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

Nike Pegasus 35 iD Review

The neutral cushioned daily trainer category is the bread and butter of every shoe company. ASICS have their Nimbus and Cumulus, adidas have their Ultra Boost and Solar Boost, Brooks’ Glycerin, Ghost and Launch, Saucony’s Triumph ISO and Ride ISO. And Nike, of course, have the Vomero and Pegasus. I’ve worn a few versions of the Pegasus intermittently since I took up running in the ’80s. ’92 (heavy, very firm, thick, stiff) ’06 and ’07 (cushier and dialed back on the stiffness, but still heavy) but my favourite then was the 2005 which I went through 2 pairs. They got progressively firmer and stiffer, not to mention more expensive, from that point on. Check out some of the early Peg models as featured by Complex here, Sneaker Freaker here and Nike here.

The Pegasus 35, launched May 2018, sees a complete overhaul in the silhouette, with it taking after some elements of the stupendously popular Vapor Fly 4% in the way the full-length Zoom Air bag is shaped to mimic the curve of the 4%’s carbon fiber plate. The Peg 35’s upper also does away with the multiple overlays seen on the earlier versions. A swept-back heel tab was incorporated, taking the cues from Mo Farah’s preference for a non-intrusive construction – not that this part of a shoe has ever bothered me. The engineered mesh upper has a tighter weave this time around and this is complemented with an internal bootie which connects to a slimmer yet extended tongue. The laces go through Flywire cords to secure the shoe as do the internal toe and heel cups. Then there’s the pointy heel seen the 4% and Zoom Fly. The Peg 35 has a stack height of 28/18 for an overall 10mm drop, within the 8-12mm standard for shoes on this segment.

This setup accords the Peg 35 a decidedly sleeker look and naturally piqued my interest as well. However, with a shoe cabinet that was already too well-stocked, I reminded myself that I would only part with my cash should I achieve my marathon goal time on the Gold Coast. As it turned out, I did (race report here), and a little reward in the form of a customized Peg was in order. The Nike iD custom took 3.5 weeks to arrive and when they did, I thought they were too nice to run in, albeit imbued with a Chinese New Year vibe! I opted for a red upper, metallic gold swoosh, speckled midsole and gum-rubber design, complete with my PR printed on both shoes and a self-reminder inscribed on the tongue.

Despite the sleeker appearance, the Peg 35 still weighs in at 9.5oz a shoe for a US10. Now, if the midsole was React instead of Cushlon, and the upper wasn’t made of such tight weave, they would perhaps lose a few more ounces. Doesn’t really matter that much to me since my use would be strictly for training.

The fit of the shoes are snug. As mentioned, I stayed true to size and if you’re one to run in thin socks, that will not matter much but I’d advice testing the Pegs out in the stores prior to purchase. Moving the first row of the laces back also frees up the forefoot area. Now less restrictive, flexing during the toe-off phase is also a pleasant experience without anything pressing down on the toes or feet. Moving to the rear, the swept-back heel tab didn’t enhance nor mess up the fit of the shoes for me. Heel lock down is secure as it is.

Lateral view.
Medial view.
The vents on the upper are only concentrated around the vamp. Breathability suffers a little in our hot and humid climate due to the tight weave of the mesh in the other areas.

Now comes the most important question – how do the Peg 35s feel? If you are not the least interested in the specs, you’d be forgiven for thinking they ride lower, as in the midsoles are thinner, than the Epic React. In reality both the Peg 35 and Epic React share the same stack height and offset! The Pegs’ use of durable rubber outsole and Cushlon midsole combine to give the wearer a certain firmness and road feel, unlike the softer and bouncier experience of the Epic. The differences are especially palpable for me coming off the retirement of the Epic. Here’s the interesting thing – I’m more susceptible to heel striking in the Epic than the Pegasus despite the latter being a full ounce heavier.

I did mention that the Peg is firm. But that doesn’t mean an absence of cushioning. It’s there and provides just enough of it and quickly send you off to your next stride. There’s very little sinking feeling with easy stride, so there’s no Hoka-type of feel here. The Peg is a little warm to run in in Malaysia’s tropical climate but not uncomfortably so. I’ve yet to finish a run in soggy socks but I’ll have to confirm that once I resume my longer runs.

