Grungy Socks

I ran the ING New York City Marathon in 2008 before the inception of the World Marathon Majors. Getting in on the first try was an amazing stroke of luck. Even if it was post 9/11, I felt quite at ease in NYC. It was as if all the world’s troubles took a break over the marathon week as runners from all over the world congregated in the city.

Traffic stopped. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers, be they runners or non-runners came out to cheer us. It was an amazing experience – one to carry to my grave. With today’s uncertainties, I doubt I’d be able to visit much less to run there again.

The 2017 TCS NYCM is less than 8 weeks away and 2018 will mark the expiration of my travel visa (the officer gave me a 10-year visa so that I’d be able to qualify and run Boston☺️). Alas, while I’ve improved my marathon PR, I’m no closer by much in qualifying for Boston.

Now about the photo in this post. This pair of grungy looking commemorative socks I bought from the NYCM Expo have lasted me 9 solid years. Exceptionally durable and still serviceable today. I was clearing up my drawers when I spotted them. I thought I had discarded them some months ago. I picked them up intending to consign them to the bin when I reflected on how long they’ve served me. They’ve been put through the grinder, so many miles logged in them, through countless wash cycles, chucked into bags, car boots, stinky shoes, bottom of cabinets. Yet they’ve survived. Like these, I’m a survivor and I’ll continue to fight the good fight, in my racing.

But my personal observations on my training the past week and a half suggest that I’ll have to take some time off to recover and not attempt another marathon for the rest of the year. While I’ve had some excellent sessions, they’re been sporadic. Recovery has been slow as well. And so I’ve decided to postpone my moonshot at least until 2018 and will opt for a half in early December instead. I’ll enter the half with no expectations and will just enjoy the break from work. Rebuilding will happen as usual with shorter runs and the customary longer ones on weekends but I won’t be cussing if I miss any sessions. For that reason, I’ll stop providing my weekly training updates for now.

And the socks? Well I was about to drop them into the bin when I changed my mind as I reflected on the thoughts I mentioned in the previous paragraph. There’s something about this pair…

Week 2/18

Tempo Tue (20 mins between 4:50 – 4:58)
Distance Covered: 8.23K
How it went: Week 2 kicks off with a 40 Tempo. To better track my splits post workout, I no longer program my warm up and cool down segments into the watch. This allows me to adjust the duration of both the warm up and cool down phases, meaning if I’ve more time to spare, I’ll warm up longer. And that works very well if the body needed a longer time getting into gear. There are a number of mornings just like that! This morning, I took slightly over 15 mins for the warm up and managed to cover 2.62K working the pace down to 5:33+. Tempo was 20 mins. Following the kick off last week where I retained GCAM17’s 5:00 pace, it was time to run this training cycle’s pace which is between 4:50-4:58. Again, I didn’t monitor the individual splits and just ran by feel. In the end the average logged was 4:55. Pretty chuffed with that. Hopefully as the training progresses, I’ll be able to move that average closer to 4:50. Cool down was slightly over 10mins covering 1.54K. Great workout!

Easy Wed
Distance Covered: 6.29K
How it went: Just ambling along to scores from Memphis Belle, Moana and Dunkirk. Felt the outer right knee twinged a few times at regular intervals – slightly painful sensation. Maybe it was the positioning of the knee when I did my crunches, maybe it was the ITB which I haven’t had since the early ’90s. Don’t know what it is.

Thu
Distance Covered: 5.07K
How it went: AM: Did some pretty intense core strengthening workouts focusing on the midsection.
PM: Failed tempo. Very warm. Waited till late evening but the body was just sluggish (6:15 > 5:42 > 5:27 > 5:21 > 5:04) with a harder than usual breathing. Thought about the December marathon, and the pursuit of my moonshot – whether it’s wise to squeeze another good race before year end or to rebuild again for the assault in 2018. You know, if I should downgrade to the Half instead of forcing things. Since the race is yet to open, there’s still some time to see how things go.

Easy Sat
Distance Covered: 16.55K
How it went: Just like the week before, Friday turned out to be a rest day. I was plainly tired, both mentally and physically. Torrential rains lashed down on the drive to work, resulting in a 2-hour journey. It’s plain sickening to be stuck in a seated position for that period of time adding to the gloom. Luckily, there was a chance to get in a double digit distance on Saturday with a pre-AugustMan Clinic 9K with Nick around the Lake and a short 3.4K after that. Clocked another 4K in the evening, 2 with C2 prepping for his 3K race and 2 solo. It was close to 7 min pace but it felt good and put me in a relaxed state of mind.

Hilly Sun
Distance Covered: 18.2K
How it went: Fab Fast Finish run. A languid 6:46 kick-off and then it got progressively quicker. Even the hills were done in sub-6 min pace and only the dangerous sections where we needed to walk were slower. Last few Km splits were 5:50 > 5:31 > 5:40 > 5:55 > 5:37 > 5:17 > 4:45. The Tracer is one heckuva shoe. It feels different when taken slow and just excellent in 5-min and below pace!

Week Total: 54.3K
Training Notes: I keep reminding myself that I shouldn’t look too much into things at this stage, going through tough months at the office while stimulating the body’s strengthening process through a greater variety of exercises. The crucial component, of course, would be getting in adequate rest and sleep, failing which adaptation will not take place. I’m satisfied with what I’ve got at this point.

