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!

Paring Down

You know the feeling when you’re pulled from all angles, suffocating under the weight of your commitments and struggling with trying to find a balance? I’ve been in and out of this situation for some time and last year, the inevitable decision was finally made to cut back. I started by giving away items that see only occasional use. Little trinkets, boxes, books, clothes that only add to the clutter are discarded or donated. Finisher medals that hold little meaning to me were donated to a friend collecting for his Medal4Awesomeness Project. I now keep only things that I’ve emotional connection, material belongings that see continued use. In keeping to the spirit of living a leaner life, I also tweaked my diet, eating less and staying mindful of what I eat. That includes being firm and saying no even to the family members. If you’re a Chinese, you’ll know what a big deal that is! And while I’m not a binger, ice-cream has always been my weakness. Even so, I’ve lost much of my cravings for it once I decided to cut down sugary intake. My ice-cream treats are now no more than twice a month and servings no greater than 2 scoops! My tweaked (mind you, they’re not drastic, just staying mindful is what it takes) diet has certainly helped my running. My weight is now holding at 60.6 kg which means it should be easier to transition into marathon training mode next week, compared to pre-GCAM17 training when the scales read 62 kg.

Next up will be the non-renewal of http://www.jamiepang.com domain. Over the past year, I’ve migrated almost all of the important content, those worth keeping, over to this free platform. jamiepang.com will expire September 16 (incidentally Malaysia Day) and by not renewing the domain name and hosting services, I’m saving close to RM900 per annum. It makes perfect sense, since I blog very little these days, with this platform primarily one to keep track of my training.

I’ve also conveyed my intention to resign from my ambassadorial role with Saucony Malaysia. While my tenure has been close to 2 years, I’ve actually been like an unofficial influencer for the brand longer than that. That all my sub-4 marathons were run in the Kinvara says a lot about my affinity to the series.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent a brand and I’m glad knowing that I’m leaving at a stage when the brand awareness is better than ever today, with a team of fun and committed ambassadors continuing their great work. A big thanks to everyone associated with Saucony Malaysia! I’ll still be engaged with the brand for the first August Man running clinic, talking about shoes (of course).

Which brings me to the point of these cut backs – living a leaner and simpler life, so that I can focus on what’s important. And at this point, that’s family, work and my pursuit of running my best. All these cut backs may sound drastic but it really isn’t that hard a decision to make. In order to regain some semblance of control over my life, it’s necessary to pare down. Only by doing so, will I regain the ability to dictate the important things I want to do. My kids need me, my workload is not seeing any relief anytime soon and I need my own time and energy to train. Everything else will be subjected to scrutiny. If they add any value to my goals, I’ll consider. There are more areas to trim for sure, but this is a good start.

I’m writing this post in an exhausted mode. Words elude me, and this post is already longer than I intended. Till the next post…

The Nine Inches

“No matter how it’s run, whether it’s uphill, downhill, or flat, a marathon is 26.2 miles, and you have to respect the distance. There are a lot of guys who are going to be in great shape. I just want to run my own race, relax, stay in the mix, and be ready to react. That’s the beauty of racing. You do all your training to prepare the rest of your body, but coach Joe Vigil used to say what counts on race day is the nine inches above your shoulders.”
Meb Keflezighi, 36, winner of the US Olympic Marathon Trials.

Love the quote and I think it resonates on so many levels. Not only would you need some common sense and keep a level head during the race but also in the preparation for the big day. Like many, I’ve been often caught in the thrill of logging workouts after workouts in the name of umm…. working out. The purpose and goal of the workout seemingly lost in the whole scheme of things. It’s an easy vicious cycle to be caught in. Here’s why. After several weeks adjusting to the increased stress of training, the body has finally adjusted. It becomes easier for you to check off the miles, hitting the pace and so on. All well and good.

