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…

Paring Down

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

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

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

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

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

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 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 5/12

Tuesday Tempo (Tempo pace is 5:00)

  • 10-min warm-up
  • 20-min tempo
  • 10-min cool-down

Distance covered: 6.8km
How it went: As usual, getting off the blocks were tough. At some points I even thought this was how “tough” is supposed to feel. Indeed the pace were a little off by 4-6 secs but I dug in and reeled in 2Ks under 4:50 to secure an on-the-dot 5:00 average. Some days I don’t know how I did it. Continued a little while more with a 500m cool down jog and dynamic stretches. Refueled with Endurox back home.

Easy Wednesday
Distance covered: 6.35K
How it went: Started slightly late due to the rumbling and flashing skies. A little tired but scraped through the easy run. Note: Since it was a public holiday, I’d wanted to combine the easy session with the following day’s hill repeats. However, I was unable to switch into gear, thus just stuck to the assigned workout of the day. Somehow I still logged the last 4Ks under 6 mins pace.

Thursday Hill Repeats
Distance covered: 6.35K
How it went: I was finally floored by a workout! Didn’t manage to complete the 6 reps of 400m hill attacks, only 4. With the 3K (against a planned 5K) warm up eating up too much time, I had to rush home to get the kids ready for school and myself ready for work. The nearest hill to the home is a badass. It starts on a gradual gradient before a sharp 150m rise before a short flat section provides a bit of relief. It’s not over yet as one will still need to run another 50m of the 2nd climb before closing off the 400m. After making a bit of a mess with the watch settings, I overran the first rep by a fair bit. Regardless, I restarted the programmed workout on the Garmin and hit the following reps at 5:07 > 5:10 > 5:10 paces. HR per rep hovered in the mid-160s but recovery were surprisingly quick. It wasn’t disappointing to not be able to complete the entire workout. Had I more time, I’d have nailed the 6 even if I won’t be able to run up at 5K race pace. It is a badass hill!

Saturday MP (MP is 5:19)
Distance covered: 10.6K
How it went: Started off with a 2K warm up before getting the 8K done. The 1.2K loop adjacent to Tesco made for an ideal spot to work on pacing. Taking audible cues from the watch beeping (I’ve set a workout with pace parameters), I didn’t look at the watch a single time. All by perceived effort. Post workout analysis showed that I averaged 5:15 for the MP segment.

Long Run Sunday
Distance covered: 30K
How it went: Got the sad news of the passing of a former classmate and all-round fun guy just as I was got into bed. I immediately knew that this 30 will be in his memory. Not a yard short, no short cuts. At 5:15am, I didn’t expect 3 to turn up, but there they were – Chiam, Nick, Kok Lin. That made 4. The plan was 5 loops of 6K and we kept an average of 6:14 the first 20K. I felt very relaxed at this pace, almost effortless. I had been running per perceived effort, without so much as peeking at the watch for just a handful of times. Chiam was the first to stop, since he has a marathon next Sunday, then Kok Lin and it was down to Nick and I. Not wanting to stop longer than I should, lest cool-down set it, I started the final loop before Nick. All splits from 21K to the finish, with the exception of 1 were logged at sub-6min pace. I struggled a bit towards the end due to the sun but overall, it was a satisfying run. Got in a good breakfast before heading home to clean up. Managed to nap for 15 mins before getting down to work till 6pm. I enjoyed the solitude at home with the family out of the house, which is a rare thing.

Number of days of running: 5
Total mileage: 61.8K
Notes: After 4 weeks of training with a ladder mileage (57K x 2, 67K x 2), I knew I needed a way overdue cut back to recover before making the next level. Cutting back is one of a runner’s worst insecurity. Little do they realize that without cutting back every 3 weeks, the body just couldn’t recover and reap the benefits of training. With the body constantly in a stressed mode, it’ll be a matter of time before injuries and staleness creep in. So I took an extra day off, which was Friday. My intention was to get back to the high 50’s. But I only made it as low as 61K, which meant just a 6K reduction from the previous week’s. With SCKLM next Sunday (I’m just doing the Half at MP), mileage won’t be hitting the 70’s just yet.