Looking back: Week 1

Week 3/18

Tempo Tue (20 mins between 4:50 – 4:58)
Distance Covered: 8.23K
How it went: Changed my tempo sessions to distance-based instead of time. I reckoned this will allow me to develop and extend tempo pace running from 5K right up to 10K and hopefully be in position to race a good 10K in a few months’ time. After a 2K warm up, it was go-time. I ran totally by feel (comfortably hard) and didn’t peep at the watch. With 2K to go, it poured. The splits for the first 3Ks weren’t that far apart and the last 2 were very much in control. Body and legs felt really good. 5:09 > 5:06 > 5:05 > 4:52 > 4:48.

Easy Wed
Distance Covered: 6.29K
How it went: Just ambling along to scores from Memphis Belle, Moana and Dunkirk. Felt the outer right knee twinged a few times at regular intervals – slightly painful sensation. Maybe it was the positioning of the knee when I did my crunches, maybe it was the ITB which I haven’t had since the early ’90s. Don’t know what it is.

Thu
Distance Covered: 5.07K
How it went: AM: Did some pretty intense core strengthening workouts focusing on the midsection.
PM: Failed tempo. Very warm. Waited till late evening but the body was just sluggish (6:15 > 5:42 > 5:27 > 5:21 > 5:04) with a harder than usual breathing. Thought about the December marathon, and the pursuit of my moonshot – whether it’s wise to squeeze another good race before year end or to rebuild again for the assault in 2018. You know, if I should downgrade to the Half instead of forcing things. Since the race is yet to open, there’s still some time to see how things go.

Fri – Sun
Zero running due to my engagement with the IEM Run. This would be the one and only race organization for 2017 and I’m glad it’s over. One less major commitment!

Week Total: 19.7K
Training Notes: The mileage for the week was expectedly very low with 3 days off running. Nothing to write about, really. I’ll take it as a mild setback. Looking on the positive side, it’s still early in the training.  

Looking back:Week 1 | Week 2

Week 1/18


Mon 6K/Rest
How it went: It’s the start of another new marathon training cycle. This time, the goals are a lot different. The moonshot plan (insert link) is longer (18 weeks instead of 12) to allow adaptation to changes in pace. All happening during an unbelievably stressful period at work. I’ve cut down (insert link) a number of major commitments so that I won’t be distracted but I think the real challenge is more about rekindling the level of motivation after a sustained period of highs (3 months for me!). The mistake would be to go chasing for it and I think it’s a great idea to kick off the first few weeks at the old training paces. Despite Monday being a Rest Day, I laid out the gear the night before with the intention to perhaps log a short 6K but changed my mind and stuck to 20 mins of core and strength work instead, targeting the shoulders, chest, obliques, adductors and glutes.

Tempo Tue (30 mins @ 5:00)
Distance Covered: 6.3K
How it went: As usual, 30 Tempo means 10 mins of tempo running sandwiched between 10 mins of warm up and cool down. It’s short, intense enough and passes quickly. Just enough primer to carry through the next day. The plan was to stick to GCAM17 tempo pace, after the customary warm up, and not push it from the get go. All in all, a good run. Felt positive, effort was controlled, with stride length over 1.2m during the tempo phase, cadence nudging 178. Since there was still a bit of time, I extended the cool down by another 1K+.

Easy Wed (Easy pace 5:21 – 5:59)
Distance Covered: 6.26K
How it went: I wanted my easy sessions to be enjoyable and not bound by the pressures of timing. The air had a slight burning smell, signs that the Sumatran haze has blown into the country. After a languid 6:38 opener, the pace went down quite naturally 6:07 > 5:57 > 5:56 > 5:50 > 5:53. You know you’re in the zone with that kind of pace!

Thu Yasso (5xYasso in 3:27 (4:18 pace) – 3:36 (4:30 pace))
Distance Covered: 7K
How it went: AM run scuppered. Woke up, got ready to head out (despite flashes of lightning) but just as I got the water bottle out from the fridge, the thunderstorm hit. PM run was on the treadmill. Seeing how hard it is to set intervals on a machine, I ran progressions instead. 6:01 > 5:54 > 5:24 > 5:23 > 5:19 > 5:09 and 1K Cool Down. Then it was some strength work like 20x one-legged squats with twists, 10x lunge dumbbell rows and 10x rows. It’s been awhile since the legs felt like they’ve just hiked some elevation.

Rest
How it went: The body felt thrashed from yesterday’s weights session but quickly recovered as the day progressed. Decided to stay conservative and not push a run in, even though I penned down an easy 6. With consistency in the weights room over the weeks, the body should adapt to the stress and I won’t have to miss the easy day after.

Sauc Sat
Distance Covered: 15.72K
How it went: Got in a pre-run of  8K from Hartamas to Solaris before another 7.72K as part of the Saucony Clinic. From the looks of it, it may be my final group run with the Saucony team. Nothing remarkable from both sessions, except I felt light on the climbs – probably seeing the benefits of the strength work I’ve been putting in. Endurance is still pretty much work in progress at this stage.

