find my buds” feature to comment on it.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the issue I have with the X3 is the fit. You can see from the photo below the difference in construction of both models. With the Tarah’s tapered tips, the discomfort is no longer felt. I’ve taken them on several runs ranging from 12 to 27K and have had no issues. The Tarah never lost connection with the iPod and I was able to enjoy the musical distraction over the longer runs. I’ve yet to drain the battery below 50% to validate the claimed 6-hour operational time but I’ve no doubts they’ll be able to deliver on that.

The Jaybird Tarah gets two thumbs up from me. Nailing the fit for my finicky right ear is already a plus. They sound great, after tweaking the sound EQ, have very decent features that are comparable or even surpassing the more expensive options out there.

I purchased the Tarah for RM325 from Lazada and Foto Shangri-La, the seller, even bundled a free Jaybird-UA-Standard Chartered KL Marathon cap. Go try them out!

Word of caution: Regardless of the earphone designs, please be always mindful of traffic and other safety threats. Always use your better judgment and never listen at extreme levels of volume or over prolonged period of time.

National Geographic Earth Day Run 2019

Having enjoyed its debut edition last year, many of the GCM crew returned to give this year’s event a go. It was a small event that’s appropriately timed around the mid-point of GCM training, perfect as a checkpoint of sorts. As with last year, the 15K route took us through the affluent Kota Kemuning township, a location that we don’t often find ourselves. It’s always nice to have a refreshing change of scenery every now and then. True to its green message, no cups or bottles were used at their drink stations. Instead, runners were advised to bring along their own reusable cups, flasks, or bottles.

Nick had kindly offered to drive CY, Calvin and I there and we got to Gamuda Walk pretty early at 5:35am. Even so, cars had started streaming in with the car parks filling up rather quickly. We quickly geared up and promptly went on our warm up jog around the area and as if rehearsed, were able to pick up Hee Boo and Cheong along our way. We logged around 2K and made our way into the starting chute all sweaty.

The initial plan was to run at MP but I decided just to run by feel. In a race of this distance, the textbook execution would be a fast start to clear the crowd, settle back into and hold an appropriate race pace, be patient and pick off anyone struggling, before pushing for a strong finish. That was precisely how I ran the playbook. Within the first 500m, I was in a bunch of 25 or 30 runners, and by the first KM (4:32), the bunch had disintegrated into tiny clusters and solo runners. I brought up the rear and was running alone. The route was the same – it wasn’t a hard one to forget, a few roundabouts and turns and one or two landmarks to gauge the progress. As expected the distance markers were all prominently displayed and the drink stations well-staffed, helping runners refill their water supply via hand-pumped siphons. I didn’t think any of us at the front stopped to refill. I’d been sipping from my handheld 500ml Salomon soft flask filled with plain water, a conscious choice instead of sports drinks, since I planned to take in a gel early into the race. After the fast start, I’d settled into the low-mid 4:50s and considering how depleted I was last week due to recovery from illness and the resulting fatigue, my breathing were very much in control.

Progress was steady and as mentioned I ran mostly alone. The throaty cough that had plagued me for a week surfaced just once and I could tell it wasn’t as bad as previous days. That certainly helped with my confidence! Hee Boo, Cheong and Calvin were so far ahead that I only spotted them after the 7KM mark when the runners took a turn to make their way back to the finish. I’d been keeping an eye on 3 runners, which included the lead female, ahead of me and as I gently nudged the pace down from 4:53 to 4:49, 4:47, 4:47 and 4:46 over the next 5KMs I’d reeled them in and passed them. I tucked the empty flask into my waist band and continued to hover around the low 4:50s as the only visible guy ahead was simply too far to catch. Not only was he not slowing down, he was pulling away from me.

Nearing the finish line. Photo credit: Penonton.

As I got close to the u-turn for the 5KM runners, I started picking up the pace to take advantage of the gentle downhill. My 4:46, 4:44, and 4:33 took me past another runner (not the one who pulled away) with 1.5KM to go. I’d thought of pushing for a sub-1:10 when I hit the 10K mark but a 1:11.28 (4:46 average pace, 6th position) was still a very satisfactory result on an accurately measured course. I ran 1:10.28 (4:54 average pace, 5th position) in the 2018 race [race report here] which was 600m short. It was a strong and patient run which restored a bit of confidence in me. I learned a lot from this race which reaffirmed my decision to adjust my goal for GCM19. I’m reminded that the pursuit of goals can’t be rushed and being patient can result in a far more enjoyable and fulfilling journey.

