Gold Coast Airport 5.7KM Fun Run 2019

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

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

Gold Coast Marathon 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30K. Only 12 to go! We’ve got this!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pace breakdown:

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

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

Post-race notes:

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

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

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

Until the next race!

National Geographic Earth Day Run 2019

Having enjoyed its debut edition last year, many of the GCM crew returned to give this year’s event a go. It was a small event that’s appropriately timed around the mid-point of GCM training, perfect as a checkpoint of sorts. As with last year, the 15K route took us through the affluent Kota Kemuning township, a location that we don’t often find ourselves. It’s always nice to have a refreshing change of scenery every now and then. True to its green message, no cups or bottles were used at their drink stations. Instead, runners were advised to bring along their own reusable cups, flasks, or bottles.

Nick had kindly offered to drive CY, Calvin and I there and we got to Gamuda Walk pretty early at 5:35am. Even so, cars had started streaming in with the car parks filling up rather quickly. We quickly geared up and promptly went on our warm up jog around the area and as if rehearsed, were able to pick up Hee Boo and Cheong along our way. We logged around 2K and made our way into the starting chute all sweaty.

The initial plan was to run at MP but I decided just to run by feel. In a race of this distance, the textbook execution would be a fast start to clear the crowd, settle back into and hold an appropriate race pace, be patient and pick off anyone struggling, before pushing for a strong finish. That was precisely how I ran the playbook. Within the first 500m, I was in a bunch of 25 or 30 runners, and by the first KM (4:32), the bunch had disintegrated into tiny clusters and solo runners. I brought up the rear and was running alone. The route was the same – it wasn’t a hard one to forget, a few roundabouts and turns and one or two landmarks to gauge the progress. As expected the distance markers were all prominently displayed and the drink stations well-staffed, helping runners refill their water supply via hand-pumped siphons. I didn’t think any of us at the front stopped to refill. I’d been sipping from my handheld 500ml Salomon soft flask filled with plain water, a conscious choice instead of sports drinks, since I planned to take in a gel early into the race. After the fast start, I’d settled into the low-mid 4:50s and considering how depleted I was last week due to recovery from illness and the resulting fatigue, my breathing were very much in control.

Progress was steady and as mentioned I ran mostly alone. The throaty cough that had plagued me for a week surfaced just once and I could tell it wasn’t as bad as previous days. That certainly helped with my confidence! Hee Boo, Cheong and Calvin were so far ahead that I only spotted them after the 7KM mark when the runners took a turn to make their way back to the finish. I’d been keeping an eye on 3 runners, which included the lead female, ahead of me and as I gently nudged the pace down from 4:53 to 4:49, 4:47, 4:47 and 4:46 over the next 5KMs I’d reeled them in and passed them. I tucked the empty flask into my waist band and continued to hover around the low 4:50s as the only visible guy ahead was simply too far to catch. Not only was he not slowing down, he was pulling away from me.

Nearing the finish line. Photo credit: Penonton.

As I got close to the u-turn for the 5KM runners, I started picking up the pace to take advantage of the gentle downhill. My 4:46, 4:44, and 4:33 took me past another runner (not the one who pulled away) with 1.5KM to go. I’d thought of pushing for a sub-1:10 when I hit the 10K mark but a 1:11.28 (4:46 average pace, 6th position) was still a very satisfactory result on an accurately measured course. I ran 1:10.28 (4:54 average pace, 5th position) in the 2018 race [race report here] which was 600m short. It was a strong and patient run which restored a bit of confidence in me. I learned a lot from this race which reaffirmed my decision to adjust my goal for GCM19. I’m reminded that the pursuit of goals can’t be rushed and being patient can result in a far more enjoyable and fulfilling journey.

After the ice-cream! Photo courtesy of Khay Ann.

Thanks to Nick for collecting the race packs and offering the ride to and from the race site. My appreciation also goes out to the organizers, sponsors, crew and photographers, for putting up and supporting a great small event! Here’s to Week 9 and beyond!

Twincity Half Marathon 2019

My first experience with the increasingly popular Twincity Marathon last year didn’t end so well. In fact, my race ended just after 6K when gut issues forced me to a clump of bushes outside a construction site to jettison my “load”. It wasn’t a pleasant experience and I ended up an underwear short as I made the long trudge back to the car. Another year wiser, I saw it a great chance to kick start the year with a Half, primarily as an outlet to burn off extra energy from being on a low key maintenance plan prior to the start of GCM19 training in March. The thought appealed to the training crew as well and many of us ended up toeing the starting line that 5:30am.

If you’d followed the progress of my base training, my “diet” has been all about consistency, easy running and very gradual build-up. The Twincity race week was the 3rd week where the mileage hovered in the 40s and with a course notorious for its long climbs, I had no expectations going into it other than to run an honest pace and get the training mileage in.

Even though it was just a 10-minute drive from my home, it was still a ridiculously early bedtime (failed at that despite being in bed at 9:30pm), and an even more nutty wake up time at 3:30am. A nut bar washed down by an espresso and a glass of water were all I took before heading out of the door. As agreed, Nick, Cheong, Boh and I met at the designated petrol station at 4:15am before making our way to Cyberjaya.  Surprisingly, we were lucky enough to locate a decent spot to park before changing into our gear and proceeding with our warm-up.

The morning wasn’t too humid and by the time we were in the starting pen, more and more runners were jamming into the confines. Despite the reminders by the emcee to fun runners to move to the back of the pack, there were still these folks who forced their way into the head of the pack, smartphones ever at the ready to do the Insta or FB Live thing. As for me, I was just eager to get the race started, and the running underway. That we finally did, to the pounding of traditional drums sharp 5:30am.

Instead of taking the few turns towards a crazy uphill, there were slight mods to this year’s course. The first few Ks were nice as the body and breathing started to get online. 21K was going to be my longest run since Macao, nearly 2 months ago, and even if there were no expectations, there were still whispers of self-doubt if I would eventually be reduced to a mangled wreck by the 17K mark. I had determined that I should run by feel and see where I went from there instead of being pegged to a particular goal pace.