10 Mile Steady Sun
Distance Covered: 16.43K
How it went: Drizzly morning but luckily it didn’t get heavier. Nice cool morning to run. First segment was covered at a brisk pace, averaging 5:31. Splits were 6:35 > 5:34 > 5:31 > 5:32 > 5:13 > 5:17 > 5:17 > 5:20 > 5:39 > 5:12 > 5:31., but some stretches it certainly felt much quicker than that. There were brief moments when we hit 4:54 and even 4:19! Calvin led for most of the way. The second segment of 5.5K was done at a slower pace but still averaged sub 6.  Good session out at this point of the training.

Week Total: 51.76K
Training Notes: It’s normal to experience FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) during the kick off period of a training program. “Post-honeymoon”, new pace ranges to hit, and new goals. It’s a little daunting, almost like the body and mind getting a rude wake-up call. But I’ve learnt not to deny those emotions – just like the thoughts and distractions that floats around in your consciousness during a meditation session, one has to acknowledge the emotions and move on. I did that by reminding myself that I shouldn’t worry about the uncertainties but remain focused just at the task at hand. A runner should expend all the negative mental energies during the planning phase but once the program kicks off, he should discard these thoughts that pull one down and begin to trust the plan. The results will fall into place provided the execution doesn’t deviate too much. Therefore it’s best to focus all the energies into the daily execution. With clean eating, weights, core, dropped 1kg to 59, and close to 52K logged – I’d say it’s a great start!

Moonshot

“All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.”
Earl Nightingale

With the excitement of GCAM17 waning, what now? Plan the next training program, of course! This part always gets me excited. Even though I’m only now at the stage of reviewing and formulating the new plan, it’s as if I’m already in the midst of the training for the next race.

Here’s what I know:

  1. Work is certainly going to be doubly tough, this second half of 2017. As such, I’ve taken some drastic steps to reducing my commitments. More of this in a separate post.
  2. The 14-week program will kick off Aug 14th and will be 2 weeks longer than what I went through for GCAM17. This is to accommodate a longer Phase 2 of the 3-phase program.
  3. Only 1 race has been earmarked ie a Half on Week 5, as I’m undecided if I should run a 12K race on Week 8 foregoing a more important 25K. Hang on, I’ve just answered my own question!
  4. Hill running, be they standalone repeats or incorporated within long runs, will feature more this time to prep the body and mind for the upcoming marathon’s 2 bridges.
  5. While the program is still in draft mode, I’ve penned down 3 25Ks, 2 30Ks, and 1 32K. Weekly mileage will incorporate cutbacks every 3 weeks to allow for recovery and prevent staleness.
  6. Training paces will need some adjusting for a more aggressive goal time. I’ve checked out McMillan Running and from the training paces look to be the closest to what I think I should be working at. The tempo pace, for example, was what my friend recommended that I try (but that which I thought was a little too ambitious then) for GCAM17.
  7. Choice of footwear will be very important for sure. I’ll need some protection from all those pounding. Thankfully, footwear technology have come a long way and there are fantastic choices out there nowadays – you can have protection, responsiveness and lightness all in a pair of shoes. Training is about reaping the maximum gain, with the least amount of work and the least amount of suffering/pain. Crossing that threshold may just result in injuries. While they’re indeed sexy, racing flats and shoes that are too firm will only smash my legs.

In order to achieve my moonshot, I’ll have to hit the halfway mark of the marathon at close to my Half Marathon PR time! It is certainly a daunting thought but every aggressive goal starts out that way, doesn’t it? It was the same when I kicked off my GCAM17 program. I’ll try not to think of that too much and just focus on the day’s menu when things kick off. I’ve begun prepping the body to handle the load in the form of static and dynamic core and strength exercises twice a week. As I’m typing this, my arms and shoulders are a little sore right now, in a good way :D. And after several weeks of mild indulgence, I’ve restarted my clean eating habits. That’s what I can do for now and as usual I’ll update this blog as things develop.

Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2017

Where do I begin? My 32nd marathon was a race that I truly prepared even if I didn’t initially set out to run the distance. The plan was to rebuild from the half before taking on the full distance this year end. But for some reason, probably rooted in a divine one, a friend planted some hope and a little confidence in me that the goal wasn’t beyond me. His positivity came bundled with a 12-week training plan which I ended up embarking. There were slight mods to it as the weeks rolled by. 
With the plan in place, I committed both mentally and physically to “The Cause”. Sweeping changes were made to how I trained. On top of that I reshaped some aspects of my diet (ice-cream and milk-based coffee were treats while vegs, seeds and nuts featured a lot more in my meals), largely staying injury and illness-free. My goal kept me focused and anchored. No problems with maintaining discipline and consistency.
Motivation, because you can’t succeed at a discipline based sport like distance running unless you’re consistent, and consistency is grandchild to motivation. “
Jack Daniels, Ph.D.
Over the course of the 12 weeks, I only missed 3 days of training, excluding the rest days, due to a mild flu. While I’ve the gang along for some of the longer runs, much of the extra miles were tackled alone. Weekday sessions started at 5:30am initially but were moved earlier to 5:15am when the need for more miles arose. There were only 3 double days over the 3 months. As I had no access to a track for intervals, I drove to a nearby location and ran the 1.2K reasonably flat rectangular loops around Tesco. Initially hostile stray dogs prowling the area learnt to ignore me as the weeks progressed. During the Muslim fasting month, I had more company on the roads in motorists who made their way to a mosque in the area. Some days, I had to outrun or outmaneuver garbage trucks out on their rounds. But all those inconveniences strengthened the mind and resolve, and many tough repeats were seen through with plenty of mental reinforcements.
One key workout was a simulator at Putrajaya which I ran faster than MP thanks to pacing duties by Jessie.
As the weeks rolled by and fitness gained, confidence and a sense of belief grew as well. But I remained cautiously optimistic simply because the marathon can humble a runner. A mental scar isn’t something that’s easily rid of. The only nagging issue was a recurrence of plantar fasciitis in the 3 weeks before race day.