Since I’m already so far behind, I thought this post would be more relevant if I work it as a 100-mile review. So while the photos were taken when the shoes were new, the video below will show the close up of the wear of the Peg after 160km. Overall, the wear and tear, or the lack of it, have been astounding. Other than a very slight wear on the left shoe along the outer edge of the heel (the usual wear spot in all my shoes due to a weaker left leg), both the left and right shoes have seen very little degradation. Even the thin grooves on the pentagonal lugs in the forefoot landing and push-off areas are still visible.

This is one shoe that will take you through the entire marathon training cycle. While advances in technology have brought us racing flats we can train and race in, you still won’t get anywhere near the miles and durability you can put into these traditional daily trainers. Dependable and durable, there’s great ROI you can derive from them. And as I’m now approaching the big Five-O, I need to be looking after myself so that I can continue chasing my running goals. These shoes offer that. Besides, “Train heavy, race light” seems like a great idea!

The Nike Pegasus 35 remains a good buy for those seeking a durable daily trainer. The latest iteration is sleeker, simpler in construction and, by golly, still the durable shoe that we know. Cushioning remains on the firmer side but still delivers a smooth ride. What I’d like to see in a future release is React foam replacing the Cushlon (although that would certainly result in price increase) and the use of a more breathable upper. The earlier colorways are already on sale under RM400 (US$100), so go check them out!

Nike Epic React – 550K Review

I reviewed the Epic React Flyknit back in March 2018. You can read about it here.

Back then, it sold for RM589 (US$143) but now, the RRP had gone up to RM608 (US$148) not much difference if you’re in the US, but that’s making the purchase decision very much harder for us Malaysians. Thus, the casual shopper may be interested to know if the shoes do indeed stand up to some serious use.

I’m almost exclusively a road runner, so the Epic React hasn’t gone off the tarmac. But I can say that the shoes have stood up admiringly up to the test. As you can see, the upper still looks fantastic, a testament to Nike’s Flyknit construction. The translucent rubber reinforcement wears very well. The React foam looks battered but still has a bit of life left, possibly 80K. That said, at 550K, I reckon it’s time to retire them and really push the Peg 35 and Zoom Fly Flyknit into the heavy rotation. They’re both logged approximately 100K by the way, so they’re definitely seasoned for daily use.

Check out the video I shot for a better look at the condition of the shoes!

Here I’d like to point out that I’ve liberally applied Shoe Goo to the foam where the high wear. Shoe Goo, if you’re a shoe geek, is a well known (and long time go-to solution to fix and/or reinforce a shoe’s durability). Just RM38 from ACE Hardware, it’s a great buy and I’ve used it on the Epic React and the Vaporfly 4%. Now, I’m not the most efficient runner but I’d say the wear on the shoes have been excellent and defied my doubts.

The price appears prohibitive and for much less, as of this post, there are so many options out there. From New Balance Beacon (which I snagged from Rakuten Japan for RM240), Fuel Core 5000 (RM262 from RunnerInn), Brooks Launch 5 (RM370 from RunnerInn) just to name a few. Because of that, I won’t be getting myself a second pair, unless they pop up at the premium outlets for under RM350.

Did I like the Epic? I love it the more I wear it. Mostly between 6:00 to 6:45/km pace, which meant they were great for easy to recovery runs for me. The React foam feels a little dull and uninvolving at paces quicker than that but as I logged 70-95K weeks for GCM18 and recently Macao, they were what I reached out nearly all the time for the easy days.

So, that’s that!

Note: The Epic React 2 is slated to be released Q1 2019. So v1 will surely see greater discounts.

Galaxy Entertainment Macao International Marathon 2018

Marathon #35 was indeed a tale of 2 halves. I had an excellent first half, and a forgettable second. Much like the see-saw training I had after the great first 6 weeks. For the training recap, you can check out this post. Going into the race, But the plan was still to stick to 3:30 goal even though it would be near impossible given the way my training turned out. I’ve always maintained that Macao would be a stepping stone and learning opportunity for me leading to the eventual 3:30, so I certainly won’t learn anything had I detracted from the original plan and run too conservatively. I may be able to equal my GCM18 PR, but that won’t add much to my push towards 3:30. I needed to push the envelope.