Cyberjaya isn’t an area I’m familiar with, but it was probably at the 3rd km mark when right after a left turn, one runner (with earphones plugged in) cut into my path flashing a V at the photographer. Instinctively, I pushed him aside which was a good thing because at the pace we were going, one of us could’ve easily tripped the other. That really annoyed me but I looked straight ahead and focused on the race. He, however, turned and stared back at me a couple of times as if I was the wrongdoer. He purposefully ran ahead and obstructed me, and after the water stations, would sprint up and repeat the behavior.

When you commit to lead a race, you’d better be in control of the pace. It’s also more stressful to be in the lead and doing the hard work. Lastly, it’s better to be the hunter than the hunted. As the hunter, I was able to press the pace, and pressure him into committing to a pace he couldn’t sustain but I felt that the speed at which I was running was already good enough and sustainable to the finish. To push the pace further may backfire. In the end I chose patience and ran my own race. Eventually he stopped coming back at me.

18K mark with 2 more short climbs before the flat towards the finish. Photo by David Lai

Whenever the climbs came up, my pace would drop close to 5 whereas I’ve been keeping to the 4:40s on the flatter sections. With 5K to go and my form flagging, I felt a slight stitch on the right. I’d quit looking at the watch by then and relied solely on the accurately placed distance markers. Another push over the next 2 climbs and a long flat followed by a hard right and I found myself on the straight towards the finish. It was still about 400m to the gantry but I made it under 1:45 with nearly a minute to spare. If I was halfway through marathon training, a 1:43 wouldn’t be a far-fetched finish.

5K: 24:11; 10K:  48:34; 15K: 1:13.09; 20K: 1:37.45; Finish: 1:44.03. The official timing was 1:44.06, good for a 15th place finish in my category and 69th overall. And a PR by about 3 minutes!

A peep at the timing clock just before the finish. Photo by Run Tag.
A few yards after crossing the finish line. Photo by Mrs Moey.
Caught up with Hee Boo (2nd left) who ran his debut sub-4, after just 9 weeks of training. The gang agreed that he should be aiming for 3:45 in Gold Coast!
Jessie and June both ended up on the podium, as expected.

All in all, an enjoyable and happy outing for me and gave me much needed motivation for March. Coming off December’s Macao Marathon, my weekly mileage started with a couple of weeks of 20s, then 30s and with Twincity, I completed my 3rd week of 40s. To come away with a 3-minute PR on a tough course, there’s nothing but positive takeaways. If you’d like to follow my Gold Coast Marathon training progress, just click on the #GCM19 hashtag.

If you’ve not signed up yet for the 2019 Gold Coast Marathon, you’re still in time to enjoy early bird fees. It’s a weekend of running on the beautiful Gold Coast and if you’re chasing for a PR or that Boston Qualifier, you’d be hard pressed to find another course that’s conducive for that in July.


I’ll be running my 9th Gold Coast Marathon this July! While the IAAF Gold Labelled marathon route is fast, flat and scenic where over 60% of runners achieve their personal best, I’ve grown to love the Gold Coast for its vibes. If you’ve not been to the Gold Coast, it will surprise you. Attractions are never more than a short drive/commute away from the city centre. From her world-famous beaches, to the tranquil hinterlands, and to the adrenaline pumping theme parks, the destination has it all. Come join me this July and register before end April to enjoy early bird fees. Details here: www.goldcoastmarathon.com.au

Galaxy Entertainment Macao International Marathon 2018

Marathon #35 was indeed a tale of 2 halves. I had an excellent first half, and a forgettable second. Much like the see-saw training I had after the great first 6 weeks. For the training recap, you can check out this post. Going into the race, But the plan was still to stick to 3:30 goal even though it would be near impossible given the way my training turned out. I’ve always maintained that Macao would be a stepping stone and learning opportunity for me leading to the eventual 3:30, so I certainly won’t learn anything had I detracted from the original plan and run too conservatively. I may be able to equal my GCM18 PR, but that won’t add much to my push towards 3:30. I needed to push the envelope.

Macao this year would be a touch-and-go trip for my wife and I. It was supposed to be a solo trip since it was such a short 1-nighter but the 2-bedded room was paid (in case there would be another runner joining) and the other single bed would’ve been wasted. The fun aspect when travelling with some of the training gang would be the sightseeing and eating. That part of the trip was very enjoyable, and we even dined in the award-winning Tapas de Portugal (also here) the night before the race. With the gear laid out the moment we checked in, I was able to hit the sack early. A little too early I might add, as I woke up at 2:30am which was way before the alarm! In hindsight, I should’ve finished watching The Godfather III on TV! I did catch the famous, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”scene though 😀 .

A light dinner at the award winning Tapas de Portugal.

I stuck to my pre-race meal protocol of a cup noodle and black coffee before heading down to meet Calvin and CY for a short 1K warm-up. I felt really good and was raring to get the race underway. The jog to the stadium was less than another kilometre and since we didn’t have any baggage to check in, we were able to bypass much of the crowd entering the track. All of us stretched a little before walking towards the starting pen. The crowd was already thickening. Macao practices a common start for the Half and Full Marathoners which meant there were plenty of shoving around within the pen as runners forced their way to the front. This was the most annoying part of the race – lack of etiquette by the mostly PRC, Hong Kong and local Macanese runners. I don’t foresee the race organizers changing this anytime soon. Nevertheless, I was being entertained (not!) by the poor pom-pom boys and girls who could do with a much needed break with their non-stop shaking of their pom-poms (they were at it for at least 25 minutes). I should also mention that I was also surrounded by cussing runners (I understand Cantonese enough to know their meaning) whose idea of conversation included colourful adjectives. I just couldn’t wait to get the race underway.

The clock struck 6 and we were finally let off. It couldn’t have come sooner enough and I was glad to tear myself off the annoying fellas. As usual, the exit from the stadium was a tight squeeze, followed by a hard right, a short straight and a hard veer to the left. It was only after this point that I could open up my pace and get the race underway. Winter is very mild in Macao – it was 20 Celcius at 6am – at least for the period I’ve visited, warmer than the Gold Coast winter. So the body got going right from the start. With the wider roads, everyone was able to find a comfortable spot and get going. Pace around me was brisk and it got me wondering if that many would be dropping out by the 10-mile mark. Then I remembered that most of these runners around me were Half Marathoners!