Fast forward to arriving at the Gold Coast, with the customary group photos covered on Friday, Saturday was basically a warm-up jog. Nick and I wisely opted for The Star 5.7K Challenge instead of the Southern Cross Uni 10K.

With all the walking and photo-taking interspersed between speed pick-ups, I ended up with a Personal Worst (PW) timing for a 5K. I’d said before I boarded the flight to the Gold Coast that I’d run a PW and a PR at GCAM17. The only thing left to do then was to run a PR on Sunday! Before that, there’s the Garmin Legends Lunch to attend. Suffice to say that there was plenty of gawking at the presence of runners we don’t normally see up close and in the flesh. Too bad we weren’t lucky enough to grab photos with Kenneth Mungara, Yuki Kawauchi, Brett Larner (famed blogger of the Japanese running scene) and Jess Trengove. The petite elite women are proof that long legs aren’t necessary to running super fast 😀
With Sara Hall, who won the Asics Half Marathon.
With Desiree Linden, who finished 4th in the Asics Half Marathon.
With Kevin Hanson, one half of the founding brothers of the Hansons Marathon Method.
We wisely chose to head out at 6pm for dinner on Saturday since the crowds would be big. True enough, our first choice for ramen was packed and 15 deep line. We settled for an alternative, also a Japanese ramen shop and I somehow finished a bowl of tonkotsu ramen and gyudon! The gear, including the drop bag, had been laid out earlier back at the hotel and I opted to go light – the heaviest load being the usual 8 gels in my belt. I hydrated well the entire Saturday.
After a good 6 hours’ sleep and a cup of noodles (out of convenience and salt) and a banana, I was already out queuing for the G-linq to Southport at 5am. I didn’t opt for the provided coach to the start as it was just too early. The trams were so packed that in normal circumstances I’d be accused of indecency – such was the close physical proximity to fellow commuters! On arrival at Southport, I got myself a small cup of long black from the usual café along the way and ventured to the race precinct. For the first time, I’d arrived before the HM start! Nick along with many Malaysians were already somewhere in the start pen along with 9,000 other runners.
The mood while waiting was relaxed. There was no pressure. I knew that whatever the race outcome, I’ve had the best training ever which itself was already a success. The time to enjoy the race had finally come. See, mind games at work right there! After meeting up with fellow Malaysians and conducting a toilet visit, it was time to warm-up done before checking in my bag.
Morning temps weren’t that bad. I’ve encountered colder stuff during the past GCAMs. It helped that the wind died down and after wishing everyone a great race, I made my way to the starting pen and discarded my layers. I embedded myself with the 3:50 pacers as the plan was to start the first Km slower before easing into goal pace.
My mind was refreshingly unencumbered by doubts (a little of which crept in during the taper phase) as Rob De Castella dished out last minute advice to the runners. My goals were simple: Primary: 3:45, Secondary: 3:48. Don’t think too far ahead, just focus on every 5K, get to the 30K mark feeling good and I’ll be in with a good chance. Gels every 5K, hydrate at every station – 2 cups minimum.
A GCAM playlist was already set up on my iPod but strangely found myself putting Enigma’s Sadness on repeat. It was no doubt a strange choice but I found the track to be meditative and its calming tempo suited the relaxed state of mind I was in. It would astonishingly stay on repeat until the 37K mark!
5:30 > 5:23 > 5:18 > 5:14 > 5:18 for a 26:49 at 5K (avg 5:21). It was still early in the race and I dialed it back a little. When we got to Surfers, I was pleasantly surprised to find a bigger crowd cheering us on than the previous years. It was around here that I passed the 3:50 gun time pacer.
5:15 > 5:18 > 5:18 > 5:17 > 5:25 for a 53:37 10K (avg 5:21). At this point, I was a minute ahead of 3:48 finish, and firmly lodged in between my primary and secondary goals. The 3:50 gun time pacer, Erin Wallace, was about 120m ahead and I took a mental note that I need not be concerned since the difference between gun and chip timings was about 2 minutes. If I kept my consistency, it would be a matter of time before I drew close to her.
5:20 > 5:22 > 5:20 > 5:21 > 5:18 for a 1:20 15K (avg 5:22). I was still a minute ahead of 3:48 finish, thus very consistent. Again, I was cautious not to get carried away because it would be the easiest thing to do, what with the amazing support we were getting from the crowd. This section will be where you get to see the elites zoom by on the other side of the road, just a few yards from you.  I only caught 3 seconds of the lead and chasing packs.
5:16 > 5:23 > 5:20 > 5:24 > 5:24 for a 1:47 20K (avg 5:22).  A few Kms laters, I did spot Choo Hooi and Francis. Burleigh Heads ah… Fantastic crowd and noise! I high-fived a few along this stretch and felt relieved that I still kept pace discipline. It’s just so easy to get carried away by the crowds here.
5:20 > 5:19 > 5:19 > 5:19 > 5:21 for a 2:14 25K (avg 5:22!). 1 minute advantage maintained.  I remembered silently congratulated myself on reaching the halfway mark in good shape and looked forward to getting to the Southport Bridge (30K). Sadness continued playing, keeping tempo.
At Surfers, on the way to the 30K mark.
5:24 > 5:22 > 5:20 > 5:16 > 5:23 for a 2:40 30K (avg 5:18!). This was par for a 3:45 finish, if I held on to the end. This 5K was interesting, in that it’s the quieter section of the route, after the raucous Surfers Paradise area. The sun would be sapping some of the energy off and it would be where for the first time, some tiredness will creep in. I was for the most part, running alone. There were no one to pull me except for Enigma but I was in the flow of things. That was until I finally caught up with Erin, the 3:50 gun time pacer. She and her posse were moving at around 5:18 pace, so I hung with them for the next 1.5K. It was an amazing experience. Truth be told, I rarely run with pacers, preferring to dictate my own progress. But Erin was amazing. Her charges ran in a tight pack and I drafted right behind her – so close that her 2 red balloons were bumping off my forehead! And because we were a pack, I was able to feed off the cheers from the supporters – pacing teams are natural magnets for attention and shouts of encouragement. Plus with Erin herself gave out team talks. It was easy, almost effortless running with her. In fact, I had to hold myself back and stayed in her wake – didn’t want to be pushing this early. We were a pack and we were out to kill the race!
30K at the Southport Bridge and just ahead of Erin’s posse.
