I ran a shitty race, or did I?
I ran the half marathon 11 times (yes I love HM), and this performance was the 3rd all-time worst result (1:54) with only my HM debut in 2010 (2:21’52”) and Sundown 2014 (1:58) being slower.
I always highly regarded the SCHKM as my favourite race as I have clocked 2 HM PBs in the last 3 years, and 3 of my all-time best HM times, prior to the start of this race. What’s more incredible about this is that this course is the most hilly amongst the 8 other HM races I have ran (yes, I love the rolling hills).
In 2015, I also made a major breakthrough with my BQ attempt after clocking a 8min PB to clock 1:23’55”, way under the 1:25 mark I was secretly aiming for. Also this race cemented its place in my fixture calendar as the Organisers made it so runners could have a guaranteed priority entry as long as you’ve run under their mark the year before in the same race. The popularity of this race is not to be underestimated – the race got so popular, it often sold out within an hour of registration opening, that the Organisers had to introduce a ballot system instead. So having that guaranteed priority entry made me feel special, like I was part of an exclusive club of sorts, where timings were the currency. Also somehow my training blocks in November and December almost always coincided with my low-key work schedule during that time, which bode well for training. I also had lined-up a marathon in April ’17, so this was meant as a build-up towards that race. So everything was seemingly setup for a perfect showpiece. Boy was I soooo wrong.
I had a chat with my uni friend, Kate, over lunch post-race, she explained that the cold spell came in the beginning of the week.
This was also deemed as peculiar weather as this year’s race was held in Feb after CNY, instead of Jan like the last couple of years. In Feb , the coldest part of winter should already have been over and it should already been warming up. The weather a week earlier or a week later would have been superb race conditions (Low: 16 / High : 21). But low and behold, it was the same temperature as in January the previous year when we were racing in the rain. So although it was colder than expected, it was something that I had went through before.
Training; or the lack of it
Having went through the routine of the last 3 years, I have always fell back to the nostalgic memory of me crossing the finish line in epic fashion at 1:23’55” in 2015. Familiarity breeds complacency. I was not allowing my body sufficient rest, cumulating in multiple sick days in the tail end of 2016 and the start of 2017. This resulted to a start-stop training and fell into the vicious cycle of starting to train, then falling sick, then taking a break from training, and back to it again. Hence, I couldn’t put together a proper training block. Even up to race week, I was still falling ill, so I knew I had to taper my expectations towards the race.
Since I had already paid for the plane tickets and accommodation, it was going to be a weekend getaway of sorts and I was going there just to enjoy myself, no pressure whatsoever.This time round, I decided to live it up a little bit with an upgrade to a boutique hotel. I picked Xi Hotel, 7 Minden Ave, Tsim Sha Tsui, as it was very close to the START line on Nathan Road, and it wasn’t too far off from where I used to stay at for the last 3 years I was here.
This year, I missed the front of the tape by a single row as I was warming up along Nathan Road while the speedsters moved forward to stage. But I wasn’t too bothered by it. Gun goes and I take the first km in 3:53, and continued to take it in a relatively controlled pace. I saw my secondary school junior, Kah Meng and we ran together chatted for abit, and he was gunning for 1:27, which was going to be an improvement from last year where he clocked his maiden Sub 1:30 at the same race. I was content to dial back the pace as I wasn’t in the same shape as last year.
From 6km onwards I could feel myself slowing down due my legs stiffening up. My ITBs were tightening up from the cold and my right forefoot was pins and needles that I needed to adopt a walk-a-jog in order to finish.
5k Race Splits
5km – 20’25”
10km – 44’44” (24’19”)
15km – 1:12’37” (27:53)
20km – 1:43’48” (31:11)
Finish – 1:54’56”
Full Garmin Stats: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1572411283
Would I say I was disappointed with my race result? No, as I had already lowered my expectations coming into the race. However, I have not lost sight of my ultimate goal, and that is to qualify for Boston Marathon and do a SUB3hr marathon.
