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!