26 March 2010

2010 Seoul International Marathon

A belated race report. Just came back from a week long holiday in Seoul and the picturesque Jeju Island celebrating Sling Jr's 1st birthday.


My first attempt at sub-3 and honestly I wasn't good enough on the day. Started a tad too fast and got punctured after km 30.

My reaction is mixed…a little bit disappointed, but at the same time felt reasonably pleased too (if you know what I mean). I'd say in the scale of happiness, I would rate it a 7.

Here we go:

We landed in Seoul on Wednesday and it was snowing !!! It was freezing and wet coupled with blustery wind. What a welcome! On the next day, I went out for a 40min run and it was still freezing even with gloves and beanie. My body was shaking and I could hardly get the words out of my mouth when I ordered a coffee after the run. During the run, I also bumped into 3 Kenyan runners as our hotel (Westin) was just across the road from the elite athletes' hotel (Seoul Plaza). I ran behind them and was surprised to see that their 'shake out' run was very, very slow. I was jogging at 5:00 pace and had to intentionally slow down in order not to pass them. It is just too rude to pass runners who can run marathons 1 hour faster than you !!!

I then started my carbo load. Didn't run on Friday as we went for sightseeing to the snow capped Mt Seorak. Had 7k run on Saturday morning and slept early.

Come Sunday, it was around 0c at the start. I was grouped in the 'A' corral for runners with faster timing than 3h:20m. We started about 5 minutes behind the elites. As Seoul is an IAAF Gold Label race (same level as Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, NY etc), the race attracted a deep elite field. In the Mens, it included a 2:05 runner and about 10 sub-2:10 athletes. In the Womens, it included a Chinese lady who got 3rd placed in the Olympics and a few African and European runners. The conditions were a tad too cold to my liking and my body was shaking.

I started with the sub-3 pacemakers and the pace was fast from the start. Despite the fast start, I found the effort to be very easy due to the temperature differential between Seoul and Singapore. We passed the 10k mark in 41:47 (about 4:10-11 pace) and the pacemakers continued running at 4:10 pace. I decided to let them go and ran on my own. I carried four gels but dropped one packet at km15 (not sure whether it made a difference to the end result given I ran out of steam then). I passed the HM mark in 89:07 with the pace group was nowhere to be seen (probably they passed halfway in 87-88 minutes). I was still feeling good at this point and continue to chug along.

Due to the large crowd (23,000 runners), I missed the initial km markers and decided to split every 5km where they have the official markers (chip recording)

5k - 20:56
10k - 20:51 (41:47)
15k - 21:29
20k - 21:14 (42:43)
Halfway: 89:07

In the second half, we went towards the south east and encountered pretty strong headwind. As runners began to thin out, I couldn't get sufficient shielding from the elements as we ran on very open, wide roads. My pace slowed slightly but I was still on sub-3 pace at km 30 (2h:07m).

25k - 21:29
30k - 21:38 (43:07)

Afterwards, the wheels began to come off. My legs seemed to run out of gas and the windy conditions made it even tougher. I just couldn't move my legs fast and my strides got shorter and shorter. My pace slowed to 4:30 pace between km 30-35 and passed km 35 in 2h:30m. At this point, I was about 1m:40s behind the sub-3 pace and realized that it wasn't gonna happen today. It now become a test of perseverance. I was tired, low on fuel, 1m:40s behind my goal pace and it was still over 7k to go.

We climbed a bridge over the wide Han River towards the Jamsil area and my pace continued to deteriorate to around 4:40. I passed km 40 in 2:53:40, about 3mins + behind the 2h:50m required for sub 3. I picked up the pace slightly as we went into the 1992 Olympics Stadium and finished in 3:03:49 - a 1 minute PB from last year's GCM.

35k - 22:45
40k - 23:18 (46:03)
2.2k - 10:09
Second half: 94:42

Surprisingly, the first thing that crossed my mind when I passed the finishing mat is when will be my next marathon? I just can't hardly wait...

Anyway, there were negatives and positives from the race and both serve as valuable lessons for my next marathon, such as

- I started too fast (especially the first 10k). Perhaps holding back a bit would give me a better results.
- Maybe I am still 'too marginal' to attempt a sub-3. My coach suggested me to run at 3:01 pace and picked it up in the 2nd half if I had the chance to go for gold. Perhaps if I follow the coach's order, I can finish in 3:01 or 3:02. But I don't know whether that's what I really want
- I think I need to lower my HM time to around 85 (from 87 currently), otherwise there is not much room for error (must rely on perfect pacing, calm conditions etc)
- I feel that I need to consider doing more marathon than 1 per year as it is currently (2006 DNF, 2007 DNF, one marathon each in 2008, 2009, and 2010). I reckon I can better navigate the situation after km 30 if I have more marathoning experience.
+ Happy with the PB considering that this race was unplanned and I only decided to run 8 weeks ago after taking almost the whole of December off. Not a bad return for such as short prep.
+ Despite still stuck with the same 10k and 21k PBs (39 & 87) in the last 3 years, I managed to lower my marathon time by 15mins from 3.18 to 3.11 to 3:05 and now to 3.03
+ Hitting the wall at km 30 officially makes me a classic sub-3 wannabe. However, I have seen some people crashed and burned and ran 10-15 minutes slower in the second half. Because I was able to keep the damage to about 5mins positive split (despite the fast start and windy conditions), I think I am not too far away from sub-3.
+ Another good sign is that I didn't feel wasted at all after the run. In previous years, I could hardly walk for days after the marathon, but this time I felt good even right after finishing the run.