It was definitely heartening to see many of our local runners (Rachel, Poon, JJ, Daniel) who did the Full Marathon and go under the 3hr mark. I am inspired by them and it motivates me that I can go on to finish it as long as I am disciplined enough to dedicate to training and resting, with a little bit of luck to stay injury and illness free. I might have well lost my guaranteed priority entry, but I am hopeful to comeback again next year for my 5th attempt. In the meantime, I am a man on a mission to find back that “gun” I lost.
I return to the land of dimsum for another crack at a SUB1:30 Half-Marathon. Admittedly, the course got the better of me last year. The 0530h start in the freezing cold, coupled with a less then ideal prep phase caused, it was a Swiss cheese model that flashed out infront of me on race day. Long story short, it was a case of unfinished business.
This year, as I entered my 2nd year of my career, things looked more settled & maybe. I probably seemed that way as I was attending a 5week long course & had the luxury of time to train twice a day without too much fuss. Even as I encountered a few setbacks along the way with a heel injury, I did not give up, choosing to cross-train to other activities like swimming spinning or aquajogging.
Slowly but surely my heel eventually recovered & I even surprised myself by winning the first time in my life at my organization’s X-country event!
I was getting into peak form, my 2.4km times were almost as fast as my best in 2013 but the key differentiator is the mileage base I put in preparation for this run was planned with Tokyo Marathon at the back of my head. In the last two weekends before heading to HK, I clocked two long workouts surmounting to 33.69km & 38km.
I identified the New Balance RC1400v2 race-trainers as my weapon of choice as I knew Nike was not producing Lunarspider LT readily available, hence had to make the jump. The price point was wallet-friendly as I got a pair on web discount followed by three more from the NB outlet store in Jurong East.
I had 4 pairs in total, two to train, two to race. I logged hundreds of miles in the training pair & only one of my long runs in the racing pair to ensure that there was minimal damage done whilst being well seasoned.
I enjoy traveling solo at times, not having to compromise to anyone. You choose the destination, the flight, the accommodation, the itinerary. For me it’s really a moment of solitude to reflect on what has been & what will be. I decided take the chance again w a a local budget carrier even after the they played me out the same exact time last year, what can I say? I’m a fan of local products. Yes, my first MP3 player was even local, remember Creative Technologies?
So back to the flight, I booked it way back when they had a massive sale & saved quite a bit. the good things with big marathon events is that they release the date really early so you can plan ahead. I usually go without all the frills & travel really light, especially on a short weekend trip like this.
flight seating is easily available at the counter as long as you arrive early for check-in. Since you are flying solo, the counter crew can slot you in easily & you still have a choice between aisle or window without the hefty fee. traveling light does have its perks, no waiting at the check-in counter, no worries of missing baggage, no waiting at the belt, once you’ve landed all you gotta go through is the arrival gates & you are good to go.
I like this particular flight as it leaves on Saturday at 0150h, flies by night & lands some 4-5hrs later at 0600-0700h, leaving you in good time to have a yum cha breakfast before collecting your race pack at 1000h. & best thing of all, you don’t waste a night of accommodation & you can save your annual leave! (if you are working). It’s basically a “sleeper train” in train travel terms.
The Race Pack Collection.
Located at Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, it’s really accessible & easy to find once you’ve got out of the Causewaybay MTR station. Located directly opposite from the FINISH Line, the REPC is held specially for overseas runners arriving late into HK. last year I collected my race pack 10mins before closing time on Saturday *close shave* this time I got my packs close to opening time, hence it took just 5mins to collect my pack! the process was fuss free just bring the letter & collect your pack simple as that, no snaking question, nothing! thankful for the scouts who were braving the cold volunteering on the weekend.
The Race Report.
I registered once again for the Half Marathon Challenge starting at 0530h at Nathan Road. After meeting my HK friends for a simple carboloading dinner of eel & frogleg claypot rice, br />
i headed back to do my final gear prep making sure I knew where everything was so I don’t panic in the morning. took a quick glance at the race guide, they had a great breakdown of the course & I singled out the crucial portion of the course to be from the 12-17km which includes the Western Harbour Tunnel. If I were to do well, I had to focus hard to push the pace in the tunnel & rely more on timing rather than pace as the GPS won’t be of use in there. I have been relying a lot on avg pace function of the GPS watch as it is a useful tool to make sure I’m on track. I would say I’m not exact consistent with my kilometer laps but rather with the 5k laps, as I tend to run with the feeling.