The first challenge presented itself in the form of the Governador Nobre de Carvalho Bridge. While it was dark last year, the entire length of the structure was completely lit this time around, allowing drones and photographers to work. It was mostly flat until around the 4.7K mark where runners were greeted with a 300m climb. Since it came so early in the race, this was tackled without any issues. I covered this stretch in 5:16 pace.

5K Splits: 5:27 > 5:02 > 4:58 > 5:00 > 5:16 = 25:47

The other side of Ponte de Carvalho (ponte = bridge, in Portuguese) allowed me to recover but I was very conscious not to get carried away by hammering the downhill. While the feeling was great at that point, there was always the matter with the wall at the back of my mind. The crowd thinned out a little exiting the bridge as we meandered around the streets on the other side of Macao. Wherever there were flats, I reminded myself to run relaxed and get into the zone. And this stretch along the coastal road was long and perfect to maintain that. I’d found the iPod battery flat right before the start, so I’d no entertainment to keep me distracted and it was all very much just me focusing on my breathing and cadence.

10K Splits: 4:59 > 4:55 > 5:01 > 5:01 > 4:58 = 50:42

As I closed in on the famous Ah Ma Temple, I had to be conscious of the cobbled stone path. The Vaporfly 4% isn’t a stable shoe and I’d to be mindful of not twisting my ankle, especially around the twisty path. Traffic control for the marathon have always been excellent except for the section before entering the Sai Van Bridge. As with last year, we had to share part of the roads with buses and their fumes were just terrible.

15K Splits: 4:55 > 4:55 > 4:54 > 5:02 > 5:07 = 1:15.38

The 15K mark was ominously the ramp up the Sai Van Bridge. The span bridge itself wasn’t a problem but it was along this long curvy ramp that many runners were reduced to a walk. My strategy was to maintain very high cadence with short strides. As long as I was moving at the same effort, I figured I would be alright. I hit 10 miles in 1:20.50, so I was still good. My fueling tactics were unchanged – a gel every 5K, drink at every station, sip on my bottle of Hammer Fizz every now and then. Clearing the bridge meant hitting the 17K mark and before long, the half marathoners were separated from those running the full distance. There wasn’t many of us left to trudge on. At around this point last year, the race leaders had begun to lap me.

The next 5K was run over a hardly scenic route. We went past the Coloane and some industrial areas. Really boring. It was still relatively cool, still OK for running and the well-spaced out sponging stations helped as well. A little fatigue was starting to set it, but things weren’t deteriorating at an alarming state yet.

21K Splits: 5:12 > 4:53 > 5:00 > 5:02 > 4:37 > 5:01 = 1:45.26 (the official timing put that at 1:48.01, a slightly quicker half than I clocked en route to my GCM18 PR, so there appeared to be some loss of GPS signal along the way).

I was still averaging 5:00 pace up to the 26K mark. Along this stretch where we had to go through a couple of switchbacks, I finally spotted Calvin who appeared to be running well around 230m ahead. I told myself to hang on and not let the gap widen. But I could only ask so much of an unprepared body.

26K Splits: 5:01 > 5:05 > 4:55 > 4:50 > 5:00 = 2:10.19

I started slowing down after this point. While on paper, there was still a chance that I finish close to my PR, the reality was far more chastening. The whole body was wracked in pain, with mini-cramps popping up here and there, even the stomach. The shoulders, and glutes weren’t spared either. It would’ve been easier to count the body parts that weren’t in trouble.

Once we hung a right to the Galaxy Casino, the Half Marathoners had only a couple of KMs to run. Those running the full distance still had 14 arduous KMs to negotiate. It was here that I unpinned by race bib last year, opting to not aggravate my PF further. This time around, I needed to gut it out.

30K Split: 5:02 > 5:09 > 5:01 > 5:05 = 2:30.36

I’d begun taking walk breaks and tried rallying against losing too much time. Due to the small field, there weren’t many runners who passed me. On the Gold Coast I’d have been swallowed and spat out. I wish I could be more descriptive of the remaining portion of the race, or what’s left of it, but the only persistent thing that I experienced were pain and suffering in the increasingly hot morning.  I couldn’t be happier when I saw my wife waiting with the camera after I rounded the last turn before entering the stadium towards the finish.

35K Split: 6:17 > 5:36 > 5:15 > 6:19 > 5:21 = 2:59.27
The rest: 6:10 > 6:52 > 6:40 > 6:22 > 6:21 > 6:47 > 5:46

Most don’t think much or bother about their running, and there’s nothing wrong about that. For those intending to push the boundaries to run their very best, every race matters. It validates the effort they invested into their training. Some take an express elevator to their goals, some take a more meandering path – losing, regaining their bearings, and learning. It’s now 2 weeks after the Macao Mayhem. I shall allow myself to be encouraged with how I did. It was 10 minutes off my PR (which works out to be around 2 KM) but still my 3rd fastest marathon. I set out to finish the marathon after last year’s DNF and I’d done so. It’s time to put this behind me and move on with recovery and rebuilding. I will take that 3:48.48 and be done with Macao Marathon. I’m now toying with the idea of returning to Chiang Mai next December. My only marathon there ended disastrously prior to using the Hansons Plan. I returned the following year to race the half but am itching to do well in the marathon there.

Post-race analysis:

  • I expected to suffer but not this much.
  • I expected not to be able to hit the paces (up to the wall) but I did. That probably explained the corresponding level of pain I found myself in  when reality finally set in.
  • Executing the Hansons Plan successfully demands strict adherence to the weekly mileage. I simply missed too many sessions. I was de-trained and my endurance levels plummeted.
  • In running the easy sessions too fast (they were within my pace window, but on the upper levels), I didn’t give my body the recovery it needed. The downstream impact would be poor recovery, compounded by the tremendous stress at work. I might have been knocking on the burn out door as well.
  • Having now experienced the extremes of good and poor Hansons Plan execution, I can now recognize the “good fatigue” and “bad fatigue”. You can usually ease off the “good fatigue” phase and start hitting the goal pace after a quick warm up. The mind and motivation, too, will be quite fresh. Bad fatigue, however, is a sucker punch both on the body and mind and is near impossible to shake off even after several days of gutting it out.

