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.

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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!

Nike Zoom VaporFly 4% Review

Racing flats are running shoes that are designed to go fast. Stripped down, lightweight, often made of premium materials and rides low to the ground to provide the runner a firm and responsive pop. Broadly speaking, they’re also not very comfortable and will pretty much leave your legs trashed after the race. Needless to say, flats have minimal support compared to conventional trainers.

The lightest racing flats that I’ve worn are Nike’s Lunaracer series. Sub-7oz (under 198 grams) for US10 and cushioned enough for the marathon, the Lunaracer was one of my all-time favorites. Versions 1 and 2 had constrictive toe boxes and black toe nails were the norm back in the days. Version 3 corrected some of those weaknesses through minor tweaks but the current version 4 is by far the best. Nike has since killed the Lunarlon foam and with it, the Lunaracer line. I’ll save my review of the Lunaracer 4 for another post because this one is all about the Vaporfly 4% (VF).

In case you’ve been living in an alternate universe and wondering what the VF is all about, this short RunnersWorld video sums it up nicely. With that much hype and marketing power channeled into the product, the US$250 shoes are pretty much sold out the instant they hit the online stores. They were not even available in this part of the world until a full 6 months after Kipchoge and his Posse of Extraordinary Marathoners took a tour around the Monza track. The shoes were so in demand and production so limited that getting a pair meant extreme patience in monitoring the online retailers or paying scalpers through the nose. There were also some hearsays that the Zoom X foam was hard to manufacture contributing to the minimal stock levels but I’m more inclined to think that the marketing boffins behind the brand had more to do with that.

Through some strokes of fortune, I eventually got my hands on not 1 but 2 pairs late 2017 from the U.S. – a pair used and at a substantial discount (even used pairs were still fetching over retail price on eBay, mind you!), and another pair at actual retail of US$250. As one who laughed at the price tag of the Ultra Boost, I suddenly found myself with 2 pairs of bloody expensive shoes! I reckoned that if the VFs didn’t work out for me, I could always find a buyer for them. However, after 2 races – a 15K and the recent GCM18 – I’m pleased to declare that I won’t be letting go of either of mine anytime soon!

There’s little of the shoes that the Internet hasn’t Vlogged and blogged about. For detailed breakdown and tech specs, these reviews written by runners for runners will have you covered: Sam Winebaum’s RoadTrailRun | Fellrnr (with extensive photos of the shoes’ durability at 300 miles)| Running Shoes Guru | Believe In The Run YouTube Channel | Jamison Michael’s YouTube Channel | Wired. Even the NY Times chipped in with a fascinating article on the VFs’ influence on runners’ race times. With all the hard work already done by those good folks, I won’t be rehashing all the tech specs (well, maybe just a little), but instead focus on my wear experience.

Here are the facts, my observations, and experience running in the VFs in no particular order:

  • VFs are racing shoes and not your daily workhorse, so they’re not something you reach out on a daily or even weekly basis. Well you could, if you’ve deep pockets or have access to some secret stash direct from Beaverton. For the majority of us, the VFs are pretty much reserved for A races.
  • At 7.65oz for US10, they’re light; in fact very light for their built-up look and levels of cushioning they offer. While the 6.7oz Lunaracers beat the VFs for weight, the VFs offer far greater bounce and cushioning albeit at a price that’s unattainable for most. For more weight comparison, the VFs are nearly an ounce lighter than the Pegasus Turbo and Zoom Elite 9, and nearly 2 ounces lighter than the regular Pegasus 35.

  • They may be soft and cushy but they’re hardly mushy. They certainly ride differently than Clayton 2. The step-in feel is soft and yet you get that springy feel as you move around. No other foam comes close to the feel of Zoom X except for adidas’ much heavier BASF Boost. The softness of Zoom X is complemented by the carbon fibre plate that runs the entire length of the midsole, propelling you forward. The plate also lends a little stability to the shoes. The unique shape of the plate, of course, allows the quick roll off for the wearer. I marked the location of the plate in the photo below. The piece actually extends all the way to the front close to the outsole.

  • The VFs also ride differently from the just-launched Pegasus Turbo. The VFs are just short of an ounce lighter than the Turbo. We already know that the VFs’ midsole are 100% Zoom X but the Turbo is more or less 50/50 Zoom X and React. I will cover the Turbo in a separate post.
  • Without the embedded carbon plate, the VFs would’ve been too unstable and wobbly to wear. Even with the plate, there’s a degree of pronation of my right foot. See next point below.
  • The VFs aren’t the most stable of shoes. Due to their stack heights and the softer properties of the Zoom X foam, they only have the carbon plate as any semblance of structure. There are no external heel counters, no medial posts, no external trusstic plates. I’ve found that the mild late-stage pronation of my right foot is exaggerated in the VFs. On some of the cambered roads of GCM19, I struggled to keep my foot plants stable. So if you’ve greater support needs, I wouldn’t recommend the VFs. There are plenty of options if you’re going with Nike – Zoom Elite 9, Speed Rival 6, Pegasus Turbo, or Epic React. Other brands’ models include adidas Boston Boost 7, Saucony Kinvara 9, NB 1500 v3, and the Reebok Floatride Run Fast.
  • The VFs fit and feel entirely different from its cousin, the Zoom Fly even if they share some similarities in looks. The Fly is stiff, firm and heavier, and not one of my favourites. I can take a bit of firmness but I continue to find the Fly’s transition is jarring.
  • The VFs fit true to size but with a generous toe box, you can very well half size down, with thinner socks. You can see how much narrower the Vapor Street is compared to the VF.