I woke up at 0330h & downed two bottles of 500ml plus a lil’ pocari sweat. had a bottle with me as well all the way to the start line. breakfast was a banana, wholewheat bread w cream cheese, milk & some salted almonds to prevent cramping later on.
0425h I left my place & took a short warmup jog to the baggage deposit located on a adjacent street to the start line. For those who haven’t done this race, they have many trucks, all you have to do is attach your luggage tag provided at the REPC to your bag & pass it to the guy at the allocated deposit truck.
Subsequently I warmed up along Nathan Rd keeping in mind the crowd that was building up at the startline. By 0500h I found myself on the tape at the holding area. this year to keep warm, I had my arm warmers, gloves, & an additional t-shirt that I was to toss before the start. I couldn’t find a disposable poncho so I went for the t-shirt instead. I was contemplating on weather I should take a gel before hand as I had one extra on me. after much thoughts decided against it as I could be too full from the breakfast.
0515h The police would hold hands forming a line & slowly guide the runners from 100m to within 20m of the STARTLINE. Elites or seeded entrants got to start on the left side of the pen whilst commoners like me could still be on the tape but on the right side of the pen this is to facilitate the left turn immediately 200m after the start.
0528h had my last gulp of pocari sweat & tossed my t-shirt along with the bottle to the side. final check on the watch, maximum backlit, & watched as the countdown timer counted down from 10s. had a bit of gitters so accidentally activated my watch 1s & loss my footing before the gun went off.
0530h bang! here we go. I started fast as I didn’t want to jostle for space taking the first two ks in 3:35 and 3:50. thereafter slowing down to a sensible avg pace of 3:52/k for the first 5k. I tried to find a running buddy but some were too fast, some were too slow hence decided to go alone throughout. it was a wise decision in the end as many if the fast guys died out on the 2nd half.
5k splits :
0- 5km – 19:20 – avg 3:52/km
5km – 10km – 20:13 – avg 4:02/km
10km – 15km – 20:12 – avg 4:02/km
15km – 21.1km – 23:10 – 3:47/km
After the first U-turn, I started taking water from the 8km mark to wash down my first gel, which I had so much difficulty taking it out from my glove during the race without stopping. I was very cautious during this race to make sure my gloves & socks remained as dry as possible as I suffered last year from the cold as I got my gear wet at the water points. That’s why I was quite pissed when a runner, however unintentionally spilled water on me at the waterpoint just before the tunnel. I but then again in hindsight it was my fault for not keeping the distance. after that incident, I wanted to get as far away from him as possible.
I opened my stride into the tunnel & the downslope was to my advantage. I have been training slopes, both uphill & down in the trails so taking the steep downhill into the tunnel was a breeze, I was flying down overtaking many runners in the process. & yes GPS signal died so I just had to keep going fast to make sure I don’t fall behind when I got out of the tunnel. I had a positive boost when 15km mark came & I did 59:XX leaving me to do 6k. Popped my 2nd & final gel & went fast. In 29mins, which was going to be a relatively easy pace. So I decided to take the chance & see how fast I could go in the last 6km. I liked the feeling of having that final kick enabling a negative split strategy & overtaking many runners giving a psychological boost as well.
Coming out of the tunnel at 17km there was only 4km splitting myself from the finish. I felt so fresh & the crowd support was amazing coming into the final leg. Water point volunteers were so vocal, there was even one girl shouting at me “leng zai! ho fai !” or translated into “handsome dude so fast!” I had a good laugh & decided to run faster.
I came down flying into the final 1km overtaking at least 10runners in the process & running down the last 100m I saw 1:23:xx counting down & I gave it a good sprint & savoured the moment with a loud shout at the finish, at the finish i wasn’t penting hard & using my arms to support myself, a sign that I could go even faster had I not been cautious to get the desire result.
Official time of 1:23’55” – very surprised by the result given that I didn’t have the most ideal of rest the entire week before.