Gold Coast Marathon 2018

Note: For the other fun activities I managed to cram into my itinerary this year, and more photos of my trip to the Gold Coast, click this link.

The alarm rang at 4:50am and in certain ways, it was as if the starter’s gun had been fired signalling the start of my long day. For the past 18 weeks (longer if I included the low volume base months), my daily routine has been practically locked in, from bedtime to the habitual chilling of my drinks in the fridge the night before, laying out of the next morning’s workout gear and logging down the post-workout data. It got so regimented that by the 2nd half of my training program, I no longer needed the 4:30am alarm. The goings-on in the hotel room were calm and quiet – the mandatory toilet visit, a light snack of banana, a Clif bar, and a small cup of black coffee before heading out for a warm up jog around the block with Francis and Nick. Nick, who had been struggling the past few days, would later break the bad news that he would not be starting. It was a tough decision and we were sure he was even more devastated to have literally come so far, to not start. But health is something one shouldn’t be risking over a pursuit as strenuous as a Marathon, and we were all truly sorry for him. If anything, it made me even more determined to run well for my fellow “Hansoner”.

Since the race precinct was just 10 minutes away by foot, Francis and I took our time is getting ourselves there. By the time we got to the main road crossing, the Half Marathoners had completely cleared the start line. At the lawn, we were spotted by some of our friends and everyone looked eager to race. I didn’t warm up any further and with the baggage checked in a short while later, and with wishes of “good luck”, it was time to head to our respective corrals.

The atmosphere crackled with energy and excitement. The event just gets better and better each year. The morning conditions were quite mild and the skies were overcast with little wind. In my opinion, it was perfect weather for racing but I was sure the locals would beg to differ. I certainly didn’t feel the reported 90 to 100% humidity! Once in the corral, I discarded my layers almost immediately. I made the mistake of standing too near to one of the loudspeakers and as a result, nearly had my eardrums shattered by Deek’s customary enthusiastic rallying speech. The Australian national anthem followed next and the 40th Gold Coast Marathon was off and running!

Within a km, Erin, the 3:40 gun time pacer, was already 250m ahead but I stuck to my pace. My goal was to stay comfortable and stay embedded between the gun and chip time pacers till 30K and, depending on how I felt, make a push from there. All I needed to focus on was to manage the fueling and hydration well and just enjoy the easy miles. To my surprise, I bumped into Yaziz around the 2.5K mark and traded some quick greetings with him and continued on my way. Even with the larger numbers this year, the crowd was manageable and didn’t pose any problems.

The number of supporters on the course quickly increased as we approached Surfers Paradise, the 5K mark (25:53). After the first few kilometres, I decided not to micromanage my pace. Afterall, a good race execution was about keeping to the average pace. There would be slight deviations here and there as a result of surges, and slowing-downs (for example at the water stations, possible toilet stops, or fatigue) but as long as the average pace equalled that of the marathon goal pace, that would be fine. The hours already invested running the tempo sessions at marathon pace should be enough. It was about trusting the plan, training and letting those work for the runner on race day. Well-trained, the “Hansoner” will be literally toeing the start line locked (to the goal pace) and loaded (with confidence). There were also visual cues providing a measure of guide of my progress – Erin’s pace flag. As long as the gap between us stayed the same, I knew I was on track – neither gaining nor losing speed.

I used the same fueling and hydration strategy as the previous year – a gel every 5K, along with regular sipping of diluted Powerade from the bottle, supplemented by 2 cups of water at each station.

As usual, the elites came charging from the opposite side of the road around the 10K mark (51:40). Crowd favourite, Yuki Kawauchi appeared to be struggling way behind the 2nd chasing pack and would finish 9th. By then, the watch’s distance reading was already off by some 30m, even though I was running much of the race on the painted blue line, and even some tangents. Nevertheless, that didn’t cause much consternation to me as my average pace was still solidly pegged at 5:10. As we ate up the miles, the level of confidence in me rose as well.

Other than a few visual distractions like the elites and the beautiful beaches to our left, I was in my usual focused self. I did struggle with the road camber along Hedges Avenue dubbed Gold Coast’s Millionaires’ Row. The Nike Vaporfly 4% isn’t the most stable shoes around and do tend to exaggerate a mid to late stage pronation effect. Heading southwards towards Burleigh, I had to run as close to the middle of the road as possible to avoid exacting too much pressure and stress on my right foot due to the inward rolling of the foot. It affected my concentration a little but I tried not to let it bug me too much.

There wasn’t much I could recollect in those early miles except high-fiving Francis who was simply flying with Philip in tow. I was thrilled to see them at the Gold Coast Highway instead of Marine Parade, which meant that I was quicker this year than ever before. It wasn’t much but it was progress for me and it was an uplifting feeling to have approaching the Burleigh U-turn – the best stretch (after the final 1K of the course, of course!) for runners during the marathon. Huge and loud crowds and so easy for a runner to surge only to pay the price 5K later. I hit 15K in 1:17.24 and from 18K to Surfers, battled boredom and impatience. Part of me wanted to be at the 30K mark and get down to racing and hurting.

Staying relaxed before the halfway point. Photo courtesy of Tey ET.
Fortunately, I knew better and when I spotted Calvin just up ahead around 19K and my wayward mind was kept occupied at least for a few kilometres. He wasn’t the only one I saw. My sub 5:13 pace had over the distance brought me ever closer to Erin and I wanted to only get ahead of her after the 30K mark to ensure I hit my primary goal of sub 3:40. As bad luck would have it, she appeared to have hit some problems with her pacer flag holder and 2 runners were seen desperately helping her with the contraption by the roadside. I would learn later that she had to DNF not from the accessory malfunction but from a foot injury 😟.