  • Their outsoles aren’t as durable as that of daily trainers, obviously. However, they’ve held up quite well for me after 130K. The rubber sections have minimal wear and tear but the midsole crinkles are very obvious from the compression and the white paint surrounding the outsole rubber are peeling off from all the abrasion. I’ve used some Shoe Goo in the high wear areas to extend the durability. Hopefully I’ll be able to get 300K in them. If you’d like to check out how the VFs look after extensive mileage, click on the Fellrnr link I shared above. Warning: He typically shreds and cuts out his shoes to make more room, a little excessive if I might add.

  • Excellent breathability. Extensive cuts in the vamp area of the mesh upper ensure the feet stay cool.

  • I’ve not ran in wet conditions but some runners noted that they got slightly bogged down and squishy when soaked.
  • Traction hasn’t been an issue so far despite the thin threadings on the outsole but I’ve been rather careful taking sharp corners and haven’t yet run in very wet conditions.
  • My legs felt great even after my 3:38 effort at the recent Gold Coast Marathon. I wasn’t the only one to have noticed this post-race feeling. I trained hard for the PR, so perhaps that was the reason.

In my opinion, shoes themselves or for that matter any piece of gear alone, will not make one a faster runner. However with a great training cycle and smart race execution, equipment can definitely enhance a runner’s chance of a breakthrough performance. I bought the VFs to run my best and to keep me honest in my training. I knew that I’ve to be at a high level of readiness to do the shoes justice and should my race didn’t pan out, I will not put it down to having poor gear. Nothing was left to chance, from training right up to gear and race execution. And the VF did prove their worth on race day.

So would I recommend the VFs? It depends. There would be many who won’t think of splurging on these shoes. Equally many will readily point to much cheaper, more available alternatives – and I will agree. I would also put into perspective that US$250 can do a lot for the needy. But if you can afford one. If you can find a pair in your size. If you’ve a running goal that you absolutely can’t leave to chance and want the absolute best gear to toe the starting line in after months of focused training, then go for it. There isn’t any shoe out there that has this unique ride that’s this cushioned yet light and fast. And I’ll leave it at that.

There’s word that the Flyknit version of the Vaporfly is due out in September. Expect the shoes to sell out within minutes of the launch as well.

Gold Coast Marathon 2018

Note: For the other fun activities I managed to cram into my itinerary this year, and more photos of my trip to the Gold Coast, click this link.

The alarm rang at 4:50am and in certain ways, it was as if the starter’s gun had been fired signalling the start of my long day. For the past 18 weeks (longer if I included the low volume base months), my daily routine has been practically locked in, from bedtime to the habitual chilling of my drinks in the fridge the night before, laying out of the next morning’s workout gear and logging down the post-workout data. It got so regimented that by the 2nd half of my training program, I no longer needed the 4:30am alarm. The goings-on in the hotel room were calm and quiet – the mandatory toilet visit, a light snack of banana, a Clif bar, and a small cup of black coffee before heading out for a warm up jog around the block with Francis and Nick. Nick, who had been struggling the past few days, would later break the bad news that he would not be starting. It was a tough decision and we were sure he was even more devastated to have literally come so far, to not start. But health is something one shouldn’t be risking over a pursuit as strenuous as a Marathon, and we were all truly sorry for him. If anything, it made me even more determined to run well for my fellow “Hansoner”.

Since the race precinct was just 10 minutes away by foot, Francis and I took our time is getting ourselves there. By the time we got to the main road crossing, the Half Marathoners had completely cleared the start line. At the lawn, we were spotted by some of our friends and everyone looked eager to race. I didn’t warm up any further and with the baggage checked in a short while later, and with wishes of “good luck”, it was time to head to our respective corrals.

The atmosphere crackled with energy and excitement. The event just gets better and better each year. The morning conditions were quite mild and the skies were overcast with little wind. In my opinion, it was perfect weather for racing but I was sure the locals would beg to differ. I certainly didn’t feel the reported 90 to 100% humidity! Once in the corral, I discarded my layers almost immediately. I made the mistake of standing too near to one of the loudspeakers and as a result, nearly had my eardrums shattered by Deek’s customary enthusiastic rallying speech. The Australian national anthem followed next and the 40th Gold Coast Marathon was off and running!