That’s when things can swing the other way. Unchecked, the body may be stressed to the point where even a 15K feels like late miles in a marathon. The legs may be feeling OK but the heart rate reading is just telling a different story. You find it increasingly difficult to roll out of bed. The niggles are taking longer to go away. You get a bit of the sniffles. Now, you know where this is headed right? You don’t need medical nor physiological explanations to tell you that these are warning signs of burn out. You feel it. Choosing to ignore or ride this wave may not be doing your training or race preps any good. Remember that the pros have a team to make sure they don’t get into this situation, from a coach, a masseuse, dietitian, and the luxury of naps a couple of times a day (in a RunnersWorld article written about their training – will try to look them up again – the Kenyans nap twice a day). Contrast to working stiffs in Malaysia who spend 3 hours a day caught in traffic, long working hours, late dinners, it’s so darn easy to get into a rest/sleep deficit. As dedicated, passionate, hardy and resourceful endurance athletes are, the whole mix is as delicate as a lit match among drums of fuel. There’s the risk of premature peaking to contend with.

It’s 2 Sundays to race day and it’s time to start my own recuperation mode. Last week has been so tiring that I abandoned my plan to run a fast 21K as part of the Brooks Half Marathon simulation as the final long run. Instead, I’ll be taking 2 days off running and thereafter sprinkling a few 8-10K tempos right up to the end of next Sunday. In his marathon taper article Pete Pfitzinger mentioned of a 11-13 mile run the Sunday before the race and it’s certainly something I’ll be doing, provided I’ve rested up.  Hopefully all these will allow me to finish the race on the 26th, as Pfitzinger put it, “pleasantly exhausted” :) .

Originally published: February 12, 2012

Running Free

Up where we belong!
Weeee hoooo!

One of the reasons why running appeals to me is the opportunity for a time out from my busy life. That hour when no one bothers me, when the ironing can wait and when I don’t have pressures of time and responsibilities weighing me down. And when no compulsory mileage to hit and when I’m doing something for myself and not for my bosses, customers and what-have-I. That time alone is what I cling to as my personal time continues to be squeezed. Some get by with a 10-minute deep prayer or 30-minute meditation. I just happen to like to merge the exercising of the body with the mind.

I run best when I’m not beset by the knowledge that I’ve to be home by such and such a time and when I ditch the cell phone. My best runs need not necessarily be long nor fast. It’s a state of mind when I let go of all attachments. In that state, my mind can either be thinking about nothing (trust me, that can happen!) or reflecting. I could be thinking of ideas to shoot or write for a blog post, basically constructive and creative things. This state of equanimity doesn’t happen often though but I do try to seek it.

Running with burden, prejudice and pressure completely negate this very thing that we do and love. Heading out for a run then becomes an activity in futility, unless you’re one who thrives on pressure. Many runners I know count seconds and metres in their daily runs. Maybe they have a compelling reason to do so. Maybe 0.5 metres add up to 1 metre after 2 runs, which in turn tally up to their very important weekly mileage target. Maybe that’s not stressful for them. To each his own, if that works for them. But for me, that’s not important anymore. That doesn’t mean I’m no longer competitive. I’ll still go into target races with a racing mindset. I still value the importance and cardinal truths of mileage and training specificity. But I won’t beat myself up over, say, seconds and metres anymore.

Here’s to running free!

Published July 2010.

Thoughts On The Run

In the process of trial and error, our failed attempts are meant to destroy arrogance and provoke humility.
Master Jin Kwon, South Korean martial arts master.

In what was a personal record for me, I rolled off the bed at 9:38am Monday morning, thinking it was only 7am. My ears perked up at the voices of C2 downstairs which served to confirm how much off my sense of timing was. A packed morning meant that there was no time to put in a morning run. The day turned out to be a scorcher but when evening came the heat had been turned down several notches.