With Erin sidelined, I ended up passing the 3:40 gun time pacer earlier than I’d planned but it was too late to over-analyse strategies this late into the race. I’d trained for a 5:10 MP, I’ve been churning out the very same average pace this far, weather conditions were ideal with the sun remaining hidden, and I was still good. It was time to pucker up and get on with the race. Other than the sightings of Calvin and Erin, there wasn’t much to write home about. I chugged through 20K (1:43.13), 21K (1:48.24) and 25K (2:09.02) pretty unscathed. The crowds at Surfers had built up and their vociferous support was fantastic. I dropped 5 seconds for 27K but rallied the next 3Ks to pulled back 5:12, 5:06 and 5:09 to establish pace parity.

Just after 30K (2:34.54), I spotted Calvin again and he appeared to be running very well. I decided that I’d better consume the sachet of CrampFix I’d bought at the expo and its tart taste jolted me. To avoid any potential gut issues, I avoided taking a gel here since CrampFix already contained carbs. I took in water as usual and consciously avoided looking over the other side of the road to the finish to minimise distraction. Cleared the short but steep rise (it’s actually steeper than the Sundale Bridge just a kilometre earlier) before the gentle down slope in 5:13.

I’ve to work on my stride length! Photo courtesy of Nick.

The distance from the iconic McDonald’s to the finish was just 10K. At that point, I had run a 2:45 32K and fatigue was starting to creep in. I had finally got to the racing and hurting phase! But first, I attempted to pee in my shorts but nothing came out. I continued to drink over the next few water stations to avoid slipping too much into a dehydrated state. The next 2Ks were hard as I slipped to 5:15 and 5:16 splits. I remembered being upset with myself and questioned my desire. That seemed to work as I dug in and rallied back for the second time from 35K to 38K with a couple of 5:12s and 5:11s. The toughest part of the course was over and it was just about hanging on to the end.

At this point last year, I held back and avoided pushing the pace for fear of cramping but this time around, I didn’t hold anything back. I skipped the last water station and pressed a sustained sub 5:10 pace through the final 4K. Mentally, I replayed all the hard workouts I’d completed, my motivations, the work challenges that I had to navigate throughout training. Learning to tap of this pool of thoughts was a large part of my training.

Coincidentally I found myself running next to a bloke named James and was able to leech off the raucous cheers he got. I didn’t have a personalised bib, you see, so it would be ridiculous to expect the supporters to be yelling, “Go, hashtag GCM18!”

I sprinted the final 300m and finally crossed the finish in 3:38.41, a 9-minute PR.

Intervals, Easy Runs, MPs, Long Runs, Finishing Strong With Arms In The Air – I trained them all!

Here’s to you, Nick! With fellow “Hansoner”, Calvin, who ran a by-the-book and disciplined race to finish nearly a minute ahead!

Official split times, which are obviously a little different from my watch’s.

Crossing the line felt like some weight being taken off my shoulders. It proved that I could pull it off, no matter how impossible it felt like after last year’s 3:47. It justified the months of keeping to the plan and not missing a single workout except for a more drastic cutback in mileage the final week. It made me a little emotional inside but there were no tears. Perhaps I will shed a little some months down the road. Perhaps I won’t. I high-fived Bonza and congratulated other finishers around me. My legs felt extremely fine after having finished this way. As I gathered up my post-race refreshments of fruit and water, I lingered a little longer and enjoyed the moment in the still sparse area. I kept thinking to myself as I sank my teeth into the orange slices, “The plan worked. It really worked!”

Post Race Analysis
The PR was a personal triumph on so many levels. Just 3 years ago I asked myself if 3:58 was as good as it got for me and how running 5:20 pace would be impossible given how hard training had been to even run 3:58. But I’d proven myself wrong last year and yet again this year that with a regimented program, determination, positive mindset, self discipline and consistency one’s limitations can usually be breached.

The Hansons Marathon Method has worked for me for 2 years in a row. Last year’s program was a modified one but this year, I purchased the 18-week plan from Final Surge. 18 weeks was the longest period I’ve spent training for a single event and the most miles I’ve put in. By default, it was also the hardest, although it got easier and was quite enjoyable when I approached peak fitness. All the 3 27K long runs were pretty easy even with negative splits, compared to the week day SOS sessions. To succeed at an aggressive goal, I believe one has to be a little obsessed. You answer only to the program and trust it completely – no races on weekends that will take away the long runs. The 2 tune up races were done early in the program, daily routines became regimented over the weeks and months. I obsessed with data and from the numbers, knew for a fact that my past failures were due to doing too little running, and when I did head out to run, running the miles at the wrong paces. The mind was weak and spirit broken at the slightest challenge. I had no program to speak of as well. This year, I wanted to make sure that I leave myself with no excuses should I fail to achieve my goals.

With data, I was forced to be honest with myself. The first step was to acknowledge the past mistakes and the second step to start working on the weaknesses. I extracted the past years’ records dating back to 2015 and there was no escaping the fact that my training was see-sawing between high mileage weeks and downright horrendous numbers. There was zero consistency.

Mileage tracker of the years. Click to enlarge.

It became clear that with the Hansons, there were more running, at a wider pace range, allowing adaptation to take place. The SOS sessions truly put steel into the mind and body.

I trained to run the marathon at a 5:13 pace but by the end of the training, I knew I could do 5:10. And that was that.

Not only was my 5K splits astonishingly consistent (mind you, I didn’t micro-manage my pace during the race), only 13 runners passed me over the final 5K, while I somehow dropped a mind-blowing 221! It was crazy but that happened!

In closing this already lengthy post, my gratitude goes to Francis who first planted the belief in me 2 years ago and pointing me to the right direction.
Thanks also to Tourism and Events Queensland, Events Management Queensland and HTT for the hospitality once again, for allowing me to be part of the historic 40th edition of GCM and looking out for me as always. My best runs have always been on the Gold Coast! Finally, to my family who gave me much moral support in their own quiet manner. My kids even slipped me a good luck note prior to my departure.
It will soon be time to prepare for my next race, and it will be one which I’ll be using as a test bed. I’m prepared to try new things, learn and chart my 2019 goals from there.

Nat Geo Earth Day Run

  • 15K on a 16K training day.

  • A route away from the usual ones, yet not too far away.

  • Reasonable entry fees.