Within a km, Erin, the 3:40 gun time pacer, was already 250m ahead but I stuck to my pace. My goal was to stay comfortable and stay embedded between the gun and chip time pacers till 30K and, depending on how I felt, make a push from there. All I needed to focus on was to manage the fueling and hydration well and just enjoy the easy miles. To my surprise, I bumped into Yaziz around the 2.5K mark and traded some quick greetings with him and continued on my way. Even with the larger numbers this year, the crowd was manageable and didn’t pose any problems.

The number of supporters on the course quickly increased as we approached Surfers Paradise, the 5K mark (25:53). After the first few kilometres, I decided not to micromanage my pace. Afterall, a good race execution was about keeping to the average pace. There would be slight deviations here and there as a result of surges, and slowing-downs (for example at the water stations, possible toilet stops, or fatigue) but as long as the average pace equalled that of the marathon goal pace, that would be fine. The hours already invested running the tempo sessions at marathon pace should be enough. It was about trusting the plan, training and letting those work for the runner on race day. Well-trained, the “Hansoner” will be literally toeing the start line locked (to the goal pace) and loaded (with confidence). There were also visual cues providing a measure of guide of my progress – Erin’s pace flag. As long as the gap between us stayed the same, I knew I was on track – neither gaining nor losing speed.

I used the same fueling and hydration strategy as the previous year – a gel every 5K, along with regular sipping of diluted Powerade from the bottle, supplemented by 2 cups of water at each station.

As usual, the elites came charging from the opposite side of the road around the 10K mark (51:40). Crowd favourite, Yuki Kawauchi appeared to be struggling way behind the 2nd chasing pack and would finish 9th. By then, the watch’s distance reading was already off by some 30m, even though I was running much of the race on the painted blue line, and even some tangents. Nevertheless, that didn’t cause much consternation to me as my average pace was still solidly pegged at 5:10. As we ate up the miles, the level of confidence in me rose as well.

Other than a few visual distractions like the elites and the beautiful beaches to our left, I was in my usual focused self. I did struggle with the road camber along Hedges Avenue dubbed Gold Coast’s Millionaires’ Row. The Nike Vaporfly 4% isn’t the most stable shoes around and do tend to exaggerate a mid to late stage pronation effect. Heading southwards towards Burleigh, I had to run as close to the middle of the road as possible to avoid exacting too much pressure and stress on my right foot due to the inward rolling of the foot. It affected my concentration a little but I tried not to let it bug me too much.

There wasn’t much I could recollect in those early miles except high-fiving Francis who was simply flying with Philip in tow. I was thrilled to see them at the Gold Coast Highway instead of Marine Parade, which meant that I was quicker this year than ever before. It wasn’t much but it was progress for me and it was an uplifting feeling to have approaching the Burleigh U-turn – the best stretch (after the final 1K of the course, of course!) for runners during the marathon. Huge and loud crowds and so easy for a runner to surge only to pay the price 5K later. I hit 15K in 1:17.24 and from 18K to Surfers, battled boredom and impatience. Part of me wanted to be at the 30K mark and get down to racing and hurting.

Staying relaxed before the halfway point. Photo courtesy of Tey ET.
Fortunately, I knew better and when I spotted Calvin just up ahead around 19K and my wayward mind was kept occupied at least for a few kilometres. He wasn’t the only one I saw. My sub 5:13 pace had over the distance brought me ever closer to Erin and I wanted to only get ahead of her after the 30K mark to ensure I hit my primary goal of sub 3:40. As bad luck would have it, she appeared to have hit some problems with her pacer flag holder and 2 runners were seen desperately helping her with the contraption by the roadside. I would learn later that she had to DNF not from the accessory malfunction but from a foot injury 😟.

With Erin sidelined, I ended up passing the 3:40 gun time pacer earlier than I’d planned but it was too late to over-analyse strategies this late into the race. I’d trained for a 5:10 MP, I’ve been churning out the very same average pace this far, weather conditions were ideal with the sun remaining hidden, and I was still good. It was time to pucker up and get on with the race. Other than the sightings of Calvin and Erin, there wasn’t much to write home about. I chugged through 20K (1:43.13), 21K (1:48.24) and 25K (2:09.02) pretty unscathed. The crowds at Surfers had built up and their vociferous support was fantastic. I dropped 5 seconds for 27K but rallied the next 3Ks to pulled back 5:12, 5:06 and 5:09 to establish pace parity.

Just after 30K (2:34.54), I spotted Calvin again and he appeared to be running very well. I decided that I’d better consume the sachet of CrampFix I’d bought at the expo and its tart taste jolted me. To avoid any potential gut issues, I avoided taking a gel here since CrampFix already contained carbs. I took in water as usual and consciously avoided looking over the other side of the road to the finish to minimise distraction. Cleared the short but steep rise (it’s actually steeper than the Sundale Bridge just a kilometre earlier) before the gentle down slope in 5:13.