After the ice-cream! Photo courtesy of Khay Ann.

Thanks to Nick for collecting the race packs and offering the ride to and from the race site. My appreciation also goes out to the organizers, sponsors, crew and photographers, for putting up and supporting a great small event! Here’s to Week 9 and beyond!

GCM19: Weeks 1 to 3

“Training for a race will teach you the skills you need to be successful in life: Goal-setting, commitment, patience, sacrifice, work ethic, and often overlooked: recovery.” John Jefferson.

And just like that, Week 3 is a wrap. I’ve set several goals for GCM19 and the most aggressive one is to be able to meet the qualifying standards of Boston 2020,a lofty goal by any means. The secondary goal is to run a sub 3:30 marathon and the tertiary goal is to run a PR. To nail the biggest goal, I’ll have to run 20 seconds per km faster than my current best, and better my current PR by 13 minutes. It’s as  intimidating as it sounds, but I’ve run a Half Marathon just 3 seconds off the goal pace as recently as January, on just base mileage, over an undulating course and humid weather. I’ll know if that was a foolhardy fantasy to be entertaining come July 7th.

While I can easily cook up many excuses to say that I can’t and shouldn’t be entertaining such foolhardy thoughts, I’d rather focus on keeping a positive mindset and believe that I can somehow pull it off, no matter how misguided or delusional that may be. I’m no psychologist but this term – Self-Efficacy – seems to best describe my mental stance to the whole pursuit. Believing in it and whole-heartedly embracing the process and things may just work out. I hope.

The Hansons Advance Plan have got me running more than before, right from the very first week. On top of what’s prescribed, I’ve added a bit more to each day. As you can see from the logs below, the daily additions of mostly 1Ks are all miniscule but there’s more to it. Firstly, they all add up to the weekly mileage which I need. Having a rock solid base is priceless. Secondly, it toughens the mind. We’re somehow conditioned to look forward to the completion of the easy (yet boring) 10Ks and long runs. Adding that bit more will teach and toughen up the mind to accept being uncomfortable for just a little longer. Thirdly, the time spent on my feet – the basis of ultra training – can only toughen me up. Over the course of 3 weeks, I’ve logged 150% more mileage than the same period last year, when I made my breakthrough. Granted, I was training on the Beginner plan then. But mileage is mileage, and they come in extremely handy.

Naturally, I’ve been very very careful in taking on the additional mileage, all of which were logged as part of the easy days and none as part of an SOS which are already demanding as they were. I will not hesitate to opt out of adding miles should I really feel sick or really run down. Like what Coach Humphrey said, “You don’t want to be overcooked.”

If there’s one thing I’ve to be really watchful about, it’s sleep. Due to family commitments, that area will always be challenged, so it’s all about doing the very best I can. The training crew have been training and racing extremely well recently and I’m looking up to those who have broken their personal barriers like sub-3:30, 3:15, and sub-3:05. On top of that, we’ve had newly minted sub-5 and sub-4 hour marathoners as well!

Week 1

Planned: 63K
Actual: 71.57K
Difference: +8.6K

Nothing strenuous. All easy miles. 

Week 2

Planned: 66.6K
Actual: 76.18K
Difference: +9.58

First speed session i.e. 12x400m at 1K race pace, with 400m recovery. The 400s were executed in 4:30 > 4:13 > 4:17 > 4:17 > 4:23 > 4:25 > 4:21 > 4:25 > 4:15 > 4:25 > 4:08 > 4:30. Twice a day intake of protein (once post workout, another before bedtime), 2 iron supplements per week, 2 magnesium supplements per week, extra Vit C on alternate days.

Week 3

Planned: 73K
Actual: 79.8K
Difference: +6.8

First speed and tempo week. 8x600m @ 10K race pace with 400m recovery which I covered in 4:34 > 4:38 > 4:34 > 4:25 > 4:21 > 4:24 >4:22 > 4:23. I averaged 4:50 on the dot for the 10K tempo. The poor air quality didn’t make things easy but I got that very challenging session. Thankfully, the haze slowly disappeared over the course of the next few days and I was able to stick to the plan. Same eating regimen was applied but I introduced nuts to stave off the hunger pangs at work. This week saw the most miles logged so far but all good! However, I need to cutback on the mileage next week and stick to the planned 73K having adding miles since W2 Feb. It’s a belated move but the body needs a down week to recuperate and bounce back the following week.