What’s not to like? The 4 of us from the training group found ourselves at Kota Kemuning yesterday morning for the National Geographic Earth Day Run. Nick has kindly collected our race kits which contain, other than the usual race number and tee, collapsible water bladders. The rationale behind the inclusion of this unusual but practical item was that the water stations were of the BYO cups variety. No cups, except for 1 near the finish, were used to serve the drinks and runners were expected to fill up and drink from their own eco-friendly reusable bladders/bottles.

The drive from USJ took us less than 20 minutes and once we found a good parking spot, we got in our 1K warm up jog (too short, in hindsight) before taking the short walk to the race start. I’d earlier chewed on a nut bar just to stave off any potential hunger pangs. For this race, I debuted the Nike Vaporfly 4%, having received it last week. I reckon this morning presented the perfect opportunity to get acquainted to it. Once I get one or two more runs in them, I’ll post up my thoughts about these shoes. For hydration, I relied on plain water stored in a 500ml Salomon soft flash stashed into a Salomon belt.

Recent mornings have been very sunny and warm and this race had a 6:30am start. That presented us with a minor concern but the quicker we wrap things up, the less time we spend out there baking in the sun. 

The 15K flag off. Photo courtesy of Runwitme.

Once again, this being a training run, my goal was to maintain a marathon pace effort. This was a 70K week and with 2 more days of running before the scheduled rest, running any faster would be pointless and unnecessary in the whole scheme of things. At least that was the intention.  Because it was under 5 minutes right from the flag off! Anyways, I told myself I’ll back off if I felt I was overextending myself. At this point, Calvin and Chiam (C&C) had surged ahead. I was still able to see the leaders up ahead and a handful passed me not 1K into the race.

Traffic control was good as was the enthusiasm of the water station crews. True to Shah Alam’s design, we had to clear a number of roundabouts. They aren’t fun and I’m sure the technical teams didn’t find them easy to manage as well. Nevertheless, I found the control to be above average for the most part. Nick pulled back at one stage and we ran together, keeping one another honest to the pace. We could still maintain conversation which was a good sign. Just before the furthest u-turn, we spotted C&C chasing one another the side of the road. Adidas Sub-2s were hot on the heels of the Zoom Flys! At 8.5K, I found myself still putting in a good shift and decided to hunt for runners in front. My racing strategy has always been that of patience by letting the runners drop back to me. And when I pass a runner, I should be able to hold on to the finish. So it was 1 runner, then another and this went on until I spotted the 2nd placed woman some 300m ahead. Still, I bid my time. It was still too early to push, and they were just out of my range. By the next K, I’d dropped the 2nd woman who was clearly struggling, and was looking out for the lead woman. 

I must’ve been so intent on the game at hand that I missed acknowledging some call-outs along the way – sorry guys! Thanks for the shout out 🙂

Photo courtesy of Runwitme.
Coming through! Photo courtesy of Runwitme.
A cheery and helpful crew member helping with the refill. Photo courtesy of Runwitme.

Having dropped the lead woman not long after, it would take another good 3K before I drew up to Khay Ann and we ran for a bit, still quite comfortably, before a right turn suddenly saw me ahead. I kept the momentum up and pushed for the finish. As I crossed the line, a crew member threw a 5th placed tag on me, gave me a heavy medal and a banana. Pretty pleased with the performance definitely and proved quite a bit that training’s on the right path. I thought there would be some hamper or prize money but alas, prizes were for the top 3 of each categories only. But we were just too happy with our respective results to be too flustered about it. It was a gauge of where we stood in training, after all. My splits of 4:50 > 4:52 > 4:54 > 5:09 > 5:00 > 5:04 > 4:55 > 4:57 > 4:53 > 5:00 > 4:54 > 4:54 > 4:41 > 4:47 > 4:33 gave me a substantial PR in the distance (though a little short).

It was overall a well organized cozy little event around the Kota Kemuning neighborhood. I just love these kinds of events. Being the early ones back to the finish allowed us to check out the booths at the area, mostly exhibiting eco-friendly products and featuring such initiatives. The complimentary ice-cream scoop was heavenly and we even had our chance with vain shots at the insta photo booth.

Photo courtesy of Runwitme.

In closing, my thanks to Nick for picking up the race packs and providing us the ride to and from the race! Where stated, photos are courtesy of Runwitme.  Thanks for the use of the photos! You can get the latest updates on the local running scene and more by following Runwitme at http://www.runwitme.blogspot.com.

Standard Chartered KL Marathon (10K)

I ran the SCKLM Half Marathon in 2017 as training for my Gold Coast Marathon (GCM). I did just enough, without over-extending myself to finish the back-loaded race, where challenging climbs litter the later stages of the race. This year’s GCM training plan demands discipline not only in sticking to the prescribed training distance but also the paces and on the day of the SCKLM, the plan called for only a 13K. That pretty much determined the distance for my SCKLM participation.

But I procrastinated 15 minutes too long and all the slots were sold out. Such was the popularity of the event. SCKLM is one of the few in-country events where its popularity commensurate with the quality of organization. Fortunately, the organizers continued to have the bloggers in mind, and I managed to secure an entry!

This year’s SCKLM would be its 10th running and the entries were huge – 38,000 across all categories! With the presence of the GCM booth at the race expo, I joined Nick and the teams from TEQ and HTT in providing support over the 3 days. That meant plenty of time-on-feet, on top of Week 6 of marathon training. It was hard but rewarding to be able to help spread the word on GCM. I got off a little early on race eve and got a bit of much needed rest. I had been so busy that I was still deciding on what time I should wake up and get to the train station, but it all got sorted out easily enough.

Because it was just a 10K, I needn’t fret about what to eat or what to wear. In fact, adopting a “training run” mindset meant a simple singlet, shorts and the versatile Elite 9 (in case I decided to kick things up a little), grabbing a chilled bottle of water sans breakfast (nope, not even an energy bar) and driving to the IOI LRT station. I didn’t have to wait long for the complimentary ride and 20 minutes later, I was at Dataran Merdeka witnessing the continuous stream of Half Marathoners heading off. Promptly got down to my 3K warm up and headed into the starting pen and secured a spot 10 feet from the start gantry. Admittedly, I had my doubts about executing a sprint start, as all 10Ks demand, but decided to keep my spot. I’d decided to keep an honest effort in honour of the Dignity for Children Foundation for which I raised funds for. The plan was to run a faster 2nd half with pace ranging between 4:35 to 5:00. That was to give myself a wider window to operate.

