Base Phase: Week 1/8

Here we go again! This week saw the kick-off of the 8-week McMillan Base Program.

Distance Covered: 11.7K averaging 6:18. Average HR  135 bpm.
How It Went: Base training kicked off on New Year’s Day, along with the unveiling of the GCM18 Team Malaysia Banner. An easy run within the prescribed pace range. 

Distance Covered: 10.4K averaging 6:16. Average HR 136 bpm.
How It Went: The PF surprisingly behaved and an enjoyable run was had in the heavier Glide. Started the run at 5:15am to ensure adequate time to complete the scheduled session. Pace was pretty consistent on a cool morning and I wrapped up with a series of drills and stretching.

Distance Covered: 6K averaging 6:08. Average HR 138 bpm. Followed by drills.
How It Went: A little tired having tallied 50.4K the last 7 days. Took some minutes reviewing the scheduled base runs and decided to make the call to pare down the Wednesday runs from 1:05 to 50 minutes. 2 reasons: 1) The objective of base training is not to beat oneself out even before starting the bulk of the main training (and the HMM will be very tough!) but to prep the body and mind to accept and adapt to the rigors of marathon training. 2) These base miles are higher than even the first 4 weeks of HMM, which won’t make sense. To proceed with such high weeks and then come down to 20-30K weeks the first 4 weeks of HMM could risk a bit of a deconditioning on top of having to rebuild after 60K weeks. 3) The HMM will demand a lot on the body and legs where all components are equally important. I don’t want to risk burning out even before the start of the HMM or tiring even before Week 8 of HMM. Further adjustments will be made as I progress into Week 2.

Distance Covered: 10.5K averaging 6:13. Average HR 139 bpm.

How It Went: Stuck with the Zoom Span this morning. Need to wear this pair out before breaking in its replacement, the Noosa FF (a smidge lighter at 9.5oz). I’ve resolved not to pull another new pair of shoes unless I’ve retired the current ones, which is a tough thing to do. I so want to start putting miles into the Lunaracer 3 and the Noosa! Anyways, this morning’s run was enjoyable except for a close brush with an idiotic driver who nearly drove his MPV into me as he swerved too close into a corner. When I caught him later along another road, I shouted at him and he stopped about 40m, with me fully ready for a confrontation. He didn’t get off the vehicle, though. My legs felt fine, with the PF almost not making its annoying presence felt at all. The mild flu which I’ve struggled the last few days appear to have blown over as well. Immediate post race fuel was protein and I’ve a bit of time to stretch the hips and psoas as well. Tomorrow, I shall claim my much needed rest day!

Fri Rest!

Distance Covered: 11.3K averaging 6:20, 137 bpm.
How It Went:
Yesterday’s scheduled rest day was key to how good I felt this morning. It was cool but humid. Nevertheless running a new route proved refreshing enough. Ideal pace for the Zoom Span again. Here’s to tomorrow’s 1:35 run!

Sun: 1:35 Long Run between 6:05 to 6:54.
Distance Covered: 15.4K averaging 6:11. 2K pickup @ 5:00 pace. Average HR 139 bpm.
How It Went: Easy pace was easy enough but the hip wasn’t as engaged as I’d like to. When the pace was upped, only did the body come alive. An average session but no less important one. 

Week Summary: Like the coach said, “Time on your feet is more important than pace in a long, steady run. Run easy and run long.” Can’t complain with 66.2K on first week of base. Not too bad. Body’s getting the conditioning it needs and the mind stays fresh with the slow running. With the exception of 1 day, I’ve managed to get in an average of 6.5 to 7 hours daily.

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.


What’s Next After Macao?

I’ve moved on after the recent Macao DNF. I’ve been back to running with greater frequency and consistency is slowly but surely getting re-established. Going through the Garmin and Buckeyeoutdoor logs, I discovered that despite this period of reduced running, I’ve been averaging more miles than the same period last year. Perhaps I’ve been a little harsh on myself.

With things slowly restored to business-as-usual, I’m just letting the consistency takes it shape over the next couple of weeks. Between now and the new year, 40K weeks shouldn’t be that hard to move up to. That will segue nicely into the 50K weeks accorded by the 8-week McMillan Base Plan. The Base Plan will have plenty of easy running, building on consistency and time-on-feet. I’ll be following the plan honestly.