Macao this year would be a touch-and-go trip for my wife and I. It was supposed to be a solo trip since it was such a short 1-nighter but the 2-bedded room was paid (in case there would be another runner joining) and the other single bed would’ve been wasted. The fun aspect when travelling with some of the training gang would be the sightseeing and eating. That part of the trip was very enjoyable, and we even dined in the award-winning Tapas de Portugal (also here) the night before the race. With the gear laid out the moment we checked in, I was able to hit the sack early. A little too early I might add, as I woke up at 2:30am which was way before the alarm! In hindsight, I should’ve finished watching The Godfather III on TV! I did catch the famous, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”scene though 😀 .

A light dinner at the award winning Tapas de Portugal.

I stuck to my pre-race meal protocol of a cup noodle and black coffee before heading down to meet Calvin and CY for a short 1K warm-up. I felt really good and was raring to get the race underway. The jog to the stadium was less than another kilometre and since we didn’t have any baggage to check in, we were able to bypass much of the crowd entering the track. All of us stretched a little before walking towards the starting pen. The crowd was already thickening. Macao practices a common start for the Half and Full Marathoners which meant there were plenty of shoving around within the pen as runners forced their way to the front. This was the most annoying part of the race – lack of etiquette by the mostly PRC, Hong Kong and local Macanese runners. I don’t foresee the race organizers changing this anytime soon. Nevertheless, I was being entertained (not!) by the poor pom-pom boys and girls who could do with a much needed break with their non-stop shaking of their pom-poms (they were at it for at least 25 minutes). I should also mention that I was also surrounded by cussing runners (I understand Cantonese enough to know their meaning) whose idea of conversation included colourful adjectives. I just couldn’t wait to get the race underway.

The clock struck 6 and we were finally let off. It couldn’t have come sooner enough and I was glad to tear myself off the annoying fellas. As usual, the exit from the stadium was a tight squeeze, followed by a hard right, a short straight and a hard veer to the left. It was only after this point that I could open up my pace and get the race underway. Winter is very mild in Macao – it was 20 Celcius at 6am – at least for the period I’ve visited, warmer than the Gold Coast winter. So the body got going right from the start. With the wider roads, everyone was able to find a comfortable spot and get going. Pace around me was brisk and it got me wondering if that many would be dropping out by the 10-mile mark. Then I remembered that most of these runners around me were Half Marathoners!

The first challenge presented itself in the form of the Governador Nobre de Carvalho Bridge. While it was dark last year, the entire length of the structure was completely lit this time around, allowing drones and photographers to work. It was mostly flat until around the 4.7K mark where runners were greeted with a 300m climb. Since it came so early in the race, this was tackled without any issues. I covered this stretch in 5:16 pace.

5K Splits: 5:27 > 5:02 > 4:58 > 5:00 > 5:16 = 25:47

The other side of Ponte de Carvalho (ponte = bridge, in Portuguese) allowed me to recover but I was very conscious not to get carried away by hammering the downhill. While the feeling was great at that point, there was always the matter with the wall at the back of my mind. The crowd thinned out a little exiting the bridge as we meandered around the streets on the other side of Macao. Wherever there were flats, I reminded myself to run relaxed and get into the zone. And this stretch along the coastal road was long and perfect to maintain that. I’d found the iPod battery flat right before the start, so I’d no entertainment to keep me distracted and it was all very much just me focusing on my breathing and cadence.

10K Splits: 4:59 > 4:55 > 5:01 > 5:01 > 4:58 = 50:42

As I closed in on the famous Ah Ma Temple, I had to be conscious of the cobbled stone path. The Vaporfly 4% isn’t a stable shoe and I’d to be mindful of not twisting my ankle, especially around the twisty path. Traffic control for the marathon have always been excellent except for the section before entering the Sai Van Bridge. As with last year, we had to share part of the roads with buses and their fumes were just terrible.