5:21 > 5:25 > 5:26 > 5:24 > 5:29 for a 3:08 35K (avg 5:28). I lost 7 seconds per Km here but still held a minute’s advantage over a 3:48 finish. The minute drop wasn’t great but I was still generally OK. Right after the Southport Bridge is a gentle elevation drop. The road was very wide here. I veered to the left to grab a couple of gels from the table (in retrospect, I should’ve maintained a straight trajectory) and lost some yards as a result. I kept a lookout for Nick who mentioned he would be there to take some photos, but couldn’t spot his bright orange Nomad jacket. The 3-deep crowds worked hard and runners were the beneficiaries. As a result, the sharp but short incline just past the finish on the other side wasn’t felt that much. The 5:29 split was a slow down up the bridge over Biggera Creek.
5:23 > 5:21 > 5:24 > 5:27 > 5:23 for a 3:35 40K (avg 5:27). I was definitely slowing down and Erin passed me early in this section, right after the u-turn at Runaway Bay. I had to dig deep to not let her get away. At this point, I needed a push and with the quads burning and in pain, I was afraid that they will lock up. Somehow, I was able to catch up with her. Her group had broken up, leaving only a handful with her. Then she said something which put some life back into the legs and spirit. “If you’re feeling good, you can push for a 3:45 with a 5:15 pace to the finish. Otherwise, stay with me and keep it steady. If you’re pushing ahead, this is where I say goodbye to you. You can do it!” Somehow, that got me going again. I ran knowing that the PR was mine, just a matter of how much. The pressure was completely off. I just needed to make sure the quads didn’t cramp up.
Quads were in a bad shape. Coming off the bridge, I was afraid they would seize up. Erin, with her red balloons, was just behind.
5:55 > 5:40 > 4:51. After 3Ks of clawing back into the race, I found myself at the 41K mark. Right across the road was McDonald’s that marathoners knew so well. At this stage, with the personal battle won, I opted to turn off my iPod, slow down (the 5:55 split) and take the cheers in, applauded the supporters as I ran down Marine Parade. The execution has been almost according to script, save for a couple of lost minutes. A left turn towards the GC Aquatic Centre. and the familiar 250m to go sign came up. Rounded a few curves and spotted Nick, as he had promised, to the right and waved. In the finishing straight, I passed 3 more runners and a few seconds later, it was job done!
I congratulated a woman who I tailed and basically grinned my way through the misting tunnel before collecting the fruits and drinks, medal and tee. This year, the organizers threw in a small towel as well which was sweet. The area wasn’t as crowded yet, so I took my time around the area before wandering off to the designated meeting point.
There was no one there, so I quickly collected my baggage and thanked the volunteers there and just about then, Nick arrived. Waited a little more but since no one else came along, we left and coincidentally linked up with Jeanie and her colleagues just after they wrapped up their wonton noodles at Southport!
The PF and legs held up all the way back to the hotel. The soreness would come later in the evening and would not go away for another 3 days.
Removing the PF taping back at the hotel.
The little 3:48 pace slip I tucked under my watch strap.
Now that the dust has settled, I’ve had the chance to review the race. It was executed largely to plan. A bit of slippage occurred after the 35K mark which meant I’ll need to tweak the long runs to include fast finish. I could’ve tapered better but I’d put the fast finish long runs on a higher priority. Overall strength regimen, often overlooked by runners, is one area for improvement. I didn’t encounter any cramps and hydration was good. I peed around the halfway mark too. I won’t change anything I did on race day, only the preps will need some tweaking here and there.
Late-stage pace is something I’ve to work on.
Sometimes, all it takes is a breakthrough performance to bring about a new level of belief. Remember that first sub 60-min 10K or sub 2-hour half? The first sub-4? It was only impossible until it’s done. GCAM17 was that to me. I had thought that 3:55 would be all there is for me. GCAM16’s 3:57 didn’t help either. It needed a review of my past 3 years’ training logs to convince me that my past underachievements were due to training inconsistencies – too many hills and vales in the charts.
Developing consistency alone will have already yielded improvements. GCAM17 training started with a weekly mileage of mid-50s before climbing to the 60s, 70s and 80s, with cutbacks every 3 weeks to allow recovery and prevent staleness. There was much less pressure on absolute mileage and greater focus on quality.
I can only hope that I’m able to build on this and see where I end up. It may take me a longer time compared to the others but this is my race. What made GCAM17 sweeter was the fact that my training was undertaken alongside what is now a stressful job, something that won’t change for the easier anytime soon. The value of mental fortitude can’t be played down. Like the saying goes, “Where there’s a will…” or “If you want it bad enough…” Whichever works, right?
Thanks to TEQ, EMQ and HTT for the hospitality, help and looking out for me as always. With their support, and with those from the GCAM Training Group, we were able to extend our assistance and experience to those looking to run their first GCAM. My GCAM adventure wouldn’t have been possible without these groups of nice folks. To the friend who planted the belief in me and sent over the training program, thank you. And where would we be without our family support?
EMQ outdid themselves this year leading up to the GC2018 Commonwealth Games. During the Garmin Legends Lunch, race director Cameron Hart said that this year’s edition was a test bed in preparation for Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games and the improvement shows. From the increased number of spectators, inclusion of several misting stations, finisher towels for the marathoners, the event was overall even better – the best I’ve experienced in my 7 years of participation. The many PBs set are testament to the route, volunteers, crew and city. GCAM provides a course geared towards running your best time. The number of PRs recorded are super high, just ask around the Malaysians who travelled there. If your goal is that, make it your destination. If your plan is to experience a scenic and overseas race, GCAM should be right there at the top. 2018 will be GCAM’s 40th running and I heard big plans are afoot to make it an even more memorable one.
So, congrats all around to everyone – from the runners to the organizing teams!
Looking back: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 |Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10