I’ve to work on my stride length! Photo courtesy of Nick.

The distance from the iconic McDonald’s to the finish was just 10K. At that point, I had run a 2:45 32K and fatigue was starting to creep in. I had finally got to the racing and hurting phase! But first, I attempted to pee in my shorts but nothing came out. I continued to drink over the next few water stations to avoid slipping too much into a dehydrated state. The next 2Ks were hard as I slipped to 5:15 and 5:16 splits. I remembered being upset with myself and questioned my desire. That seemed to work as I dug in and rallied back for the second time from 35K to 38K with a couple of 5:12s and 5:11s. The toughest part of the course was over and it was just about hanging on to the end.

At this point last year, I held back and avoided pushing the pace for fear of cramping but this time around, I didn’t hold anything back. I skipped the last water station and pressed a sustained sub 5:10 pace through the final 4K. Mentally, I replayed all the hard workouts I’d completed, my motivations, the work challenges that I had to navigate throughout training. Learning to tap of this pool of thoughts was a large part of my training.

Coincidentally I found myself running next to a bloke named James and was able to leech off the raucous cheers he got. I didn’t have a personalised bib, you see, so it would be ridiculous to expect the supporters to be yelling, “Go, hashtag GCM18!”

I sprinted the final 300m and finally crossed the finish in 3:38.41, a 9-minute PR.

Intervals, Easy Runs, MPs, Long Runs, Finishing Strong With Arms In The Air – I trained them all!

Here’s to you, Nick! With fellow “Hansoner”, Calvin, who ran a by-the-book and disciplined race to finish nearly a minute ahead!

Official split times, which are obviously a little different from my watch’s.

Crossing the line felt like some weight being taken off my shoulders. It proved that I could pull it off, no matter how impossible it felt like after last year’s 3:47. It justified the months of keeping to the plan and not missing a single workout except for a more drastic cutback in mileage the final week. It made me a little emotional inside but there were no tears. Perhaps I will shed a little some months down the road. Perhaps I won’t. I high-fived Bonza and congratulated other finishers around me. My legs felt extremely fine after having finished this way. As I gathered up my post-race refreshments of fruit and water, I lingered a little longer and enjoyed the moment in the still sparse area. I kept thinking to myself as I sank my teeth into the orange slices, “The plan worked. It really worked!”

Post Race Analysis
The PR was a personal triumph on so many levels. Just 3 years ago I asked myself if 3:58 was as good as it got for me and how running 5:20 pace would be impossible given how hard training had been to even run 3:58. But I’d proven myself wrong last year and yet again this year that with a regimented program, determination, positive mindset, self discipline and consistency one’s limitations can usually be breached.

The Hansons Marathon Method has worked for me for 2 years in a row. Last year’s program was a modified one but this year, I purchased the 18-week plan from Final Surge. 18 weeks was the longest period I’ve spent training for a single event and the most miles I’ve put in. By default, it was also the hardest, although it got easier and was quite enjoyable when I approached peak fitness. All the 3 27K long runs were pretty easy even with negative splits, compared to the week day SOS sessions. To succeed at an aggressive goal, I believe one has to be a little obsessed. You answer only to the program and trust it completely – no races on weekends that will take away the long runs. The 2 tune up races were done early in the program, daily routines became regimented over the weeks and months. I obsessed with data and from the numbers, knew for a fact that my past failures were due to doing too little running, and when I did head out to run, running the miles at the wrong paces. The mind was weak and spirit broken at the slightest challenge. I had no program to speak of as well. This year, I wanted to make sure that I leave myself with no excuses should I fail to achieve my goals.

With data, I was forced to be honest with myself. The first step was to acknowledge the past mistakes and the second step to start working on the weaknesses. I extracted the past years’ records dating back to 2015 and there was no escaping the fact that my training was see-sawing between high mileage weeks and downright horrendous numbers. There was zero consistency.

Mileage tracker of the years. Click to enlarge.

It became clear that with the Hansons, there were more running, at a wider pace range, allowing adaptation to take place. The SOS sessions truly put steel into the mind and body.

I trained to run the marathon at a 5:13 pace but by the end of the training, I knew I could do 5:10. And that was that.

Not only was my 5K splits astonishingly consistent (mind you, I didn’t micro-manage my pace during the race), only 13 runners passed me over the final 5K, while I somehow dropped a mind-blowing 221! It was crazy but that happened!

In closing this already lengthy post, my gratitude goes to Francis who first planted the belief in me 2 years ago and pointing me to the right direction.
Thanks also to Tourism and Events Queensland, Events Management Queensland and HTT for the hospitality once again, for allowing me to be part of the historic 40th edition of GCM and looking out for me as always. My best runs have always been on the Gold Coast! Finally, to my family who gave me much moral support in their own quiet manner. My kids even slipped me a good luck note prior to my departure.
It will soon be time to prepare for my next race, and it will be one which I’ll be using as a test bed. I’m prepared to try new things, learn and chart my 2019 goals from there.