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

Week 4/12

Tuesday Tempo (Tempo pace is 5:00)

  • 10-min warm-up
  • 15-min tempo
  • 10-min cool-down

Distance covered: 5.8km
How it went: The week’s tempo was a wee bit shorter at just 15 minutes. Start was a little delayed due to cleaning up dog vomit (urgh!) outside our gate. As usual, a 10-min warm up phase precluded the speed segment. It was at a quicker (but still pretty comfortable) pace of 5:41. The 4th week finally got me to the 4:59 (down from 4:56 the earlier weeks). A quick cool-down comprised of drills wrapped up the morning run.

Easy Wednesday
Distance covered: 6.1K
How it went: Kicked off the easy day with a 6:46 before lowering it to 6:15, followed by 5:52, 5:53, 5:52, 5:56 before closing it out at 6:05. The red K8 which I upsized by half put in a strong contention to be included in the trip to GCAM.

Thursday MP
Distance covered: 2K Warm-Up, 10K (MP is 5:19)
How it went: Rain and lightning prevented the usual morning run, which provided me with a few more minutes of snooze. Was a little tired and as a result worried if I’ve caught the bug from a colleague. But there was no stopping the day’s program of a 10K at MP – incidentally the longest and therefore most significant session in the program thus far. Warmed up for 2K at 6:32 pace and then kicked off the 10. Toggled the treadmill to 5:19 and held that for 7K. First couple of Ks were not so easy but once the body and legs warmed up, the going was easier. There were niggle here and there but the more persistent ones were the right arm (which hasn’t felt good of late, tight and sore as if I’ve a pinched nerve or something). The inner thigh pulled for a few seconds but ran through it and the sensation went away. Then I increased the pace to 5:10 and held that for the next 2K before the final K in 4:58. The Garmin footpod and HRM sensor registered a pretty accurate readout for the final 3K but 2 secs slower for the initial miles. No matter. It was a great workout!

Easy Friday
Distance covered: 6K
How it went: With an eye on the heaviest weekend yet, I kept proceedings very easy following Thurs evening’s tempo. Wore compression socks to work.

Cruise Intervals
Distance covered: 12K

  • 2K Warm Up
  • 4 x 2.4K at threshold pace (5:10) with 50 secs recovery
  • Cool Down

How it went: With the day’s program packed, I had no choice but to start at 4:50am. Luckily CY and Rao were there. I started off in the Fastwitch but changed into the K8 midway and I think the legs thanked me for it! Its bounciness was immediately palpable and saved my legs from getting too trashed for tomorrow’s cruncher. I ran mostly to feel and the early miles were a few seconds quicker off the 2-second margin I set, so it was all good. Still, in a marathon, seconds can make a difference over the 42K, so I always strive to stay on-point the best I can. As with the recent MP workout, there was again a slight pull on the right adductors but I ran it off. I can see that if I don’t work that one out, I’ll have bad issues during the race. Other than that, I’m happy for the workout with the interval segments logged at 5:11 > 5:10 > 5:05 > 5:00. One of the best sessions so far!

Hilly 25
Distance covered: 24K
How it went: I was a little apprehensive prior to starting this. Firstly, it was to be my longest run in training. Secondly, the cumulative mileage in the legs has obviously increased. Thirdly, the route over which the long run was to be executed has a total elevation gain of 868 meters. While the number represents just a molehill to mountain runners, anything over 300m would be challenging to me and anything over 600m is just ridiculous, unless I’m training for something with this much elevation! But the aim was to toughen the legs, body and mind, so it had to be done even if the Gold Coast Airport Marathon is pretty flat. The only sane way to do that would be to run by perceived effort and pay no attention to pace. Overall, I did a good job if I may say so, keeping the average HR to 140 with the highest at 162. The last 4K were at increased pace as well. A good session to close the week. There was hardly time to rest as once I showered, it was time to leave home as well, with some back to back family activities for the entire day. Managed to catch Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 as well.

Number of days of running: 6
Total mileage: 67K
Notes: Holding at 67K for the 2nd week, 88.6K (over 8 days). I’m ready for Week 5.