Once the 8 weeks are done, it’ll be time for the actual training to begin and for that, I’ve subscribed to the 16-week Hansons Program. I’ve opted for the Beginner Plan which will peak at 91K with the longest runs at 26K. Due to the unique concept of the Hansons, the plan will only work if the runner follows the prescribed workouts to the tee. The first 2 weeks consist of low mileage work and will double up as cutback weeks following Base Phase.

Hansons Coach Luke Humphrey repeatedly says, “Don’t make it harder than it already is.“ He’s not kidding. The workouts will tax the body and mind to take on the stress of consistent weekly mileage, stressing the legs to simulate cumulative fatigue. Easy days must be kept easy. Long runs must be run at prescribed pace. Midweek SOS workouts must include warm up and downs. And I’ll have to get enough sleep as recovery.

Gear-wise, everything is good to go. Most of my running thus far has been in heavier, bulkier and protective shoes. That’s the Zoom Span, Glide Boost (mothballed 2 years ago in new condition but now recalled to active duty), and the 2 Hokas – the Clayton 2 and Clifton 4. With the exception of the Span and Clayton, the rest are over 10 ounces in heft. The odd one in the collection is the NB Vazee Pace 2 Protect. The weather resistant upper will ensure that rainy days aren’t excuses to skip workouts. They’re all shoes that I don’t typically run in but I’ve to protect my legs and feet. The firmer Ride 10 will have to wait in the wings.

For faster running, the ones you see below are my trusted ones, each capable of covering distances between 5K to the marathon. Even my GCM18 race shoes (not shown here) are good to go.

On the injury front, the PF is finally, FINALLY (!), brought under control. It has taken a lot of effort on my part, from 4 times a day trigger point massages, stretching and mobility exercises. More than anything, I’m hoping that the issue will be fully resolved by end February, and I stay healthy all the way through July.

So as 2017 comes to a close, here’s wishing you the best in next year’s training and racing!

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.

Training Plans for GCM18

After running my quickest marathon at GCAM17 (race report), it’s pretty much decided that my next key marathon will be the 40th running of the Gold Coast Marathon (GCM18) in July. As with this year’s goal, I’m setting an equally aggressive target for myself. With a goal, there’s a need for a plan. On a high level, I’ll be looking at a 6-month preparatory period, broken down into 8 weeks of base before embarking on a 16-week marathon specific training.

Due to work and family commitments, I’ll be sticking to online programs. So began my research into the wide gamut offered by FinalSurge.  The website aggregates many options from well-known coaches such as Matt Fitzgerald, Hansons, Greg McMillan, and the Northern Arizona Elite, just to name a few. Missing are those from Pfitzinger, Higdon, and Daniels, all of whom sell theirs off their own websites. A great thing about the plans offered through FinalSurge (FS) is that they integrate with Garmin, so workouts sync across each platforms. On top of that, FS has their own app (iOS and Android) from which you can check your progress. Workouts are also sent into your mailbox each day, if you’re the type who needs to be reminded. Lastly, each plan comes with a preview of key weeks, so that you can figure out if they’re something you can realistically strive for. Needless to say, you’re required to enter some numbers to determine your goals and abilities before the system spits the plan out for you.

After deliberating between the many options, I’ve decided on the Level 4 McMillan 8-week Base Training Plan which costs ($34.99/RM158). You can check the contents of the plan out via the link. It appears to be the most holistic one which includes pre-hab routines. The plan is littered with time-based easy running in the first few weeks to build consistency before embarking on a more varied diet of running paces. Time-based sessions take away the pressure of chasing mileage this early, something which I really want to avoid since my ideal training is usually just 3 months. Base will start January 1st 2018 and end February 25th. I’ll then have a 9-day break before the start of the 16-week plan.

I’ve roughly 2 months to get myself into the marathon mode before January. While I don’t have any key races between now till December 31, I’ve been managing a barely-there weekly mileage, so there’s no complete absence of running.

Although it’s still early, I’m leaning towards McMillan’s 16-week Level 3 Combo Runner plan for the training as I feel that the mileage is something I can handle. McMillan’s appear to have a balanced I’d love to use Ben Rosario’s 12-week Northern Arizona Intermediate Plan but I know I won’t be able to manage the high mileage it requires from the get-go. According to the plan’s notes, the program kicks off with an 80K week!

If you’re scouting for any training programs for GCM18, it may be worth checking out the Final Surge. There are plans catering to 7/9/10-day cycles and their pricing is accessible. I’d have liked a local coaching approach but given my work and family commitments, attending weekday training sessions would be impossible. Having a training plan will keep me honest.

It’ll be great if we somehow end up with similar ones and are able to train and motivate each other for GCM18. Whichever approach you go with, commit early and you would’ve won the first of many battles!