Week 10/12

Easy Tuesday
Distance covered: 8.25km
How it went: Most have entered tapering but in terms of mileage, the week’s total will be kept in the 60s. To work around the wife’s schedule I had to swap around the Tue and Wed program. Kept it comfortable throughout.

Wednesday Double
Distance covered: 16.02km
How it went: AM run: For progression workouts, I’ve been relying on workouts programmed in Garmin Connect and synced to the watch. This has proven reliable when it comes to executing Intervals and segmented runs. This morning’s session was supposed to have been a 6-5-4 Easy-MP-HMP progression but I completely missed transferring it over. As a substitute, I went with a “run-as-long-as-I-could” at a pace between HMP and Tempo.

While the 7.3K average was 5:07, the actual pace was much quicker following a 5:55 opener. I noted several 5:00 flats. Surprisingly, the entire thing feel good and I was always in control at “comfortably hard” level. I could’ve gone the full 10K at that sustained effort and for a moment or two entertained the fantasy of running a 3:26 marathon (the watch said so when I hit sub 5:00 pace).

PM run: This was a much needed 2nd run of the day, not for the mileage but for stress relief. I’m not sure how one copes with the stresses of daily life – work especially – without an outlet such as exercise. There are plenty of examples all around us of those taking it out on substances that ironically mess up their bodies even more. I’m grateful for my running. I’m grateful for being able to find the meaning in doing it. I’m grateful in still being able to keep at it all these years, albeit with several breaks. It’s something I won’t be giving up as long as I’m mobile.

Treadmill Thursday
Distance covered: 8.38km
How it went: Quick light strides and loving it until the footpod went bonkers from 5.2K onwards, calling out wrong distances. A good workout nonetheless!

Treadmill Friday
Distance covered: 10.61km
How it went: I’m very mindful of how I’m feeling lately. I don’t intend to over-extend myself going into this stage and rather stay fresh and light. Spreading the day’s mileage across 2 shorter runs seems to work better. But this move is just temporary as the morning workout still holds priority.

PM 40-minute run. Lower legs and the right PF were quite sore. I’ve been self-massaging nearly every night for the past 3 days. I reckon the faster running which calls for a more forward-upright lean put some stresses on the lower legs. My running form has been good waist down. 5:00-5:16 paces have seen noticeable knee lifts, translating to longer strides. But damn, I’ve got to sort out this discomfort.

Saturday
Distance covered: 9.5K
How it went: Kept the Saucony Group Run session very gentle all the way. Wasn’t about to over-extend the lower legs, so I was content just shuffling the entire distance. Fantastic weather, cool, overcast and the predicted heavy traffic due to schooling Saturday didn’t turn out bad at all. Got home and fixed myself a second breakfast of oats, soymilk, berries, bananas and a long black. Looking forward to tomorrow’s final long run.