Almost immediately I knew that the run will turn out to be a “Murakami Run”. You know, he of the book fame (Amazon | RW interview | NY’s The Sun interview). I’ve never read the book but I know that it was about what ran through his mind on many of his runs. I’m not sure if what I do constitutes thinking or daydreaming but there are periods when my mind doesn’t zone out nor think about running when I run. In any case I doubt that, unlike Murakami, the result of the mindgame is unlikely to result in any elegant prose.

Not 300 meters into the run, and I was already breathing heavily. I wondered if I should have taken the day off from running after Sunday’s outing on the Newton route. The outer shins were pretty tight. The first loop wasn’t easy – perhaps an indication of ageing when the “engine” needed more time to warm up.

A Toyota Vios roared into life as it left the traffic lights, its driver obviously wanted to prove something on these backroads. A 1.5L 4-gear automatic compact sedan against a pair of legs was no contest. I’d take the legs anytime.

My thoughts shifted again, this time to the marathon. A friend recently mentioned that breakthroughs happen when one least expects it. The key is to keep putting in the mileage and progressive runs. A stray dog wandered into my path all the while eyeing me cautiously. I sensed no danger in this one and continued down my path without so much as giving the mutt a wider berth. It was probably just as apprehensive of me, if not more.

The 3rd loop around the route proved to be the most dangerous when, not a Mitsubishi Triton or Storm, but a tiny Ford Fiesta was a couple of feet away from flattening me. Coming from behind, it veered into the next lane to pass 3 cars. I was utterly convinced that other than the act of overtaking on a single lane road, the driver fully intended to intimidate me. My loud holler achieved nothing than to let off steam. Angered, my focus quickly changed to the desperate state of humanity. How much arrogance we see in the world today and how puny and powerless I was to be at the mercy of that driver. Had I died that day, I wouldn’t have known what hit me. While I remain a believer in the immutable laws of cause and effect, I truly wish that a person knows for what deeds if he rewarded or punished for when the time of reckoning comes.

Scott Bourne posted about his photography predictions for 2012 and as morbid as this may sound, I think it won’t be too shocking if we see an accident involving a car and a runner next year. It’s really not hard to fathom this since it’s already happening in other parts of the world – read this and this. We have more than our share of crazed motorists here and it’s time we pull ourselves out of self denial that we’re immune to such threats and really pay attention to our surroundings when we head outdoors. Now, won’t it be truly ironical if the offending driver is himself a runner?

My anger returned me a quick 4th lap and I needed a ridiculous comedy like The Three Amigos that evening to take the edge off the close shave.

Note: I wanted to write this post in a different style but that ended up somewhat not as I’ve intended!

Published: December 13th, 2011

Running And Happiness

Running provides happiness which is different from pleasure. Happiness has to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing.” – George Sheehan

Inspiration Finds Me

Everyone needs a little pick-me-up. Everyday of the year. If you can’t find inspiration, it will sometimes find you. My year has been spent languishing in the doldrums. I was downright angry and bitter with what work took away from what I’ve enjoyed, and it didn’t seem fair.

While I don’t have anything to prove in my running – those days were over when I proved my father wrong in completing the Penang Bridge Half Marathon umpteen years ago – I do want to continue challenging myself. Can I extend myself a little longer, a little faster? That’s the unfinished business end of my running. And it’s always good to have the spectre of unfinished business hanging over your shoulder because it keeps you going during the lean times. For me anyway. I’m that type who needs challenges to keep me going. The day I no longer have the fire in me will be the day I’ll find it hard to stay the course.

It’s difficult not to be stirred watching the 40th running of the New York City Marathon late last night. The sight of the elites, some floating efficiently, some not but all super fast, always thrills. What ramped up the excitement factor were the familiar sights of the race route and the cheers of the spectators. The long stretch of Brooklyn’s 4th Avenue where I was cheered on, the nonchalant Hasidic Jews crossing the road in Williamsburg (the men’s lead pack nearly ran into one!), the climb up the Pulaski Bridge at the halfway mark and exiting the Queensborough Bridge into the roar of the 1st Avenue. The painful slog up the 1st Avenue and into The Bronx. And the finish.