15K Splits: 4:55 > 4:55 > 4:54 > 5:02 > 5:07 = 1:15.38

The 15K mark was ominously the ramp up the Sai Van Bridge. The span bridge itself wasn’t a problem but it was along this long curvy ramp that many runners were reduced to a walk. My strategy was to maintain very high cadence with short strides. As long as I was moving at the same effort, I figured I would be alright. I hit 10 miles in 1:20.50, so I was still good. My fueling tactics were unchanged – a gel every 5K, drink at every station, sip on my bottle of Hammer Fizz every now and then. Clearing the bridge meant hitting the 17K mark and before long, the half marathoners were separated from those running the full distance. There wasn’t many of us left to trudge on. At around this point last year, the race leaders had begun to lap me.

The next 5K was run over a hardly scenic route. We went past the Coloane and some industrial areas. Really boring. It was still relatively cool, still OK for running and the well-spaced out sponging stations helped as well. A little fatigue was starting to set it, but things weren’t deteriorating at an alarming state yet.

21K Splits: 5:12 > 4:53 > 5:00 > 5:02 > 4:37 > 5:01 = 1:45.26 (the official timing put that at 1:48.01, a slightly quicker half than I clocked en route to my GCM18 PR, so there appeared to be some loss of GPS signal along the way).

I was still averaging 5:00 pace up to the 26K mark. Along this stretch where we had to go through a couple of switchbacks, I finally spotted Calvin who appeared to be running well around 230m ahead. I told myself to hang on and not let the gap widen. But I could only ask so much of an unprepared body.

26K Splits: 5:01 > 5:05 > 4:55 > 4:50 > 5:00 = 2:10.19

I started slowing down after this point. While on paper, there was still a chance that I finish close to my PR, the reality was far more chastening. The whole body was wracked in pain, with mini-cramps popping up here and there, even the stomach. The shoulders, and glutes weren’t spared either. It would’ve been easier to count the body parts that weren’t in trouble.

Once we hung a right to the Galaxy Casino, the Half Marathoners had only a couple of KMs to run. Those running the full distance still had 14 arduous KMs to negotiate. It was here that I unpinned by race bib last year, opting to not aggravate my PF further. This time around, I needed to gut it out.

30K Split: 5:02 > 5:09 > 5:01 > 5:05 = 2:30.36

I’d begun taking walk breaks and tried rallying against losing too much time. Due to the small field, there weren’t many runners who passed me. On the Gold Coast I’d have been swallowed and spat out. I wish I could be more descriptive of the remaining portion of the race, or what’s left of it, but the only persistent thing that I experienced were pain and suffering in the increasingly hot morning.  I couldn’t be happier when I saw my wife waiting with the camera after I rounded the last turn before entering the stadium towards the finish.

35K Split: 6:17 > 5:36 > 5:15 > 6:19 > 5:21 = 2:59.27
The rest: 6:10 > 6:52 > 6:40 > 6:22 > 6:21 > 6:47 > 5:46

Most don’t think much or bother about their running, and there’s nothing wrong about that. For those intending to push the boundaries to run their very best, every race matters. It validates the effort they invested into their training. Some take an express elevator to their goals, some take a more meandering path – losing, regaining their bearings, and learning. It’s now 2 weeks after the Macao Mayhem. I shall allow myself to be encouraged with how I did. It was 10 minutes off my PR (which works out to be around 2 KM) but still my 3rd fastest marathon. I set out to finish the marathon after last year’s DNF and I’d done so. It’s time to put this behind me and move on with recovery and rebuilding. I will take that 3:48.48 and be done with Macao Marathon. I’m now toying with the idea of returning to Chiang Mai next December. My only marathon there ended disastrously prior to using the Hansons Plan. I returned the following year to race the half but am itching to do well in the marathon there.

Post-race analysis:

  • I expected to suffer but not this much.
  • I expected not to be able to hit the paces (up to the wall) but I did. That probably explained the corresponding level of pain I found myself in  when reality finally set in.
  • Executing the Hansons Plan successfully demands strict adherence to the weekly mileage. I simply missed too many sessions. I was de-trained and my endurance levels plummeted.
  • In running the easy sessions too fast (they were within my pace window, but on the upper levels), I didn’t give my body the recovery it needed. The downstream impact would be poor recovery, compounded by the tremendous stress at work. I might have been knocking on the burn out door as well.
  • Having now experienced the extremes of good and poor Hansons Plan execution, I can now recognize the “good fatigue” and “bad fatigue”. You can usually ease off the “good fatigue” phase and start hitting the goal pace after a quick warm up. The mind and motivation, too, will be quite fresh. Bad fatigue, however, is a sucker punch both on the body and mind and is near impossible to shake off even after several days of gutting it out.