Gold Coast 2018

Warning: This is not the race report but a recap of this year’s visit to the amazing Gold Coast. The race is covered here 🙂

A week on and I’m still trying to get the race recap done. The mind has been in a fog ever since getting back to the daily grind. I need to get going on another running goal soon, or I’ll go mad just dealing with work issues and the 3-hour daily drive.

Considering greater volume and higher intensity, and more days spent training for this year’s Gold Coast Marathon (GCM18), I’d say training went very well, even if I spent the final 2 weeks of training in fear of falling sick. During that crucial period, I was in constant company of the unwell – from sick colleagues to living with 3 stricken family members. The Marathon Gods certainly spared me and blessed me yet again this year with a smooth 18 weeks of training.

The flight into the Gold Coast was smooth and I even got 5 hours of sleep. Arriving earlier this year, on Thursday, allowed us to take things on a more leisure pace. We also got some essential to-do’s taken care of – visit to Harbour Town and the collection of the race bibs – early before the record crowd descended on the popular holiday and marathon destination. There would be close to 400 Malaysians running GCM18 (which was an 82% increase over 2017) and very good numbers from East Asian countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. GCM18 remains popular with Singaporeans, Malaysians and an increasing number of Indonesians.

Once Nick and I were checked into the Woodroffe Hotel in Southport, we waited for the gang who rented a nice house adjacent to David Fleay Wildlife Park to pick us up. The itinerary? Harbour Town Premium Outlets of course! Good thing, the place was just 10 minutes’ drive away. We were all super famished and the thought of sinking our teeth into the juicy burgers dished out by the folks at Grill’d was just too much. And that was what we did, along with some grocery shopping.

Next destination would be the Expo to pick up our race bibs. On the way, we just had to stop by this spot along Marine Parade to grab a few photos of the achingly beautiful sunset.

As GCM18 was the 40th running, a large part of the expo hall was dedicated to the history of the marathon. There were several great buys at the expo but the ones that caught my eyes were the Clif (12 bars for 12 bucks!) and Garmin booths (plenty of happy faces were seen leaving that particular one!).

Naturally, we had plenty of time to catch up with our friends, local and from back home. There’s something about GCM that makes it so welcoming. Yep, it was like coming home 🙂 ! It’s little wonder then that many of us make more than a single visit here.

With the burgers still sitting in our guts, we decided to skip dinner and CY was kind enough to drop us back to the hotel. Before heading up to the rooms, I managed to get some grocery shopping done at the nearby Australia Fair. Southport may be a quiet place to be putting up, but the place has its charms. I discovered several fantastic eateries, truly underrated coffee joints here and shopping for the essentials (both Coles and Woolies are located in Australia Fair) are never far away.

Day 2 would similarly be quite easy with a photo meet up with the South East Asian contingent at the Expo and Convention Centre. Before that, we had to fill up our tummies with a $10 breakfast set at 6729 Bakery just across the Convention Centre. Highly recommended and super-value sets, it’s a place worth supporting. Check out the story behind 6729 here.

Day 3 would be activity-filled! With such close proximity to the race precinct, arrangements for Saturday’s Fun Run were simple. The gang would drive to and park in the vicinity of our hotel, and we will all walk to the start together. It was a nice cool and sunny morning. After the usual banter and countless photo ops (there were no shortage of Marvel Super Heroes!), we kicked off the run positioned in Pen B.

This year’s plan to run a Personal Worst for the 5.7K didn’t materialize as Nick and I had to be ready for our 9:50am pickup for the much anticipated Scenic Helicopter Ride. So after a slow start, I gradually increased the pace from the 2nd km onwards pushing it to MP and below 5-minutes to the finish. My splits were 6:29 > 5:19 > 5:09 > 5:06 > 4:55 > 4:45 for a 30:11 finish (averaging 5:17/km). Body felt good and my mind fresh which were more than I could’ve asked for. Quickly caught up with Mal, who was one of the camera crew this year before heading back to refresh for the plans of the day,

Next up was the much anticipated helicopter ride from Sea World, which lived up to every bit as memorable although I didn’t get my Hollywood Chopper experience (think Black Hawk Down and Apocalypse Now) hahaha! I’m such a movie buff! It was my first ride and the scenery was simply breathtaking, from the views of the coastline, the waterways and suburbs and the hinterland in the distant. We could’ve been flying at around 3,000 feet but I couldn’t be sure as I was consumed by excitement! At that altitude, all the famous spots and landmarks were easily identifiable. The 15-minute ride may have sounded short but it was just nice, by my take.

Post-ride group photos with the Indonesian and Singaporean teams.