Sharp 6:45am and the gun sounded. The course hooked an immediate right to Jalan Dang Wangi and immediately opened up, so the log-jam which I anticipated didn’t happen. Runners had ample road to run. It was years since I ran a 10K race, so I had no expectations and while I had some pace parameters, I ran according to feel. From Dang Wangi, it was a sharp left into Jalan Ampang before a right to

Jalan Sultan Ismail. By the time I got to the MAS Building, the top 3 race leaders were already on the other side. It would be suicidal to pick up the pace any further for me and I was actually enjoying the pace so much it felt rather effortless. The crew, traffic marshals and police were doing a great job and we had the roads pretty much to ourselves. I made sure I clapped back and thanked the crew whenever I could. Once I cleared Jalan P Ramlee and turned back into Jalan Ampang, I was already running alone. The pack of 4 in front was still about 150m in front of me so I bid my time.

Crossing the wide Renaissance Hotel junction, I reeled in 3 and when I got to the Quill Mall, which was the 5K mark, I was in a loose group of 4. This would be the posse which I was glad to be drafting off. I was enjoying myself so much that not once did I peeked at the watch. Then it had to happen – the laces on my right shoe became undone along Jalan Kuching, not far from the Jalan Parlimen roundabout. That brought about some curses and I made sure I triple-knotted the laces before chasing down the pack that had drew away and had built a 100m lead on me. As we all know too well, the climb up Jalan Parlimen can be tough and my stride length and pace dropped a little. Luckily my cadence was still high and with a quick water grab, I overtook 1 tall Caucasian. Just needed to hold on to another K before a long downhill before the final approach to the finish. The Caucasian caught up and passed me but with downhill being my strength, I drew alongside and we ran together down to the National Mosque. I told him to kick for the finish and he asked me to follow. I replied that being on marathon training mode, I was as chuffed with the fact that I was running this pace for this long and urged him to go ahead.

Unwatermarked photos courtesy of Tey😁

I couldn’t catch the other 3 runners ahead but no one passed me either when I crossed the finish line. And forgot to stop the watch until 5 minutes later! Satisfied would be an understatement. While I was 6 weeks into marathon training, all but 2 workouts had been easy running. The 2 faster workouts were speed intervals (12x400m, 400 recovery, 2K warm up and 2K cool down) and a 10K tempo (at goal marathon pace, 2K warm up and 2K cool down). Back at the recovery area, I caught up with the other guys from our GCM training group who also ran some impressive timings. Then it was a quick departure back for home where family duties await.

photo courtesy Calvin

It would not be proper to not thank the generous contributors to my fund raising for Dignity for Children Foundation under the Run for a Reason initiative. The total sum collected may not be much, but it was a recognition of the Foundation’s efforts in providing hope to the underprivileged kids among many projects they undertake. To learn more and to support these wonderful folks, click on the link above.

My thanks also to the SCKLM organizers for remembering us bloggers and media reps in your annual biggie and congratulations on a job well executed! The 10th was the best yet!

To my fellow GCM training group folks, let’s keep this momentum up all the way to July 1st!

2017 Galaxy Entertainment Macao International Marathon Experience

Observant readers will note that I didn’t classify this post as a “Race Report”. That’s because it wasn’t a race. IMHO, an event is only a race if the participant has put training hours, effort, and planning into executing it. Otherwise it’s just a run, an outing or experience. And that was the state of my fitness when I toed the start line of the MGEIM last Sunday.

It all started with my plan to insert a year-end race so that I keep my training going. But it became clear that picking myself up post-GCAM17 was going to be tough. I tried easing into it and when that failed, tried pushing the pace in whatever shorter distances I managed to squeeze out. Neither approach worked. A hectic 2nd half of the year at work and the ever-present PF issue added to the misery. A major work event that was supposed to have wrapped up in November was instead deferred to a December start, and that pretty much doused whatever optimism I’ve left – the hope that I can get in 2 months of decent running for a 3:55 was abandoned.

Languishing in no-man’s-land running wise, I quickly emailed the organizers to downgrade my distance to the Half. Unfortunately all slots for the Half had been filled and they were no longer accepting any requests for that distance. The Mini Marathon turned out to be only a 5K instead of 10K, so that option was immediately dismissed as well. Que sera sera!

The 6:40am flight into Macao was smooth and I even managed to nap some time into the 3 hour 45 minute flight. A short 10-minute cab ride into Taipa (all cab drivers in Macao are hell drivers, there I said it!) cost me RM34 and since it was too early to check in, I dropped my bags at the concierge and went off to get my race bib at the nearby Olympic Sport Centre Stadium where the race would start and finish, looking for late breakfast and do some photo-walking.

Very decent room. I especially like their firm mattress and supportive pillows.

It was my first time in Macao and I enjoyed the laid back old town feel. Crowded but not entirely without the old town charms. By the time I returned to the hotel, I’d got some fantastic shopping done at the Nike Factory Outlet and tens of nice photos. Simple meals cost between RM16-RM25. Drinks, unless they’re alcohol, aren’t that cheap though.

Indoor stadium block of the complex. Same spot for baggage deposit the next morning.
Lengluis at the REPC
At my pace, no amount of doping will get me to the podium hahaha!

It was dark by 6pm, but with the public track just adjacent to the stadium complex, a shakedown run was in order. This track was a godsend to me. The upkeep of the infra was excellent with a well-maintained track, superbly well-lit and there’s even a drinking fountain, lockers and a couple of vending machines. The 300m track goes around 3 tennis courts (all utilized the time I was there) and 2 football fields. All these smack in the middle of high-rise flats. My routine was a mixed one, easy jogs, strides and stretching. There were even several elites from Japan, South Korea, India and Africa working out. With the exception of my departure day, I ran everyday in Macao.