I smashed my SUB1:30HM target convincingly & this can only be good going into these 3 crucial years to qualify for Boston. moving forward, I’m convinced that I will do well in my FM if the conditions are right. however would have to really consider what kind of result do I want to do after seeing fellow Singapore runner Ramesh finishing the SCHKM in 2:53 having the similar kind of splits for 10km & 21.1km. Is a BQ (3:05) possible? Is a SUB3hr marathon possible for me at Tokyo?
stay tuned to find out.
I dropped the ball.
As I started my new career in november, running took a back seat. No, I made it take a back seat, by chucking it aside as I made excuses for my lack of time. Initially it was due to the time take to commute via public transport from my home in the northeast to my workplace in the west. Even when I relocated to the west, I hardly ran, at least not kind of volume that I was on previously. Even when I made the decision to purchase my own personal vehicle for the ease of saving time or making it more convenient, I did not make time for running. It was in the gutter. I was destined to fail.
Did my first Ultramarathon – MR25 Ultramarathon ’14
This race was meant as a celebration for the new year. 2 years ago I started celebrating the new year differently each year. In 2012, I celebrated in Sydney, 2013 in Tokyo, and for 2014 I needed a personal challenge. After running in the trails for awhile, it was a natural progression to the ultra. Concept was simple enough, 12 hours as many rounds as possible, min 5 rounds for a medal & finishers tee & cert. I walked-run finished mine in apprx 7hrs.
Did a Half Marathon PB – SCHKM2014 HM (PB 1:31’38”)
2014 was meant to be the Half-Marathon year. The year that I did my SUB1:30 HM enroute to Boston Qualification (BQ). Coming into this race, I threw my training programme that I drafted out for this Half-Marathon out of the window. Just two months into my new career, I managed to go from 100km/week of mileage to a measly double figures which I can’t even remember because I didn’t log it down.
Off a busy work month in January, I went to Hong Kong I stayed in Homy Inn which was located 5mins from the baggage deposit area & was 3mins from the START line at Nathan road. It was a cheap ensuite one bedroom accommodation which ticked all the boxes. After a simple wonton noodle carbo loading dinner with my university exchange mate, Kate, I went to recce the baggage deposit area and start area, which would not be set up till the wee hours in the morning, as both road are busy main roads within the Kowloon district, hence I had to make sense of the area as best I could from the map I got from the race expo. I woke up 2hours before the 0530h flag-off time & had a light breakfast of muesli, yogurt and a banana & some Pocari Sweat all purchased from a supermarket I passed by the day before. I was one of the first at the baggage deposit area, which was set up as I expected, a line of marked lorries on a stretch of main road, fuss free. After I deposited my baggage, I went to do my warm-ups with my disposable poncho which acted like a thermal layering. Its surprising what a piece of plastic can do in the cold. Entered the START pen early & managed to be right at the front for a photo flag-off.
I went in with a strategy of doing approx. 4:15/km. But it was hard as I did not have a GPS watch or my splits to follow as I was using arm sleeves to keep warm from the cold. It was hard to see the timing on my nike+ due to the lack of backlight on the device & the dim street lamps. Actually I bought my garmin 310XT (yes, I bought a old model for cheap!) the month before, but I was still in the transition phase, hence wasn’t too comfortable with the interface, hence decided against racing in it. After the first 3km, I found myself running with a man, who I think is in his late 40s or early 50s, running at the same pace. I matched him stride for stride & took turns to lead at different sections of the course, especially where the headwind was really strong on the expressways.
I struggled to keep warm as strong cold 5am winds coupled with my blunder of getting my gloves wet from a combination of internal sweat & external drinks from water points made me lose heat at a fast rate. I had to take deep breaths and strong exhalations to keep myself going.
Running into the Western Harbour Tunnel, which connects Central and Kowloon, I was greeted by a steep downwards slope, which caused a lot of braking motion. The same could be said for the exit of the tunnel where it was a steep climb up to Central.