Still buzzing from the chopper ride high, the visit to Paradox Coffee was next for a cupping session. Located right in Surfers, it was just a short drive from Main Beach. The set up of the place was really impressive, down to the $800,000 Brambati roaster which could produce 15kg of beans at a time. Paradox roasts and supplies cafes throughout Australia so it goes without saying that they known their stuff.

Their beans are single origins purchased from sustainable sources. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to venture to the other topics such as espresso brewing and the such. Still, it was great to learn more about my pick-me-up beverage of choice. My routine towards to the final 3 weeks of training includes downing an espresso before my midweek SOS workouts! Paradox regularly holds such sessions for the general public, so do check out their website and make the necessary appointments, or just pop over to savour some delicious brew.

After Paradox, Nick and I parted ways with the media group. They were headed to Harbour Town for some shopping and we to meet up with Francis, who had flew in from Melbourne. Coincidentally, Francis had bumped into Hong Kong-based duo Yann Kai and Sheel earlier and thanks to modern tech, I managed to direct them to Lot 1 for lunch. It was fantastic to catch up with YK and Sheel again after my misadventures on the trails of Hong Kong some years ago. There were certainly plenty of hardcoreness at the table with this trio of sub-3 marathoners, but you wouldn’t have known it. They’re just down to earth and often funny folks who worked hard to get to where they are. For me, it was just wonderful surrounding myself with such positive and like-minded people before a key race! That must’ve worked up my appetite because I downed a scrumptious Acai Bowl and a Turkey Sandwich in that one sitting! It wasn’t easy, but I nailed that heavy lunch!

Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped by the arch to take some photos with some of the Team Malaysia runners. Penang was well represented, thanks to the work of our embedded Penangite-in-Coomera, Khoo. We even inducted Sheel as a temp Malaysian!

After the day’s activities and interactions, it was back to quieter stuff and getting ready for the next day. Physically, I was at the best condition I could possibly be. The important thing was to rest up, stretch, stay hydrated and think positive. I may have a pace band printed but I didn’t even bother fussing over it. The race gear’s all laid out and there was very little anxiety. Just a general sense of calmness. The physical and mental work had all been done in the earlier 18 weeks and the race day was just sticking to the plan and see how it will all unfold.

Dinner was an early affair with Nick and Francis at a nearby ramen shop. Food was excellent and to ensure that I was topped up, I supplemented the bowl of tonkatsu with gyoza just to be sure I didn’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night.

To read how the race unfolded for me the next day, head on to my race report. This one will continue with some photo recap of the spots I managed to see this time around.

The 2 days after Sunday’s race were spent covering the activities and seeing the sights I’ve missed over the years. The planned recovery run on Monday didn’t happen as most preferred to sleep in. The runners had earned their rest and a 5:30am pickup to head to The Federation Walk for a run in the dark and cold, wasn’t that wild an idea. So while Nick and his wife headed off to check out some sights, I decided to link up with the gang. A quick lunch of Shroom Burger at Betty’s was stupendous, deserving of the hype!

We then headed to Burleigh Heads, hiked the trails of the National Park to the Tallebudgera Creek before returning to the group’s home for a feast. Richi, who went overboard with his grocery shopping, made sure the output from the oven were finger licking good while Jeanie’s pumpkin soup was comforting on a cold night.

The planned hot-air ballooning excursion didn’t quite happen though. We were picked up by the ballooning company very early in the morning and after a 50-minute drive towards foggy Canungra and Lamington, the winds still didn’t ease up. The pilots were forced to break the news to us on account of safety. No worries, I quite enjoyed the drive and fresh air and have made it a point to give this place another visit next time!
Before flying home, I still had time to explore The Spit at Main Beach, followed by Southern Queensland and totally fell in love with that area. Pat Fagan Park, Snapper Rocks, Tweeds and we even crossed over to NSW! There’s just so much to see and soak in and I’ll definitely be back to stay a few days there the next time.
Thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland, Events Management Queensland and HTT for the hospitality once again, for allowing me to be part of the historic 40th edition of GCM and looking out for me as always. With their ever ready support, and with those from the GCM Training Group, we were able to extend our assistance and experience to those looking to run their first GCM. The dates for the 2019 Gold Coast Marathon has been announced – 6th and 7th July 2019! Be on the lookout for great deals on the airfare! And if you’re based in Malaysia, be sure to come join our Facebook Page where we publish tips about everything GCM, sightseeing on the Gold Coast and more. Till the next time, keep your running going!

GCM18: Week 17 (SOS Week 12)

Menu: 11.3K Easy
Shoes: Zoom Span

Menu: 10.1K Easy
Shoes: Clifton 4

Menu: 2K Warm Up > 5x2K @ MP-5 secs > 2K Cool Down
Shoes: Lunar Tempo
Wrapped up the final strength session! Once I was warmed up, it was smooth going and I needn’t even monitor the watch. Reading through the feedback from the Hansons FB page, a number of runners seem to practise a longer taper period than the traditional 10 days on account that they raced better having rested more. While it’s an easy decision (going by how I feel this morning) for me to continue with the final week’s program of 8K > 8K > 10K > Rest > 8K > 5K > Race, I’m opting to tone that down a bit with 5K > 5K > 8K > Rest > 6K (optional) > 5K > Race. I want to toe the start line fresh and eager to race, and not overcooked. With the much lower mileage, I’ll be able to catch a little more sleep, and boy, as I’m typing this do I need some!