Looking back: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3

Week 3/12

Tuesday Tempo (Tempo pace is 5:00)

  • 10-min warm-up
  • 20-min tempo
  • 10-min cool-down

Distance covered: 8.1km
How it went: Had doubts at the start of the workout if I could keep to the pace, so I stuck to the 20-min tempo segment instead of increasing it to 25. However as I got the warm up going, it began to feel better and for the 3rd week running, I achieved the 4:55 average for the 20 mins. Extended the cool down jog to cap the day at 8K.

Easy Wednesday
Distance covered: 8.5K
How it went: After 3 weeks, I can safely say that I’ve successfully transitioned to morning runs. Wednesday morning was no different. But as laid on the bed enjoying the extra 30 seconds after the alarm went off, I didn’t feel quite right. Regardless, I was downstairs lacing up not 10 minutes later. But as I was doing that, I was struck with a pain stomach ache that had me breaking sweat. Those intense types that have you clenching your butt cheeks. Resisting the urge to run it off, I instead rushed to the loo and not a moment too soon! To save you the crap-fest description, it felt much better right after. The whole morning had me thinking what I ate that could’ve caused the issue. I initially put it down to the sambal (chilli paste) the night before. Yet it was unlikely, since I had very little of it and if it was bad, I’d have run into problems the very night. Then I realized that it was the iron tablet which I took (on top of my regular fish oil capsules and antioxidant tablet) that probably messed me up. Ordinarily, it wouldn’t have been a problem but after laying off them for months and retaking them, it’s probably the way the body is adjusting. Iron supplementation isn’t something I do normally since I’m not anemic. But with increased training intensity, there are iron “leakages” from the capillaries, from all that pounding (foot-strike hemolysis). Best way to replenish it is via natural foods (dark leafy vegs and meat are most common sources) which I get plenty of, but last night’s dinner being rather little and plain, I thought I’d pop a pill.

Thursday MP
Distance covered: 9.3K (MP is 5:19)
How it went: The plan called for Yasso’s i.e. 5x800m with 400m recovery (similar to 2 weeks’ prior). On account that Wednesday’s run was in the evening and I got home late, I thought it was better to stay on the conservative side and not push it. I could grit my teeth through the Yasso’s but at what cost? I wasn’t about to find out the hard way.

Started the MP segment, after a 2K warm up. It was tough working up to the MP the first 2Ks, but once the body got into the groove, it was a go. I avoided checking the pace (just like during the tempo workouts) and just tried to run by feel. 5:28 > 5:21 > 5:12 > 5:17 > 5:13 > 5:11 > 5:11 which meant I’d gone into LT zone. Analysis showed my HR to be in the 2015-2016 marathon race pace readings which doesn’t really confirm anything. To conclude that I’m now running quicker at the same HR of last year won’t be accurate since this is just week 3. In his podcast, Luke Humphreys (of Hansons Marathon Method) warned about peaking too early, and there are still over 9 weeks to race day.

If anything, this workout showed that I needed to balance the speedwork with more marathon specific workouts such as MP, LT and Tempo. The legs are a little tired and with a 6 day/week plan, there are certainly cumulative fatigue at work here. I’m sensitive to how the body is adapting to the stress and will continue to monitor all the signs and readings.

Easy Friday
Distance covered: 7.44K
How it went: After running in lighter shoes most of the time, I pulled out the Triumph for an easy session. If taken as a swap with yesterday’s MP, this morning was supposed to be the Yasso’s. But I’m letting the body recover just a little more yet retain the “time on feet” factor. I’ve been late getting back home the last 2 nights and as a result of the late dinners, I didn’t get to bed as early as I wanted to. 6:30 used to be my easy pace but now it’s 6:13.

Saturday Yasso’s 
Distance covered: 12.5K (5x800m, including warm up and cool down)
How it went: Shuffling the Thu to Sat workouts around due to work meant that this morning I had to repay my Yasso dues. 4K of warm up before hitting 5 reps. Once again, went by effort and post run data showed 5-10 secs improvements (4:18 > 4:16 > 4:18 > 4:15 > 4:09) over Week 1’s Yasso’s. Rest assured it was mental and it gave me the chance to exercise the positive affirmations during those hard laps. While the 4:09 was my quickest in a long while, it doesn’t prove anything at this stage. So much more left to do.