Standard Chartered Extends KL Marathon Title Sponsorship

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

STANDARD CHARTERED EXTENDS KL MARATHON TITLE SPONSORSHIP
Malaysia’s premier distance running event will see bank at the helm till 2022

KUALA LUMPUR, 28 November 2018: Dirigo Events and Standard Chartered Malaysia are pleased to announce a four-year extension to their title sponsorship agreement, taking the Bank’s partnership with the Standard Chartered KL Marathon through year 2022. The 2019 edition of the highly anticipated event will take place on 28 and 29 September and is expected to draw over 38,000 participants.

L-R:  Jessica Tan, General Manager UA Sports Malaysia (Under Armour), Engku Isyam, Sponsorship and Activation F&N Beverages (100Plus), Rainer, Abrar, Asthy Lee, Marketing Manager Thong Sia (SEIKO)

Standard Chartered has been the title sponsor of the event since 2009 and celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the bank’s involvement at this year’s event in April. The Standard Chartered KL Marathon’s (SCKLM) 10th Anniversary saw its biggest participation yet with 38,000 participants competing in 10km, Half and Full Marathon distances, with a 5km Fun Run and 1km and 3km Kids categories. The 10th Anniversary event also saw SCKLM being held over two days for the first time to cater to the growing number of runners, and this will continue in the next edition of the race.

“We are extremely pleased to be extending our association with this wonderful sporting event and delighted that we will be able to continue inspiring Malaysians to lead healthy, productive lives,” said Abrar A. Anwar, Managing Director and CEO of Standard Chartered Malaysia at a signing ceremony held today. “Over the last 10 years, SCKLM has grown to become the premier running event in Malaysia, bringing together participants from every state within the country and from over 70 countries. This is largely due to Dirigo’s excellent organisation of the event and we are happy to resume this successful partnership to take this event to even greater heights,” added Abrar.

The 2019 edition of SCKLM will also see the inclusion of new, as well as returning sponsors. SCKLM welcomes Under Armour and Banana Boat as first-time sponsors of the event. Seiko resumes its long-standing sponsorship while 100 Plus returns as beverage sponsor for the next 4 years.

“We are really happy to have secured our title and major sponsors for the 2019 edition of SCKLM well ahead of the event, which gives us ample time to plan and maximise the sponsorship agenda of our partners,” said Rainer Biemans, Project Director of SCKLM and Director of Dirigo Events. “As we persevere in creating a platform for running while bringing together communities to effect positive social change, it is heartening to note Standard
Chartered’s steadfast support and confidence in the event and we are extremely grateful for their continued involvement, as we are of all our sponsors” he continued.

For more information and updates on SCKLM, please visit:
Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/SCKLmarathon
Twitter : www.twitter.com/SCKLmarathon
Instagram : https://instagram.com/SCKLmarathon
Website : www.kl-marathon.com

Macao: The Unfinished Business

Next Sunday, I’ll find myself on the starting line of the Macao Marathon yet again. This time with an agenda to finish the race after deciding to DNF the 2017 edition due to plantar fasciitis. The early decision to DNF (even if I could’ve finish well within the 5-hour cutoff) was a move to ensure I didn’t regress the year-long injury to the point of jeopardizing my A-race which was GCM18. The call turned out to be one of the best I’ve made. Making the decision early meant I was able to remove the uncertainty of the race, and just enjoy my first trip. If you’re interested, my 2017 experience can be found here.

Year-end races have always been tough. Q4 deliverables at work meant preparations were always going to be challenging, what more undertaking a shorter yet tougher training plan. Instead of the 18-week Beginner’s Plan, it was perhaps a little foolish (and over-optimistic) of me to have gone with the 14-week Intermediate Plan. I figured that I needed a few more low mileage weeks post GCM18 even if I was already running 6 days after that race. As it turned out, we already breached the 64K mark the very first week. Weeks 2 to 5 would be in the 70s, and there would be nothing shorter than 88K from Week 6 right up to Week 13 when the needle dropped back to 76K. Somewhere in there were 3 weeks of 90s. Race week will see a total of 86K run, including the marathon, but I intend to cut back some. As you can imagine, this plan isn’t for the weak of heart and mind.