Then there were the performance of the “seniors” who rolled back the years – Meb who made 2009 his year, the annual trademark crazy surge by Ramaala up the 1st Avenue in response to the screams of the crowd, the number of mothers (4 apparently! Champ Derartu Tulu is a 37 year old mother of two) in the women’s lead pack of 5. They all debunked the myth that you get slower with age. Plus the celebrities and VIPs, Ed Norton (3:48.01), Anthony Edwards (4:08.20 missing his sub-4 target), Alanis Morissette (4:28.45, hopefully with less angst than apparent in her songs!) and George Hirsch, 75, former publisher of the RW magazine (an amazing 4:06.14 finishing alongside longtime friends and fellow running luminaries Amby Burfoot and Bill Rodgers).

The cap it all off, I checked out the typically inspiring New York Times feature called Marathon Voices and the NY Times’ photo coverage of the event begs to be checked out. Splendid photos and amazing stories. ER’s Anthony Edwards who was joined by Tegla Loroupe in yesterday’s race, Team Hoyt, Major Phil Packer were interviewed in Marathon Voices. But the best stories of all are told by normal and unassuming everyday people like you and I, everyone as uplifting as the one before. If all those don’t get you out of the door, I don’t what will.

Anyway, here’s what I learn from the feature. All good advice to share.

  1. Running must be fun.
  2. Running need not be just a time away from routine, make it an exploration.
  3. You need not be an athlete before you start becoming a runner.
  4. Everyone who crosses the finish line are as happy as the winner.
  5. Be great at what you’re good at.
  6. Take one day at a time.
  7. Inspiration is everywhere.
  8. It’s never too late and one is never too old to start.
  9. Our health is our responsibility, we owe it to ourselves to take our health seriously.

Some reports to watch out for from fellow runners, friends, blogger – Marci | Frank | Alex Gonzalez (sub 4 PR!) | Dogpound (who didn’t run but volunteered).

All these make me feel like I haven’t fought hard enough to regain the lost and important part of me. That will all change.

Determined
Determined

The Most Succinct Reason Of Why We Run

Sometimes we run simply to get away from the maddening crowd.
Sometimes we run simply to get away from the maddening crowd.

In the RW Blog http://rwdaily.runnersworld.com/2010/10/trapped-might-as-well-run.html, one commenter, PDM said:

“Whether it is a mine entrapment or a divorce, a bankruptcy or a bad review, we all run from something, or to something. The fact remains; we all run to settle our souls. There is a thing that wants to jump out, grab us by the throat, and choke us to death. It is unwieldy and loathsome. It wants our lives. However, through our resilience, we give it no stake hold. We let it live initially, to temper us, then…we kill it, with the ambitions of our heart.”

To all the rescued miners, welcome back! All of you were in my prayers and your tenacity and will to live continue to move and inspire me and I’m sure many others.

Published: October 15th, 2010

Strength And Dignity

JapanThese 2 words came to mind when I observed, as I’d love to, the goings on of the daily lives of the Japanese people. Not those in the big cities, but folks in the smaller towns. Our 2nd day in Kyoto brought us to one such place which was along our way to Arashiyama. We had been treated to the spectacle of Kinkakuji and have got off a 205 bus en route to hopping on board the Randen train. Having had no breakfast we decided to pop into a corner supermarket to grab some grub – I settled for a sushi in a box set while the wife got an okonomiyaki. While enjoying the meal on the bench by the supermarket entrance, what better than to watch the folks go about their daily lives.

Firstly, in Japan, one hardly sees a person lounging around doing nothing. Whether the person is a groundskeeper, housewife, old folk, the Japanese people are always engaged. In doing something. No “Jom minum” mentality we see in Malaysia. In the small suburbs, even home owners turn a small section of their frontage into a business, selling snacks or handicraft and souvenirs.