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…

The Allure (And Perils) Of The Trail

You know you’re in a trail territory when the slip-slaps of your shoes on the road are replaced by the squishes and scrunches on the mud and pebbles. Instead of the din and smog of passing vehicles, you have the cacophony of cicadas and the heavy air of the humid jungle. Or the occasional shouts of “Bike!”.

Brush, leaves and undergrowth caress you and depending on how deep into the trail you go, you’ll have leeches for friends. The trails that I’ll be frequenting will be more suburban than virgin. Nevertheless one must be prepared to come out of the trail with a few scrapes and a dozen mosquito bites (strange that it’s called that since the bloodsuckers don’t bite!).

With a week’s break from work upon me, and with a half-day’s work done, I decided on a whim to head to the Kiara trails for an introduction of off-road running. I’m not too familiar with the various loops that this area offers but I figured I can always backtrack should I get “lost”. The trail is well marked and run in and chances are I’ll meet people inside, so my venturing there won’t pose too much of a risk.

The plan was to sandwich the off-road between 2 sessions of loops around the lake. Starting time was rather early at 4:30pm so that I can exit the trail before it gets dark. I had on me the Garmin, hydration pack and S3. That was about it. A short spell of very heavy downpour prepped the course up to test the Cascadia. I coated my limbs with mosquito repellent since I knew from experience that there are plenty of them waiting for me.

As I entered the trail, I had another runner in front and I allowed him go ahead while I took a few shots. A few minutes later I couldn’t even see him and I was pretty much alone in the trail. And boy, was it really tough. The first couple of minutes were spent getting my trail legs going. Tripped a little over some rocks but didn’t fall. Kiara has always been quite a technical course – plenty of fallen tree trunks, rocks, hard climbs and switchbacks ensured at the end of my run of 38 minutes, I covered only a little more than 3K! I ran into countless of spider webs which luckily didn’t get into my eyes. All my senses were engaged fully as I scanned ahead. Most of my uphills were covered walking and there didn’t seem to be an end to it and to play it safe, I enabled my Garmin’s Back To Origin function to lead me back down. Now this part was really fun. I threw caution to the wind as I hurtled down the single track trail. I leapt over the earlier-passed tree trunks and roots. The Garmin was awesome, beeping when a turning was coming up – in fact it was quite accurate. The downhill was exhilarating and I now know why the mountain bikers were so hooked on it.

Mad rush downhill. Super fun!
Mad rush on the flats. Super fun!

I exited the trail drenched in sweat and got ready for a few slow loops around the lake. I managed only 4.6K for a total workout time of about 70 minutes. It was a satisfactory first run and I know now how hard the task at hand is going to be. Totally different from road running, the trail can grab you by the throat from the get go. You don’t need 10 minutes to realize that the going is going to be challenging . To prepare for the TNF, there’s really no other options than to adopt specificity in your training. You’ve got to hit the trails, there are no exceptions. Every part of your body (and senses) are engaged and dodging overhanging obstructions while negotiating the narrow path will tax you. And TNF is 50K of all that! Despite my tiredness I still noticed quite a few squirrels, a cat and a black feline looking critter (didn’t see what it was) which scrambled out of my way.

At this point I have no other clue as to best way to prepare for the race except to keep at it. It may seem impossible at this point in time to fathom completing 50K in the trail but I still enjoyed the feeling of heading into it. I don’t know how to articulate it yet but it’s pretty fun. After all there’s always the downhill to look forward to.

The 1.5L High Sierra Wave 50 hydration pack performed surprisingly well. Other than the expected sloshing sound, it didn’t slide left and right as I ran. When I jumped over the obstacles, it didn’t bounced too much as it was snugly secured against my back. No pinching experienced on my shoulders too but I can only conclude this over a much longer run. The only thing which I need to get used to is the bite valve. The Wave 50’s valve is further protected from leakage by a pull and twist action and despite doing so, it was a bit difficult to get the fluids out of it. Maybe it’s a matter or getting use to the system.

If you’re familiar with other bladder system please let me know since I can always replace it with another. All in all, RM128 is a good buy for the Wave 50 compared to much more expensive brands. You can find the High Sierras at the Tearproof outlets.

This is already a way too long post. I’ll leave the wrap up on the Cascadia for another day.

Originally published: Jun 11, 2010

Week 2/18

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking back: Week 1

Week 3/18

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

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

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

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

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

Looking back:Week 1 | Week 2

Week 1/18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“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