It wasn’t enough that it took a zap out of my legs, I had to deal with the rolling hills in the last 3km of the race after exiting the tunnel. I had not have enough hill training, hence I was a painful drive down to the finish. This was also the time when the guy I have been running with for the last 19km had some in reserves & pulled away for a 1:29 finish. I came in 2mins later in 1:31’38” so close, yet so far. I came in with the intention for going home with a SUB1:30. But I had to pat myself on the back for coming in with a new PB since 2011 when I did The Age Run Melbourne ’11.
Ran in my First Track & Field Meet. – SAFSA T & F ’14
I represented Team RSAF in the 10,000m and 5,000m categories of the SAFSA Track & Field Meet 2014 held at Air Force Training Command over two days in February. Came in 3rd Runner-up (4th) in both events behind Mok Ying Ren, Joshua Li & Jon Ma in that order. My finish qualified me to be called up for the MINDEF / SAFSA Team for Civil Service Run by the Bay ’14 as we finished Overall 5th in the 15km Men’s Open Public Service Category.
Did my first Night Race. – Sundown Marathon HM
After the wash-out of RUN350 HM, I decided to sign up for the Sundown HM to try once again for a SUB1:30 HM. It had became an obsession & I didn’t know what was good for me. It was the first time I did a night race & it started in the middle of the night, where humidity & natural body fatigue was at its peak. I started off the race in good pace, but without much training, I was just asking for it. After the first half of the race, I was spent. My foot was crashing with every step I took, at some point it became painful. It was one of my worst races I ran ever. Don’t get me wrong, the race itself was very well organised, but I just didn’t have it.
I got injured. I suspected that with the new Nike Flyknits, it did not provide enough structure for my foot, hence I ended up with a suspected metatarsal stress fracture. I had to lay off running for a while, & started to swim as cross training. It was a frustrating time for me as I was putting on the pounds but could risk my foot getting injured even further. I had to cancel my full marathon race in Perth, forgoing tickets & registration. Luckily I was able to recover some back through ChangeMyFlight & bib transfer on CoolRunning forum.
Did my first Biathlon. – 2XU Ultra Biathlon
750m sea swim checked, after cross training in the pool during my rehab, I built up the ability to swim 1km in the pool without much fuss, so this race came at a opportune time. In the build up to this race, I did a few brick sessions swimming for 30mins in the pool followed by a 30min run. A longer sea swim is definitely on my radar next year.
5km PB – ECP Parkrun
Parkrun invaded the shores of Singapore & East Coast Park, starting at the same time as it has always, 0700h on Saturdays. It was definitely a good addition to the running scene as it provided a platform for people like me, who doesn’t like running tempo runs solo, to incorporate some form of speed work with a little bit of competition. The course record here is 16:xx held by Stuart Haynes who I had a chance to run with in one of the Parkruns, and boy was he fast!
Ran with the Emperor, Haile Gebraselassie. – SCMS ’14 10km
Had the chance to run in the 10km category with the legendary ‘Emperor’, Haile Gebraselassie. Inspired by his talent, being 40+ and still able to hold it out with the fastest guys in the business in the Bupa Half Marathon ’13 as well as being the lead pacemaker for the London Marathon ’14.
I ended this race fresh & reinvigorated, slipped into the 38:XX pace band again, definitely a good sign to show that I might be close to my best soon.
Picked up the ball again.
After running a string of lacklustre performances in races mid year, I got really disappointed with myself for not putting in enough effort to train & was always talking about 2013 & how fit I was back then. It was as if my 25th year was going to be my peak.
After yet another poor showing at ST Run at the Hub, as I turned 26, I knew I had to set myself back on track by sacrificing time to commit to training. I knew I had to train earlier in the morning & another session after work in order to perform at where I was at my peak. Throughout the craziness, I managed to fit in lunch time workouts as well!
I might have missed out on the SUB1:30 target this year, but I will be tackling the HM in SCHKM in 2015 again just before Tokyo Marathon in Feb. Till next year! Chao!
Yellow Ribbon Prison Run ’13 marks the final back-to-back race I signed up for within a hectic 6 week window.
I never made a bad decision in my life, or rather, when I make a decision, I always take everything into consideration at that point of time, it always seemed rational. But when I look back in hindsight, some of the decisions I have made are seemingly ridiculous come to think of it. But I’ll never regret a decision, because for some reason when I made that decision, it was a thoroughly considered choice.