I wish I could report that I hit all the targeted mileage. But a vicious cold strain spread across the office knocking me off pace on Weeks 7 and 9. Thankfully those weeks were so-called cut-backs from the 90Ks. Without a doubt, the body’s resistance level was already low coming off the high weeks. So despite sporting facial masks at work and constantly washing of my hands like a fella afflicted with OCD, I was still hit. While I wasn’t completely floored, those 2 weeks were pretty low points for me, hitting only 40% to 50% of the targeted mileage. I could’ve forced the runs through but they would’ve definitely sucked and I probably would’ve taken longer to recover. The total missed sessions included 2 strength sessions, 3 MP pace repeats, and 2x20K long runs.

To say that I was deflated would be an understatement. The Intermediate Plan will always be challenging but in better conditions, I wouldn’t have missed that many SOS sessions. I might have shortened the recovery days but I’d have at least managed 95% of what were penned down. Upping the volume AND intensity at the same time were definitely too much for me to handle, at least over this extremely stressful period at work. I ended up neglecting most of my core and strength work over the course of Macao training.

Still, there are some bright spots over the past 3 months.

  1. The last time I logged a 100K week was back in May 2015. This time around, I was able to hit 102K on Week 10 and still felt pretty good.
  2. I had a very good run in the first 6 weeks before the cold hit.
  3. Despite that, I logged 241K more in October than I did over the same month last year.
  4. I logged 178K more in September than I did over the same month last year.
  5. I will also be averaging more miles in November this year than the same month last year.
  6. My MP has slowly but surely been on the up, even if baselining the new MP will take a few more months of consistent work and proofing in a race or two. That’s another reason to insert races sparingly as a progress checkpoint. While I generally advocate training volume over racing week in and out, a low-key race every few months or so will be beneficial.
  7. I’m injury-free, unlike last year.

So my goal for Macao this year will be to finish. A bonus would be to equal the time that I ran in Gold Coast. Anything more than that would be unthinkable, with the 2 bridges standing in the way. Whatever it is, let’s get this done.

What’s Next After GCM18?

Here’s a quick update on my running. I returned to easy running 6 days post GCM18, with a 4K jog followed by a 10K the following day. Week 2 of August saw some daily commute transition pains which saw my wife and I moving from driving to taking the train. It wasn’t an easy decision even if for many out there it’s the most obvious choice. Surprisingly the new experience proved quite tiring with more standing, climbing and walking but after more than a month at it, I think we’ve adjusted.

In other words, I wasn’t on any training plan between GCM18 and the publication of this post. I just had to ensure that I keep my weight below 60kg and stick to a maintenance of fitness mode. Exercise comprised of plenty of walking, stair-climbing, mobility exercises (mostly involving resistance bands), and running 4 times a week mostly very short distances, at mixed paces. Weekends will see the low tens.

The past 5 weeks’ mileage (in KM) were 29 > 31 > 31 > 32 > 34. I did try to increase the volume to the 40s but found that to be stressful, and that isn’t something I would like my running to be. In this comfortable, no-pressure mode, I was able to keep to a 30K average the past 5 weeks. This week’s mileage should be in the same ballpark.

Tomorrow begins yet another marathon training cycle which will lead up to Macao in December. While I’ve set my 14-week Hansons plan to another aggressive goal time, I’m still undecided on how I’d like to run it. If I do stick to my aggressive goal, then I’m prepared to take it as a chance to learn, taking this as a build up to my 2019 goals. I won’t beat myself up over things and keep things stress-free.

The second option will be to race it on a less aggressive plan. You may have read that I DNF’d the 2017 edition (read the account here), so this year’s return is a bit of a chance to wrap up an unfinished business.

The final option would be to race the Half Marathon. It’s a good course and it will be a PR opportunity. I’ve a bit of time to think about it as Macao entries open only mid September. In any event, there will be something to look forward to every morning from Monday onwards!