The photos you see below are those showing the elderly doing their grocery shopping at the said supermarket. It seems that it’s the usual practice to bag your own shopping, once the shopping are paid. The checkout staff will tally up your items and transfer them to another basket. The shopper then will carry this basket to a separate table to bag the stuff or stash them into their shopping cart. All done quietly, with no rush nor the pressure of speed. Age didn’t seem to be a factor as well as both the wife and I were astonished to see a few folks bent double yet were out doing their “chores”.

One of my colleagues asked me what captivated me the most about Kyoto, now that I’ve visited the place twice. It’s not the glitz of the metropolis, because I certainly don’t miss Tokyo’s packed trains even at 11pm. Of course, we know about their famed punctuality, precision (bordering on bureaucracy and steadfastness on clinging to the old ways), food and cleanliness. But what opened my eyes were the peoples’ enthusiasm, appreciation for their natural heritage, sense of order, honesty and pride. Insecurity that we increasingly experience and see here in Malaysia – think security sensors in shops, chained products, non-placement of goods by the store entrance – are not a factor there. In Tokyo I gaped at the electronic gadgets left unattended at store fronts. In Kyoto, I passed a handful of shops without a visible clerk, probably on toilet break.

The other thing is the seeming simplicity of their the Kyotolites’ lives. We already know that their homes are compact. There are, of course, mansions and villas but they’re exceptions. The size of a typical Japanese home would not warrant a 60″ 3D LED TV or a 3+3+2 living room furnishing. Neither would they have space for voluminous bookcases and walk-in wardrobes. Everything will have to be purposeful, equally compact, efficiently organized and laid out. Other than a Porsche Panamera, a Golf GTI and a Mini, I didn’t see another turbocharged car in Kyoto. Tokyo’s Ginza, however, are the opposite with all the flash. All material things that we seem to be chasing and shaping our lives around. A 20×60 home isn’t large enough? Well, move to a 22×75 then! It’s never enough and there’s no end to that pursuit of a “better life”. Instead of pursuing bigger and faster material things to accommodate increasing and seemingly must-have possessions, I’ll be always reminded by what I saw to instead strive to shed and scale back.

And the most important observation? To never equate progressing age to the diminishing ability to stay active and productive. I guess Red’s words in The Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living or get busy dying” certainly rings loud and true.

Published December 4th, 2012

Are Human Beings Beyond Redemption?

This isn’t a theological posting. I’m not going to pretend that I’m a pious person nor claim to be lofty enough nor understand the issues of the world. There are going to be lots more questions asked and there won’t be any answers. I was reading the newspaper over breakfast and was “assaulted” with so many sad and disturbing news.

It’s either some unethical politicians, some “oversight” by some authorities, some knee-jerk reaction towards current issues plaguing the country, natural disasters (like the coal mine cave-ins in the US and China, and the fires that are consuming Greece), villagers in Papua New Guinea who buried AIDS sufferers alive, global warming, the death of an abused toddler, the continuing ravage of Africa, murders, assassinations… 

The world we’re living in today is pretty messed up. What kind of world will my kids grow up in? Will they be resourceful and tough enough to survive? Will they get opportunities to be the best they can be? Will they be safe? Will there be greater responsibility practiced towards fellow human beings and the environment we live in? We’re not going to be around for long in this world but our children’s lives have just started. Whatever we plan on doing to rectify the situation, we had better start doing now. Be it be more environmentally conscious, educating our children to be forthright, honest, unswayed, or simply be kinder and patient towards fellow human beings. 

At that point I suddenly felt like going home and hug my kids.

I think it was Thoreau who said something like (can’t remember the exact phrase) “Stubborn people don’t want to be told to change because they want to see. Let them see!”

Be the change you want to see in the world.“- Mahatma Gandhi

I’m not a smart person but the message seems to be, it’s up to us to turn things around. We have to be Agents of Change. And I’m assuming that’s the message, as I’ve said I don’t have answers.

Published September 18th, 2009.