Yes, one of those ridiculous decisions was to register for so many races back-to-back. Racing every weekend can seem to be a whole load of fun. Its like living for the weekend. The euphoria of finishing is just something that I thrive on, as do many others.
But there is no chance for the body to recover from the fatigue from the race & leverage on that super compensation of your workout & raise your base level . Because by the time you have recovered from the race, its time to do your hard work outs again & there is absolutely no time to absorb the goodness of your workout. Consequently, your base level does not improve significantly.
My main consideration for these group of races was to smash my PB & get a SUB40 10k. I wanted to put myself in a position where I had as many chances to do it, which I eventually did in empathic style in the POSB PAssion Run for Kids ’13.
Now that I did a SUB40 10k, now what? where do I go from here? Yes, just a glance at the header of my blog says it all. The long term goal is to qualify for Boston, so the next target is to do a SUB1:30 half-marathon. The recent Boston Marathon successful qualifying times are 1min 28secs faster than the criteria. Hence, judging from this trend, I think its safer to be prepared to run a 3:00 marathon in order for Boston qualification. Technically, by a rule of thumb, your full-marathon time should be your half-marathon time x 2 + 10mins(max). If this rule of thumb is anything to go by, then I really should be looking at doing a 1:25 half-marathon.
I want to accomplish this in early part of 2014 so I can shift my focus to the full-marathon in the 2nd half of the year. Initially, I shortlisted a couple of races which fell in January or February 2014. But seeing that I have the 10K Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore to finish in December, I feel that a February race would be perfect.
Amongst the big races, two destinations in Asia that feels good would be Tokyo & Hong Kong. Due to the location & not much difference in time, there isn’t a huge need to adjust the body clock. The other perks would be the cool weather in February in both locations.
Having been to Tokyo earlier this year, I feel I familiar with the place & would definitely like to return there again. This coupled with the recent promotion of the Tokyo Marathon to become the Sixth World Marathon Major, it is definitely becoming an attractive race to go. However, due to the limited capacity & popularity of the race, race slots are balloted & allocated by luck. The best part of it, was that it only had the Full Marathon category, making this race ineligible for the criteria.
Shifting my focus on Hong Kong, quickly there was a race in mind, the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon (SCHKM). Having been constantly bombarded by race bibs hung in the office & former colleagues talking about the race, it has become an attractive destination for me. The best part is that I have not been to Hong Kong before in my life (yes, I have been living under a rock!) Now I definitely have an agenda for me to go. I was looking a smaller race meet in Hong Kong called the Hong Kong Half Marathon, a couple of weeks earlier, but it seems that it is a really hilly course, hence, I have dropped it as a consideration even though the field was much smaller. Yes, Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon it shall be!
Target race pace: I have a to do a 4min15s/km pace throughout the entire 21km distance. Similarly, this pace would also allow me to get a SUB3hr Full Marathon if closely followed. But I know pace seems easy when doing a 10k, but when carried out at HM or FM distance, can you keep this pace consistently?
Hence, I definitely think there is much to do going forward. Firstly, for the SCMS 10km race in December, I would be targeting a SUB38min 10km. Secondly, a 8min 2.4km is also on the cards (currently hit a NEW PB 8’22” this past week). I would be racking up the mileage, at much lower intensity as compared to what I have been doing (which are just intervals & short tempo runs).
To get to where I need to get, I intend to go on 15-20k Tempo runs, & weekly LSDs of 20-33k at the peak. Basically, a glance at my workload will look like its training for a full-marathon, but I will only execute a half-marathon at the end. This shift of focus on higher mileage at lower intensity is to dial up my aerobic capacity, which will allow me to do a 4m15s/km pace at a seemingly easier time.
The third & final thing is to stay injury free. This is key to building up on the hard training that is put in, definitely will be doing everything progressively. I have been focusing a lot on recovery techniques & will share this in the near future. Had a chance to a training clinic put together by Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore last week. Mok Ying Ren, Singapore’s fastest runner, gave a talk on “Recovery” which I felt was very helpful, & I will be looking to share some insight in the coming weeks.
Till then, peace.