Seoul International Marathon 2020 (DNS)

The idea of racing Seoul was never in the frame. After all, a bunch of us just ran our best races on the Gold Coast last July and with me progressing well to the Boston Qualifying Standard, I didn’t want to rush the improvements and jump right back into another training cycle. Consider that learning from my previous Macao experience. The body and mind just needed to have some time off, and  enjoy the shorter races. So post GCM19, I raced the EE Run 10K, SCKLM 10K and HSN21K. While not spectacular, my timing weren’t that bad, considering the lower volume of running.

So why Seoul? After all, there were already many poor reviews written about how bad the organisation is. Despite being an IAAF Gold Label event, the runners’ grouses ranged from the registration process, the bungling of the corral to the somewhat lack on race course support. The kicker was, of course, the fiasco of the 2017 edition which a number of my friends ran. I’ve posted the links to their race reports at the bottom of this post.

The decision for Seoul came about after working out a realistic 2020 racing plan. Pinning my BQ attempt solely on the Gold Coast Marathon in July was just too risky. It’s ALWAYS prudent to have back-up plans! Without a late winter or spring race, there’s no room for another attempt should I fail in Gold Coast. With the wife’s blessings, the planning began in earnest.

South Korea has never been a destination I’d like to visit  – I really do prefer Japan – which made planning for Seoul an easy thing to do, in that there’s simply no need for any planning! I will arrive 2 days ahead to acclimatise to the cold, race, sample some food and come home a day after the race with a BQ Standard or thereabouts. Before any reservations were made, I wrote to and received an email confirmation from the race organisers on the event date – March 15.

I planned a tight budget and even so, the initial projections came up to about RM5,100, the bulk of which was spread somewhat evenly between flight tickets (Singapore Airlines), a room atop a bakery-cafe and meals for 5 days. With a baffling upgrade to Platinum Label (see earlier mentioned complaints), the race fees saw a corresponding increase to around RM430.

Then came the first boo-boo. The organisers made a sudden change of date from March 15 to March 22 in early January which sent us scrambling to change our flight and hotel arrangements, at additional cost to the runners. Even after an appeal to Singapore Airlines, and their waiver of applicable penalties, I still had to top up RM330 for the higher ticket prices. The organiser’s past fiascos were starting to surface.

That aside, training had been on track with a number of the GCM Crew also on the Seoul train. Then came the second boo-boo.

I finished January’s Twincity Half Marathon with a very bad injury. I was on Week 10 of training and Twincity was supposed to be a tuneup/checkpoint race for us Seoul Bros. All of us ran well in Twincity, and despite hobbling from the 11K mark, I even finished the race with a 2-second course PR. The ankle injury was severe enough that I had great difficulty walking back to the car, stopping every couple of steps. I limped for more than week, unable to put much weight on the right foot and had 2 visits to the GP, 2 visits to specialists that included MRI and SWT sessions. I needed to know if anything was torn or broken – thankfully there wasn’t. The setback ensured that my Chinese New Year celebration was anything but. The long holiday weekend was supposed to see some mileage being covered but a total of 16km over 4 days were all I managed, and with considerable discomfort and pain at that. Other than 2 20-minute jogs over the next 2 weeks just to gauge the recovery, there were no running. Any thoughts of racing probably died then.

The final nail was hammered home when the global pandemic struck. It’s hard to fathom the impact of the pandemic to the world and I won’t regurgitate them here. We’re in a nationwide lockdown until April 28 and some measure of restricted movement will be in order in the foreseeable future. Cooped up indoors isn’t easy mentally and I’m not in a state of mind or intelligent enough to go into the subject of what this outbreak means for humanity. We can pray that we come out of this as a better species.

  • While the ankle has healed on the medial side, the limited range of motion, discomfort and dull pain felt on the lateral side continue to plague me 2 months on. 
  • Events and races in the country have all been cancelled for the year even if we still see countries that are more optimistic about things for Q3 and Q4. I personally doubt so.
  • I hope when the policies, controls and SOP framework are being designed to transition the country back to some semblance of “operations”. I fully support the present restrictive controls but the health authorities must realise that there will come a point when allowing people a chance to exercise outdoors, with social distancing of course, will be a NEED than a WANT. There’s physical trauma and there’s the mental side as well.

2017 Seoul Marathon race reports: Happiefeet | No Names Mentioned

Post-2019 Gold Coast Marathon: What Now?

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

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

To put that into my personal context,

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

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






Jul 22 – Sep 22


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

HMM/LHR 6- Week Base

Sep 23 – Nov 3


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


HMM/LHR 18-Advanced Plan

Nov 11 – Mar 15


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

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


Gold Coast Airport 5.7KM Fun Run 2019

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

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

Gold Coast Marathon 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30K. Only 12 to go! We’ve got this!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pace breakdown:

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

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

Post-race notes:

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

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

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

Until the next race!

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:

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:

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:

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.

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!