2K Average Pace – 4:57 > 5:00 > 5:00 > 5:00 > 4:49

Thursday: No Running.😁

Menu: 2K Warm Up > 15K @ MP > 2K Cool Down
Shoes: Zoom Elite 9
In my haste to get things started I completely forgot to take the water bottle out from the fridge. So the entire 19K was run without fluids. Just a shot of Espresso and a glass of water prior. Dehydrated, but I got the final SOS done! Time to taper and allow the body to adapt.
5:15 > 5:12 > 5:09 > 5:04 > 5:09 > 5:04 > 5:02 > 5:08 > 5:11 > 5:07 > 5:12 > 5:12 > 5:11 > 5:12 > 5:08 (Avg 5:09)

Menu: 6K Easy
Shoes: Pureboost ATR
The 10K plan was scuppered due to rain. Managed only 6.4K before it got heavier and not wanting to risk catching a cold this close to race day, I made the decision to stop. Wore the weather ATR for the first time and they felt fine. Certainly didn’t feel the 11.4oz weight. Then had to rush to the pre-departure briefing – good to know that we’ve nearly 400 Malaysians running the Gold Coast Marathon this year! A sports massage session was next and had a good one, working out the knots which weren’t much. That’s always a great thing to hear when the masseuse tells you that. The nearly nightly routine of stretching and self massaging certainly help in the maintenance of the body.

Menu: 13K Long Run
Shoes: Pureboost ATR
1 week to the race day! Final Sunday run with the group and everyone is looking forward to the race and holiday. Took it easy as the legs were a little sore from yesterday’s massage.

I can’t believe I completed 17 weeks of training! Not missing a single workout. The only day I had to cut the workout short was this Saturday’s, missing 3.6K. From this point on, it’s all about the mental aspect, focusing on the positives and trying not to let Life’s uncertainties throw me off tangent.

This will be the final training log post until after the race. Wish me luck!

GCM18: Week 16 (SOS Week 11)

Menu: 8.1K Easy
Shoes: Zoom Span
Legs were a little stiff from the get go but quickly loosened up. 391K logged in the Span!

Menu: 8.3K Easy
Shoes: Clayton 2
A bit of TLC with the Clayton. 326K logged in the Clayton!

Menu: 2K Warm Up > 2x4K @ MP-5 secs > 2K Cool Down
Shoes: Tracer
Legs felt good and it wasn’t as hard to run at this pace. While this won’t be my MP anytime soon, this does demonstrates that the training has made even running at this pace and effort level possible. This goes way beyond this year and even next year’s marathons. It will be a base from which I can build on. 5:00 pace is something I’ve to get used to running and patient, consistent building are what I need to do to bring myself to that level. That’s a few years’ work right there! 287K logged in the Tracer! This is a shoe that just wants to go fast.

5:08 > 4:55 > 4:52 > 4:48 (19:42, avg pace 4:56) > 6:49 > 4:50 > 4:54 > 4:56 > 4:53 (19:32, avg pace 4:53).

Thursday: No Running.😁

Menu: 2K Warm Up > 16K @ MP > 2K Cool Down
Shoes: VF 4%
Went minimalist, no calf compression, just good old plain shorts and singlet. Pretty much nailed the workout, the second of 3 10-mile tempos. On race day, I’ll be reeling in the pace by running with the pacers, so this workout is basically just a measure of the pace I could still run – hopefully over the last 5K.
5:10 > 5:11 > 5:13 > 5:15 > 5:00 > 5:11 > 5:04 > 4:56 > 5:08 > 5:01 > 5:01 > 4:58 > 5:01 > 4:59 > 5:02 > 4:52 > 4:38 (5:03 avg).

Menu: 13.06K Easy
Shoes: Epic React
Legs were stiff and going was tough, even though I massaged the legs last night. Yep, that’s cumulative fatigue for you! Running fast around the same neighbourhood is boring. Running slow around the same neighbourhood is worse than waiting for your turn at some government departments. So I ventured out of the area. Much much hillier (I walked those sections) but at least it helped passed the time/miles. Last week, I said I couldn’t wait until this week is over and now I’m wishing for next week to conclude!

Menu: 16K Long Run
Shoes: Clayton 2
Started raining after the 4K mark and conditions worsened with thunder and lightning. Sought shelter twice but braved the weather to quickly headed back to the car for a total of 10K. After a nice glass of hot coffee and slices of toast, the rain had stopped and the weather was just too nice, so Nick and I decided to wrap up the balance 6K and thus saving the need to run again in the evening. It is always more beneficial to complete your workouts early in the day so that you can get your recovery in before the next day’s session.