That’s it for now. I hope to continue updating my progress as the I clear the weeks. If you’ve thought about running a PR course on a great location, think no further than the Gold Coast. Early bird fees still apply, so click on the banner below and get to it!

Previous Posts: End-Feb Checkpoint | Mid-Jan Checkpoint


I’ll be running my 9th Gold Coast Marathon this July! While the IAAF Gold Labelled marathon route is fast, flat and scenic where over 60% of runners achieve their personal best, I’ve grown to love the Gold Coast for its vibes. If you’ve not been to the Gold Coast, it will surprise you. Attractions are never more than a short drive/commute away from the city centre. From her world-famous beaches, to the tranquil hinterlands, and to the adrenaline pumping theme parks, the destination has it all. Come join me this July and register before end April to enjoy early bird fees. Details here: www.goldcoastmarathon.com.au

GCM19 Base Training: End-Feb Checkpoint

So how is it going, folks? The first 2 months of the year zipped through so quickly and here we are – start of March and the beginning of GCM19 training! Expectedly, we continue to face challenges at work and it’s so important that I don’t get dragged down by the mental and physical stresses. Some days were hard and while I wish that I could just sleep in and not having to keep to a training regimen, I’m glad to have the very same program and my running goals to keep me on an even keel. I’m fitter and more disciplined for it.

Because we’re all so busy, and I get home only at 10pm on most days of the week, everything is done at a greater urgency. There’s no time to waste and over the weeks, I’ve adjusted to the expected urgency of marathon training.

Let it be known that being in marathon training mode doesn’t exempt one from other family duties. Both kids will see major exams this year and as such most of our resources (monetary and time) are set aside for them. If one doesn’t have any goals and discipline to hold oneself true to it, it would be easy to come up with excuses. We see that a lot on social media, don’t we? Goals. Set it and keep at it!

Transitioning back into marathon training has been going well for me. After a slow and gradual start in December (which I covered here), I’ve averaged 43.5 km per week for January, finishing the month with a total 217.7 km run. That’s slightly higher than the same period in 2018. Week 1 of February saw a jump to 58 km, attributable to the many public holidays during that period. Not having to make the journey back to Penang for the Chinese New Year holidays helped. 2 weeks of 50s were quite enough and over the next 3 weeks, I averaged 37 km. This allowed me to catch up on some rest and 😴 and not overrun myself before Week 1 has even started. For February I logged just 169 km. Measly but a great deal more compared to the same period last year.

2018 Jan and Feb total = 273.2 km
2019 Jan and Feb total = 386.5 km

More running, greater fitness right from the get-go. So let’s get it done!

Previous Post: Mid-Jan Checkpoint


I’ll be running my 9th Gold Coast Marathon this July! While the IAAF Gold Labelled marathon route is fast, flat and scenic where over 60% of runners achieve their personal best, I’ve grown to love the Gold Coast for its vibes. If you’ve not been to the Gold Coast, it will surprise you. Attractions are never more than a short drive/commute away from the city centre. From her world-famous beaches, to the tranquil hinterlands, and to the adrenaline pumping theme parks, the destination has it all. Come join me this July and register before end April to enjoy early bird fees. Details here: www.goldcoastmarathon.com.au

Twincity Half Marathon 2019

My first experience with the increasingly popular Twincity Marathon last year didn’t end so well. In fact, my race ended just after 6K when gut issues forced me to a clump of bushes outside a construction site to jettison my “load”. It wasn’t a pleasant experience and I ended up an underwear short as I made the long trudge back to the car. Another year wiser, I saw it a great chance to kick start the year with a Half, primarily as an outlet to burn off extra energy from being on a low key maintenance plan prior to the start of GCM19 training in March. The thought appealed to the training crew as well and many of us ended up toeing the starting line that 5:30am.

If you’d followed the progress of my base training, my “diet” has been all about consistency, easy running and very gradual build-up. The Twincity race week was the 3rd week where the mileage hovered in the 40s and with a course notorious for its long climbs, I had no expectations going into it other than to run an honest pace and get the training mileage in.