Sunday Simulation
Distance covered: 19.6K
How it went: Glad to have Jessie as pacer the first 14K. After a 6:23 warm-up click, we got down to business right from the 2nd K. Keeping to average of 5:10, I was able to maintain conversation throughout. We realized the pace was 10 seconds quicker than goal pace though but pace discipline was better than during SCKLM, with the quickest 2Ks at 5:07 (back to back) instead of sub 5’s. While I was able to hold the pace for the remaining miles, I felt myself tiring towards the end. The 5:17 average for the 19K was very decent but should still slow down a tad.

Number of days of running: 6
Total mileage: 72.36K
Notes: As much as I wished the 5:10 pace would be realistic and sustainable for the marathon, it isn’t. I will almost certainly crash and burn around the 25K mark if I went with that. 5:10 will take a couple of years’ consistent development – that’s looking forward. The current objective shall remain a conservative one. I’ll need absolute discipline and patience to execute it. Regardless, I shall enjoy a little of the tapering process!

Looking back: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 |Week 8 | Week 9

Week 9/12

5-4-3 MP-HMP Progression
Distance covered: 12.57km
How it went: A variation from Josh Harris’s session where the body is “taught” to progressively operate at an increased pace even as the miles clicked by.. I’ll leave the reversed (3-4-5) version for maybe next week, where the distance is increased as the pace goes up. As for this morning’s workout, I ran without music, felt good but will need to stay relaxed. Warmed up @ 5:55; MP @ 5:16; HMP @ 5:00. Looking forward to Thursday’s Cruise Intervals to practice just that.

Easy Wednesday
Distance covered: 8.28km
How it went: Some easy running to keep the momentum going. Very humid morning. Focused on keeping the arms and upper body relaxed.

Thursday Cruise Intervals
Distance covered: 14.98km
How it went: AM: Went to a wake for a friend’s mother last night and got in just 5 hours of sleep. Totally insufficient! The plan was a cruise interval session of 4×2.4K @ 5:10, with 50 secs recovery. Kicked off with a 2K warm up averaging 6:16 pace. 1st rep @ 5:06; 2nd @ 5:00; 3rd @ 5:08. Didn’t feel in control nor smooth and decided to stop at 3. Finished off with a short jog. No excuses but the still and super humid air didn’t help a bit.

PM: Since the morning session wasn’t on par, I decided to put in a 2nd one on the treadmill in the evening. Keep it relaxed and maintained good form. I think it was only my 2nd “Double” in this training cycle. I believe, Doubles should be used sparingly, and only during peak mileage weeks before the start of taper on the basis that the body would’ve been conditioned in the months prior to handle the extra loading while serving the purpose of continuity and a bit more mileage. And also for older runners, Double days should be a mix of Easy-Hard and not Hard-Hard.

Treadmill Friday
Distance covered: 10.17km
How it went: Moved today’s workout to the evening to simulate the leg fatigue effect for the weekend – less recovery time between sessions. Utilized the treadmill session as a mental workout, focusing on concentration, positive reinforcements, visualization of the various parts of the GCAM course, and staying loose. Started 3K @ 6:00 before gradually lowering the pace to 5:44 > 5:33 > 5:24 > 5:06 for the final K.

Saturday
Distance covered: 10.12K
How it went: Legs were fine this morn but was just so sleepy despite a 6 hour one. As a result, had to suffer for it thru an early evening run. While the weather was fine, the only route that I don’t cover during the weekdays presented the only option. The need to stay extremely focused on traffic was harder than the run itself. Nothing much can be said of the folks that ply the route helmet-less. They seem hell bent on taking along as many as they can to purgatory.

Intense Sunday
Distance covered: 15.33K
How it went: After a languid opening of 6:25, things decidedly turned quicker. By 6K, the pace was already at 5:03. The pack somehow fed on each other’s energy and pace and with the sync’d sounds of our foot falls, it was easy to cover the distance. Last 3K were fast from 5:00 > 4:48 > 4:33. Decided to cool down another 700m to close it off. I’ve pace but can I go the distance??

Number of days of running: 6
Total mileage: 71.5K
Notes: The highest mileage thus far. I don’t think it’ll be taken up higher with next week being the final week before a 2-week taper. At this point, I’m in 2 minds about running a 30K next Sunday. I’d rather stay fresh than pursue another run that long that close. May just settle for a 22-23K. But this week has been full of quality sessions. Even the 10Ks were progression types. The legs are feeling good despite the volume and intensity. Like I mentioned, it’s the engine that will be the decisive factor.

Looking back: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 |Week 8

Week 8/12

Tuesday Recovery
Distance covered: 2.05km
How it went: I continued resting on Monday since it was a designated one. But by Tuesday, I felt that I was ready to sweat a little, however short. It was really a countermeasure against settling into too many days of inactivity. And so it was… a couple of Ks at 6:25 pace to really ease back into training mode.