With no goal time, getting kitted out for Sunday morning was so easily done. No point fretting over every piece of gear – just a training run, with the GoPro coming along for the outing. Contrast that to Saturday night prep-up for the Gold Coast Marathon! The only thing I did that took more time was taping up my foot.

Putrajaya Ultra tee, Kalenji trail shorts, Saucony cap, Hoka Tracer
Brought 6 gels, consumed 4.

With Masters marathon extraordinaire, Lim who would finish in a superb 3:30-ish.

The event attracted around 12,000 runners across all categories but everything was pretty well organized in such a small area. The marathoners get the section at the head with the “halvers” corralled off in the rear. I was positioned right in the middle of the pack. Weather was comfortably cool, no shivering at all. The start was stop and go due to the narrow exit out of the stadium but immediately after that, there were plenty of space on the roads. The stabbing pain on the PF surfaced right after the start but the discomfort eased off with each passing mile and I was able to gradually enjoy the run. Temps were at a perfect 17 Celcius and a little foggy. The 2.5K long Gov. Nobre de Carvalho Bridge was our first challenge. The bridge was strangely not lit, so we weren’t treated to a scenic view. No vain shots then! Before hitting the 300m stretch of climb that was steeper than Mayor Hill (see photo), the bridge was completely flat and we were even treated to gentle cool breeze. At my conservative 6:05 pace, the climb didn’t pose much of a problem.

Runners were taken past some landmarks such as the mega casinos, the Guan Yin statue, and the famous Ah Ma Temple (because we’ve to balance the sin of gambling with absolution, don’t we?). All very grand and glitzy but if you’re observant, you’ll see some pretty grungy shop-apartments too.

MGM Casino

The event was sparsely supported by the locals. Other than the crew at the road junctions and drink stations, most of the folks out there were senior citizens – some offered claps while most just went about their morning exercise routines. The roads were well maintained with no potholes and traffic weren’t that much of a problem either, with very few cars out.

An Ah Mah walking past the Ah Mah temple

After a couple of switchbacks, it was another bridge to tackle – the Sai Van Bridge back to Taipa.  This climb was gentler but longer, and the entire bridge was closed to us runners. By the time I got back to the vicinity of Galaxy Casino (20K mark), I had to make a call. To continue at the easy pace I was going would mean I’d outdone my own doubt of finishing within the 5-hour cut off with the PF. I reckoned that even factoring some slowing down in the late stages, finishing around 4:15 wasn’t that far-fetched. Considering my longest run was a 23K a couple of months ago, along with 30km/weeks the last 2 months devoid of running mojo, I was a happy chump.

Heading down the other side of the bridge towards Taipa. Lenglui alert!

At that point, there would be no doubt that I would be able to finish well within the cutoff time. But at what price? Would it make the PF worse, being out there so long? With base training starting January, just 3 weeks away, it was a risk I daren’t take. Another 22K would’ve meant longer time spent on my feet pounding it out. That pretty much decided it for me, to be conservative. Focus on the big goal in July 2018.

Once the decision was made, it was easy to run the 8K to the 28K mark without any pace inhibitions. So I went for it. It was just a lovely feeling to run unburdened by pace restrictions knowing that I could just go with the flow and how I felt. At 4:57 to 5:05 pace, I was still largely in control. At that pace for the marathon, it was thrilling to pass many runners. While I was in a high to entertain the thoughts of continuing right through to the 35K mark, I was also savvy enough to know that the crash will probably hit me hard at the 30K point, potentially aggravating the PF further.

So I stuck to the plan to stop at the starting point of the 2nd loop for the marathon, roughly the 28K mark. I removed my bib before walking 1.3K to the stadium to collect my bag. Along the way I couldn’t help but cast envious looks at the huge medals and towels the HM finishers sported. The faster marathoners were just coming in.

I reminded myself that that morning I made the right choice, ran smart and in the later miles, at a pace that conjures up wild imaginations despite my lack of physical fitness. Most importantly, I managed the injury risk prudently and didn’t end up worse than when I started. It was time for serious rehab work and getting stronger for 2018.

In closing, 2017 was becoming an extreme case of the highs and lows for me, running wise. I ran my best ever marathon on the Gold Coast, yet until Macao, 2 races – SCKLM and GCAM – were all that I’ve done. It would’ve been 3 but I DNFed Twincity Marathon due to stomach issues. Thank goodness I don’t have anything in the pipeline for the remainder of the year. Let’s get this year over and done with already!

Website: http://www.macaomarathon.com/en/
Entries: Opens sometime in September, capping off at 12,000 runners, across the Marathon, Half Marathon and 5K Fun Run categories.
Race Fees: 400 MOP (approx RM210) for both the Full and Half Marathon; 70 MOP for the Fun Run.
Race start: 6am for the Full and Half Marathons, 6:15am for the Fun Run.
Cutoff: 5 hours.
Entitlements: Towelette, sling bag for baggage deposit. Post-race: Finisher towel, medal.
Description: AIMS certified. Other than 2 bridges, the course is largely flat. Marathoners go on a 2nd loop within the island of Macao (covering Taipa and Cotai) after the first 28K. Course is not very scenic on the island, with the sights around the peninsula faring better, with the casinos, Guan Yin statue, Ah Ma Temple and 2 bridges. Support is sparse.
Weather: Hard to predict Spring weather. Monitor the weather constantly.
Quirks: Baggage deposit area is inaccessible from the start area even though they’re within the same stadium complex.
Challenges: Hotels are expensive in Macao. A bit of digging around is necessary and I was lucky to have found the Asia Boutique Inn located in Tapia and a short walk to the start/finish.
Good: Comparatively small event. Well-stocked drink stations that included Pocari sports drinks and sponges. Well-managed traffic. I may one day return to run the half marathon and will have my wife along as a tourist.
Bad: None that I can think of, except the late opening of entries and narrow exit out of the stadium.


2018 will be the 40th running of the Gold Coast Marathon (GCM). I’ll be returning for my 8th GCM and training plans have been drawn up. Won’t you join me for some Good Times? Hit the image below to get to the official Gold Coast Marathon website! Do join the Team Malaysia Facebook page to get all the local happenings, updates on training sessions, tips on travel and running the race on the Gold Coast.

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