Even though it was just a 10-minute drive from my home, it was still a ridiculously early bedtime (failed at that despite being in bed at 9:30pm), and an even more nutty wake up time at 3:30am. A nut bar washed down by an espresso and a glass of water were all I took before heading out of the door. As agreed, Nick, Cheong, Boh and I met at the designated petrol station at 4:15am before making our way to Cyberjaya.  Surprisingly, we were lucky enough to locate a decent spot to park before changing into our gear and proceeding with our warm-up.

The morning wasn’t too humid and by the time we were in the starting pen, more and more runners were jamming into the confines. Despite the reminders by the emcee to fun runners to move to the back of the pack, there were still these folks who forced their way into the head of the pack, smartphones ever at the ready to do the Insta or FB Live thing. As for me, I was just eager to get the race started, and the running underway. That we finally did, to the pounding of traditional drums sharp 5:30am.

Instead of taking the few turns towards a crazy uphill, there were slight mods to this year’s course. The first few Ks were nice as the body and breathing started to get online. 21K was going to be my longest run since Macao, nearly 2 months ago, and even if there were no expectations, there were still whispers of self-doubt if I would eventually be reduced to a mangled wreck by the 17K mark. I had determined that I should run by feel and see where I went from there instead of being pegged to a particular goal pace.

Cyberjaya isn’t an area I’m familiar with, but it was probably at the 3rd km mark when right after a left turn, one runner (with earphones plugged in) cut into my path flashing a V at the photographer. Instinctively, I pushed him aside which was a good thing because at the pace we were going, one of us could’ve easily tripped the other. That really annoyed me but I looked straight ahead and focused on the race. He, however, turned and stared back at me a couple of times as if I was the wrongdoer. He purposefully ran ahead and obstructed me, and after the water stations, would sprint up and repeat the behavior.

When you commit to lead a race, you’d better be in control of the pace. It’s also more stressful to be in the lead and doing the hard work. Lastly, it’s better to be the hunter than the hunted. As the hunter, I was able to press the pace, and pressure him into committing to a pace he couldn’t sustain but I felt that the speed at which I was running was already good enough and sustainable to the finish. To push the pace further may backfire. In the end I chose patience and ran my own race. Eventually he stopped coming back at me.

18K mark with 2 more short climbs before the flat towards the finish. Photo by David Lai

Whenever the climbs came up, my pace would drop close to 5 whereas I’ve been keeping to the 4:40s on the flatter sections. With 5K to go and my form flagging, I felt a slight stitch on the right. I’d quit looking at the watch by then and relied solely on the accurately placed distance markers. Another push over the next 2 climbs and a long flat followed by a hard right and I found myself on the straight towards the finish. It was still about 400m to the gantry but I made it under 1:45 with nearly a minute to spare. If I was halfway through marathon training, a 1:43 wouldn’t be a far-fetched finish.

5K: 24:11; 10K:  48:34; 15K: 1:13.09; 20K: 1:37.45; Finish: 1:44.03. The official timing was 1:44.06, good for a 15th place finish in my category and 69th overall. And a PR by about 3 minutes!

A peep at the timing clock just before the finish. Photo by Run Tag.
A few yards after crossing the finish line. Photo by Mrs Moey.
Caught up with Hee Boo (2nd left) who ran his debut sub-4, after just 9 weeks of training. The gang agreed that he should be aiming for 3:45 in Gold Coast!
Jessie and June both ended up on the podium, as expected.

All in all, an enjoyable and happy outing for me and gave me much needed motivation for March. Coming off December’s Macao Marathon, my weekly mileage started with a couple of weeks of 20s, then 30s and with Twincity, I completed my 3rd week of 40s. To come away with a 3-minute PR on a tough course, there’s nothing but positive takeaways. If you’d like to follow my Gold Coast Marathon training progress, just click on the #GCM19 hashtag.

If you’ve not signed up yet for the 2019 Gold Coast Marathon, you’re still in time to enjoy early bird fees. It’s a weekend of running on the beautiful Gold Coast and if you’re chasing for a PR or that Boston Qualifier, you’d be hard pressed to find another course that’s conducive for that in July.