Easy Wednesday
Distance covered: 10.34km
How it went: In hindsight, yesterday was a good call because I took the first steps in getting back into the regimen. No complains with the effort, pace and distance on the cool, windless yet humid conditions. Actually I was surprised that after 3 days of being off the rails, I was still able to average a 6:05 pace. No sooner had I ended the run, and feeling good about it, the lower back soreness felt over the 3 days due to the flu returned. Looks like I still need to take another ibuprofen just to survive a day on audit.

Thursday Test
Distance covered: 4.1km
How it went: Getting better but decided to keep it short in view of the much more important 30. Wanted to see how the body responds to a bit of pace injection. Started languidly before progressing to 5:53 > 5:31 > 5:00. Have lost it a bit in terms of comfort level but if all goes well the next 2 weeks and into taper I shouldn’t worry too much about it. There’s no guarantee in marathoning, so it’s just a matter of keep doing the work.

Treadmill Friday
Distance covered: 6.45km
How it went: Woke up all ready for a 2-6-2 MP but the eagerness was dampened by a thunderstorm. Waited patiently in bed as I still had some time buffer for at least an 8K. The rain subsided a little a few minutes later, lending hope to my plans but alas, as I sat up on my bed, it resumed again. Having just recovered from flu, heading out albeit in a jacket would be plain foolhardy. And that’s that. I couldn’t let the rebuilding momentum slip away again, so I snuck in an evening run on the treadmill, bearing in mind tomorrow’s hilly 11K with the Saucony group. Pace was progressive, from 6:27 down to 5:15.

Saucony Saturday
Distance covered: 10.27K
How it went: Good run with the Saucony running group. Felt like a fartlek due to the fast-slow running managing the large group. The best run I’ve had since being hit with the flu a week ago.

Crucial Sunday
Distance covered: 29.7K
How it went: This was a must-accomplish workout after being waylaid by flu last weekend. A very bad storm at 2am threatened to scupper plans again but thankfully subsided when I left the house at 4:30am. Drizzled very lightly a few seconds here and there as I drove to Peremba but rain was a non-event by the time we kicked off. Morning was cool with lower humidity than the last few days, which made running quite pleasant. Happy to have a few friends for the 30, even if only one ran the entire planned distance. Pace was at a comfortable 6:10 from the start and we progressively tightened the pace from 18K onwards. Suffered some towards the end but was so glad to have completed it.

Number of days of running: 6
Total mileage: 62.9K
Notes: I’ve absolutely no complains coming back to the 60’s after a poor 2 back-to-back weeks. In the past, that would’ve put me into severe deficit, almost back to square one. However, thanks to the consistency put in over the weeks prior to the illness, I was able to rebound back almost to the pre-illness state by the end of the week. Granted, I was pragmatic enough to stick to conservativeness the earlier part of the week (the HR readings were a little on the high side as I made the tentative first steps back to full on running).

Looking back: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7

Week 7/12

Tuesday Recovery
Distance covered: 10.07km
How it went: Quads were very tight and sore yesterday which wasn’t helped by by seated most of the day due to meetings with the auditors. This morning’s run started almost at a crawl but everything loosened up after 5K. Glad to start the week with a 10. I’ll keep the focus to longer easy runs until the legs are fully recovered.  Judging from the HR, I’ll need a few more days.

Easy Wednesday
Distance covered: 6.38km
How it went: Eased back into pace work. Left quads were more or less recovered while there’s still some soreness on the right. Felt ok generally. Quite satisfied with the recovery rate. Should be able to carry out a 5K MP tomorrow.

2-6-1 MP
Distance covered: 9.4km
How it went: Quad soreness was absent at the start but returned a bit when the MP phase kicked off. Otherwise it was a decent run with a little too fast midsection. In actual fact the quads is an issue I must resolved through some strengthening regimen. I noticed that they were prevalent whenever the pace picked up directly related to the ground impact as I land and push off in greater force. It will certainly be a factor over the course of a marathon.

Easy Friday
Distance covered: 8.34km
How it went: Bad sleep. With the work stress, fighting 3-hour pre-Ramadan traffic daily, trying to stay consistent in training and staving off a cold, quality sleep has been sadly lacking. As a result I found myself awake 4:30am recent mornings. I was this close to staying in bed and trying to salvage a bit more time on it on account of such poor nights. But I couldn’t convince myself to do so. I told myself that since it’s all upper respiratory I’ll feel better once I get moving. Some miles are better than no miles, I kept repeating in my head.

Indeed that’s true. Got into a rhythm quickly and was clicking off relaxing easy ones when it started to rain. With the cold I told myself to wrap up the loop and head in. After all I got my run in no matter how short it was. But 5 minutes later it stopped and I was able to put in another 2K. Sometimes you just don’t know. Resolution may just be around the corner or mere minutes away. Persistence and patience pay off. And I hope I’ve shown to the powers that be that I’ve earned my share of good times on July 2.

Number of days of running: 4
Total mileage: 34.12K
Notes: Due to 2 days of layoff, this has been the worst week I’ve had. It started off very well, coming off the recovery days following the Honda Half Marathon, but work stress caught up with me. The 5-hour daily meeting sessions with the regulators meant my fluid intake were minimal, subsisting on coffee. Add in disrupted sleep and infrequent bowel movements, I was a walking recipe for illness. I was lucky, the symptoms were flu-like without any fever, which on paper, meant my downtime wouldn’t be as long.

Looking back: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6