A 79.6K week and another week to go before tapering starts!

GCM18: Week 15 (SOS Week 10, Hell Week 3)

Menu: 11.2K Easy
Shoes: Epic React

Menu: 10.3K Easy
Shoes: Zoom Span

Menu: 2K Warm Up > 3x3K @ MP-5 secs > 2K Cool Down
Shoes: Tracer
A good workout to celebrate World Running Day. Minor pace drop off towards the end, but something I won’t lose sleep over. Something went wrong with the Garmin reading a 5:40 split in the 2nd set which didn’t make sense since the total time and average for that set reflected otherwise.
4:54 > 4:57 > 5:00 > Recovery > 4:59 > 4:50 > 5:40 (??) > Recovery > 4:58 > 5:01 > 5:08
14:51 (4:57 avg) > 14:53 (4:58 avg) > 15:04 (5:01 avg)

Thursday: No Running.😁

Menu: 2K Warm Up > 16K @ MP > 2K Cool Down
Shoes: Zoom Elite 9
As this week will be the 3rd and final Hell Week, I decided to see how the body will respond – a quick checkpoint test if you will. Instead of the 15K, I opted for 10 miles instead. It’s just an additional KM but I felt that the session would be a confidence builder going into the final 3 weeks of training. I wanted to challenge the mind and train it to respond to the difficult miles. Once again, I ran the workout replaying the GCM course and the supporters’ cheers. I want the mind to be as strong as the body on race day!

5:12 > 5:08 > 5:07 > 5:05 > 5:12 > 5:06 > 5:02 > 5:04 > 5:14 > 5:10 > 5:17 > 5:14 > 5:10 > 5:11 > 5:06 > 5:00 (5:09 avg).

Menu: 10K Easy
Shoes: Zoom Span
Keep it super slow as I was able to feel the tiredness.

Menu: 27K Long Run
Shoes: Clayton 2
Pushed through the discomfort of stomach bloating to finish the 2nd half of the distance stronger and faster. As usual for the series of 3 27Ks, I took a gel at the mid-point. Easy way to get rid of old packs that were either expired or nearing expiration date. Averaged 5:55 pace for the total distance. Also, good to know that we’ve a handful of BQ potentials from the group!
At 93.9K, this final week would second highest mileage logged in training for GCM18. However, there would be no taper yet. That would be 10 days out from race day!

GCM18: Week 14 (SOS Week 9)

8K Easy
Shoes: Span

11K Easy
Shoes: Tracer
Disrupted sleep made worse by the futile attempt to avoid the garbage truck. After the warm up, I just call time on the strength intervals and downgraded the run to an aerobic slog. As these SOS sessions are reaching their peak in the coming 3 weeks, I’ll be switching the SOS days to avoid the garbage collection days. The narrow neighborhood roads are already tough to run fast workouts and I thought it’s pointless to add to the frustration of having to compete with the truck.

2K Warm Up > 2x5K @ MP-5 secs > 2K Cool Down
Shoes: Lunar Tempo
A vastly improved run following yesterday’s fiasco. Pretty much in control with good form. Looking forward to a nice long sleep tonight.

5:00 > 4:56 > 5:04 > 4:54 > 4:57 > Recovery > 4:58 > 5:01 > 4:56 > 5:07 > 5:04
24:50 (4:58 avg) > 25:06 (5:01 avg)

Thursday: No Running.

2K Warm Up > 14K @ MP > 2K Cool Down
Shoes: Zoom Fly/Elite 9

Sort of stumbled along without minding the watch. Started picking things up after 5K. Went a little too quick from 8K but dug in for a fast finish. In a marathon, while every split counts, it’s the average pace that matters. No more tough runs until next Wednesday! The HR readings and run metrics look very consistent with last Thursday’s tempo. I suppose that’s a good thing.

5:11 > 5:11 > 5:19 > 5:13 > 5:19 > 5:08 > 5:16 > 5:04 > 5:06 > 5:07 > 5:03 > 5:07 > 5:00 > 4:56 (5:09 avg).

13K Easy
Shoes: Clayton 2
Easy run with Nick and CY around USJ for a change. It’s great to break away from the humdrum of the usual running route!

16K Long Run
Shoes: Span
Certainly took the body to wake up! In fact it took 8K for things to settle in, from the legs, body and pace. Nothing much to report for this faster-paced finish session so all’s good for this week.

84K this week! Next week will be the 3rd and final Hell Week, and the start of 15K Tempo/MP workouts leading to the closing of the 18-week program.

It’s counting down to the closing of entries. If you want to be part of the 40th running of the Gold Coast Marathon (GCM), hit the image below to get to the official Gold Coast Marathon website to register! Do join the Team Malaysia Facebook page to get all the local happenings, updates on training sessions, tips on travel and running the race on the Gold Coast.