Long Sunday
Distance covered: 21K
How it went: Generally good. Main goal was to complete the distance, which I did. Kept to a comfortable and easy pace till 12K point afterwhich the pace quickened considerably. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to hold till the finish with last 2K quite a struggle.

Number of days of running: 6
Total mileage: 67K
Notes: With 3 weeks done, the weekly mileage has been climbing. I will control the intensity next week and bring into play the longer sets and also some running at LT pace. It’s clear that the long runs need some working out. All said and done, I’m just glad a quarter of the 12 weeks are wrapped up, with no missed workouts!!

Looking back: Week 1 | Week 2

Week 2/12

Tuesday Tempo (Tempo pace is 5:00)

  • 10-min warm-up
  • 20-min tempo
  • 15-min cool-down

Distance covered: 6.46km
How it went: Easy jog followed by 20-min tempo segment. Target was 5:00 but I averaged 4:56. 1-sec quicker than last Tuesday’s average. Wrapped up with a cool down of skips, high-knee plyo drills and short jog.

Easy Wednesday
Distance covered: 7.5K
How it went: Relaxed run. Kept the average HR to 134. Wrapped up with some high knee drills, butt kicks and stretching the adductors, hams, quads.

Thursday Hill Repeats

Warm-up: 5K, progressive pace.
Repeats: 5x400m Hills @ 5K race pace; 400m recovery
Treadmill setting: 4% inclines the first 2 reps, 3% inclines the second 2. Speed: 13.4

Dist/Time/Pace

Run1: 420m / 1:56.6 / 4:38
Recovery1: 390m / 3:54 / 9:57

Run2: 410m / 1:53.7 / 4:35
Recovery2: 410m / 3:34 / 8:42

Run3: 390m / 1:48.1 / 4:34
Recovery3: 430m / 3:28 / 8:05

Run4: 410m / 1:51.5 / 4:34
Recovery4: 430m / 3:48 / 8:51

Run5: 410m / 1:51.2 / 4:32
Recovery5: 470m / 3:46 / 8:03

Stretching, skips, form to wrap up the session.

The legs really got a good workout. It was tiring but not to the point of exhaustion. Was still in control towards the end of the final rep. Finishing a tough workout is always an empowering experience and I’ve more than once called upon the memories of such tough sessions to pull myself through the sticky parts of the marathon. This was just the first of 4 hill sessions alternating with Yasso’s and Week 2 of 12. The fitness is certainly back but I’ll need to review if there are enough Threshold sessions available. I may also need 2x5K tempo intervals 5 weeks out from race day.

Good Friday
Heavy rain put paid to the morning run. Taking out the rain jacket was an option but I didn’t want to risk catching a cold. It was, after all, an easy day. The 6K was finally logged on the treadmill in the evening.

Easy Friday
Distance covered: 5.2K
How it went: Kept it easy @ 6:22 pace

Tempo Saturday
Distance covered: 5.9K
How it went: Packaged together with the Saucony Group Run. The runners broke up into few pace groups, with June and I taking the 5:00 group. But thunder, lightning and rain put paid to the full plans. Traffic on Saturday was horrendous as well. So the group started late and covered just close to 6K. Jogged right up to the Kinrara Residence junction before heading back at tempo pace. What a shame, since the weather was perfect for a longer workout. Rushed home for C1’s 14th birthday. Fast & Furious 8 was very entertaining but check your brains before entering the cinema.

Sunday Long Run
Distance covered: 18K
How it went: Averaged 6:08 the first 12K, before progressively moved the pace to 5:40 > 5:32 > 5:22 > 5:16 > 5:05 before cool down. It was a struggle and I certainly felt the effects.

Number of days of running: 6
Total mileage: 53.9K
Notes:
Week 2 was essentially a duplicate of Week 1. The adaptations should be surfacing next week, so things are about to get interesting.