I’ll be running my 9th Gold Coast Marathon this July! While the IAAF Gold Labelled marathon route is fast, flat and scenic where over 60% of runners achieve their personal best, I’ve grown to love the Gold Coast for its vibes. If you’ve not been to the Gold Coast, it will surprise you. Attractions are never more than a short drive/commute away from the city centre. From her world-famous beaches, to the tranquil hinterlands, and to the adrenaline pumping theme parks, the destination has it all. Come join me this July and register before end April to enjoy early bird fees. Details here: www.goldcoastmarathon.com.au

GCM19 Base Training: Mid-Jan Checkpoint

It’s 2 weeks into the new year so I thought it’ll be good to provide a recap the work I’ve put in up to this point. As usual, these posts serve more as a personal record for me when I review my training progress. I’m a stickler for data and these blog postings complement those I record online such as Strava. These channels allow me to identify weaknesses and opportunities to build on. In short, they’re invaluable to me!

Here are the facts:

  1. I’ll be going with the Hansons 18-Week Advanced Plan. The plan kicks off March 4th.
  2. I’m presently in base phase, details of which are presented in the main body of this blog post.
  3. In the shoes department, I now have all I need for this marathon cycle. The Ultraboost Uncaged and Pegasus 35 will be rotated heavily these 2 months. Both shoes are very versatile and can handle 5:45/km paces quite easily. Standing by is the Zoom Fly Flyknit. With training kicking off in March, the Lunaracer 4 will have a part to play for the quicker SOS days and the Beacon for the crucial recovery days. The Pureboost ATR will continue to be my wet weather shoes, while the Vaporfly 4% my race shoes. There will be no more addition to this department as everything is good to go.
  4. My weight has been holding steadily under 60 kg with moderate eating. Once training starts, my diet will be tweaked a little to follow that of my GCM18 days.

I returned to sparing running 5 days post-Macao, raking in an astounding 11K 😀 ! The last thing I wanted was repeating the same approach post Macao 2017, when I dived into training mode a little too soon. As evidenced by the logs that I religiously keep, I just couldn’t sustain the mileage and eventually fizzled out as January progressed. I was prudent enough not to have forced through the proceedings and by the time training commenced in March, I was rested and ready to go.

So the focus this go-around is on gradual increase in mileage and enjoying the runs without the pressure and stress of pace nor distance. The road is long and the miles to run are high. There’s no point in overdoing things and I’m contented to running easy and getting back the aerobic base at this point. Supplementing that routine are the on-going core strengthening sessions, this time centering on the psoas, hips, and everything from the abs down. A few home equipment were added over the holiday season enhancing the typical humdrum floor exercises.

My Dec looked like this:

  • Dec 3 – Dec 9: 11.1K
  • Dec 10 – Dec 16: 21.4K
  • Dec 17 – Dec 23: 22.8K
  • Dec 24 – Dec 30: 38.2K

The first 2 weeks were hard. The HR hovered in the mid to high 130s even for slow runs of close to 6:50/km pace. But patience and consistency saw improvements in fitness. Numbers don’t lie and average HR eventually dropped to low 130s. Patience continues to be the watchword as it’s very easy to get carried away with the improved endurance. I was running so easily that I was able to put together a 13-day running streak from Dec 26 to Jan 7. The HR even dipped below 130 on several occasions. I called an end to it after Day 13 in order to move into the training routine where there are rest days built-in.

  • Dec 31 – Jan 6: 45.5K; longest run 12K
  • Jan 7 – Jan 13: 46.8K; longest run 15K

The week-on-week mileage is on a very gradual upward trajectory. Even so, I’ve clocked more miles between November 2018 to January 13, 2019, compared to the same period in 2017/18. It’s still very early but this augurs well for my goal of toeing the line of GCM19 with more miles logged. And without any stress!

Oh, the running streak was so fun to execute that I may just go on another streak soon! The next training update shall be end-February before the start of the 18-week training.


I’ll be running my 9th Gold Coast Marathon this July! While the IAAF Gold Labelled marathon route is fast, flat and scenic where over 60% of runners achieve their personal best, I’ve grown to love the Gold Coast for its vibes. If you’ve not been to the Gold Coast, it will surprise you. Attractions are never more than a short drive/commute away from the city centre. From her world-famous beaches, to the tranquil hinterlands, and to the adrenaline pumping theme parks, the destination has it all. Come join me this July and register before end April to enjoy early bird fees. Details here: www.goldcoastmarathon.com.au