After the race, I managed to get my shirt signed by Lee Bong Ju, the 2001 Boston marathon champ and 1996 Olympic silver medalist. Hopefully, the autograph wouldn't wear away after the wash!

Now, the dilemma is whether I should do another marathon in 2-3 months time or should I just train for 4-6 months to prepare for Melbourne in October. Once you flirt, you just don't wanna stop!!!

14 March 2010

The Flirt

Six days to go to Seoul…

Okie, last week was supposed to be a taper week. But due to the postponed long run from the previous weekend, I did a cumulative 88k+ over the last seven days. This is the first time I ever go to marathon race week with that kind of mileage. The planned time trial turned out to be a dud but it doesn't matter anymore now. The hard work was already done over the last couple of months and I have to trust my training.

Have been looking at my logs for Seoul and last year's prep for Gold Coast. Some stats below:

Mileage (excluding race week):
GC: 1060 in 11 weeks of prep, average 96
Seoul: 867 in 10 weeks, average 86
** GC prep had 200 more kms in the legs. Last year ran 7 days a week, this year only 6 days.
** Average training pace (all runs) about 5:00 during GC prep, this year average is 4:50-4:55

Long Runs:
GC: 9, average 30k
Seoul: 9, average 31k
** One different thing this year is less stoppages during my long runs. For example, carrying fuel belt resulting in 5mins stop during a 3-hour LSD. Last year took 2mins break every half an hour to drink.
** LSD paces are now about 5secs/km faster, but GC prep had more quality long runs at MP.

Medium Long Runs:
GC: 7, average 21k
Seoul: 9, average 20k
** This year more medium long runs, done on undulanting terrain. Also often ran last part of the long run at moderate pace (halfway between MP and easy, say around 4:45 for me)

MP long runs (part of long runs above):
GC: 3 times, between 15-26k, done in intervals form e.g. 6-5-4-3-2-1k or 30-25-20-15-10-5 mins @ MP
Seoul: 2 times, more continuous and in fast finish format e.g. 10k ez + 2x10k MP or 16k ez + 10k MP
** Less total MP work time but longer per session (10k per interval), the sessions are also done at the end of long runs (vs fresh legs)
** This year I ran the two MP sessions at 4:16-17 (hypothetical goal) versus 4:20s for GC

Both GC & Seoul prep had 7 interval sessions, covering 7k of fast work each session
** For GC, I used 1k or 1600 reps due to the mentality that longer intervals are better for marathon. Did them at 3:50s (around 10k pace), recovery 200-400m or standing rests
** Under SW, intervals vary between 5mins to as short as 30 secs. For 5mins stuff, I ran them at 3:50s, for 30-60secs at 3:30-40 pace
** Recovery is a short 1 minute for 3-5mins intervals, e.g. I ran a Yasso workout 8 x 800m in 3:00 each (3:45 pace) with 1min jog, or 5x5mins @ 3:50s pace, 1min jog

Tempos (both LT and MP):
GC: 8 sessions, average 36 mins of work each (included a couple of 40-60 mins tempo at MP)
Seoul: 8 sessions, average 32mins of work each (no MP tempo, all threshold stuff)
** Almost same format for LT sessions, either 3 x 10mins or continuous 20-25mins. But this year's pace is a few secs per km faster
** Longest continous tempo for GC 14k @ 4:24 (161 bpm HR), while for Seoul 15k @ 4:08 (169 bpm HR)

Race temperature and Results:
GC: 3:04:50, around 10c, calm, sunny
Seoul: ????, forecast 0c to 7c
** Temperature will be a challenge. Haven't raced in sub-0 or low 0 temperature since living in Perth. But anything is still better than running in Singapore (28c, 90% humidity)

Overall, I feel that I am in a better shape than last year's prep for Gold Coast, but is it enough for sub-3?. My best HM time is 87, doing 89 HM back to back sounds like a high risk proposition

But should I take the risk and test the water a bit? Should I flirt?

Anyway, training ths week

Mon (long):
28.6k long run in 135mins (av pace 4:46)
First 16k easy, then 10k @ 4:16 pace, 2k easy
Postponed run from the weekend

Tue (easy):
23mins on treadmill (av pace 5:45) + core

Wed (easy):
16k easy with strides in 80mins (av pace 5:03)

Thu (time trial):
6k in 23:18 (av 3:53)
Splits: 3:50, 3:50, 3;50, 3:52, 3:57, 4:00
3.5k wu, 3.5k cd
Total 13k
The plan was 8k TT, but legs were like lead. Felt sluggish, haven't recovered from 28k three days ago and 16k run 18 hours earlier
Decided to pull the plug after 6k, didn't want to go to the bottom of the well

Fri (rest):

Sat (threshold):
15mins @ 4:02, 4mins rec, 10mins @ 3:57, 3mins rec, 5mins @3:49
Total fast stuff 7.56k in 30:00 (av pace 3:58), including rec jogs 8.9k in 37:00 (av pace 4:10)
3k wu, 3k cd
Total 15k

Sun (easy):
12k easy in 60mins (av pace 5:02)

Total 88.6k for the week (second last week before the race)

08 March 2010


A slightly belated post since I didn't run over the weekend. Did a final long run this morning (Monday).

Just couldn't believe it's ONLY 13 days to go. I felt that I just started my marathon training a couple of weeks ago !

The strange thing is that I don't feel like racing, but I want to keep on training forever because the training is much more enjoyable than what I ever had in previous years. I think I only missed 2-3 runs over the last couple of months.

Also, I am more consistent with mileage ranging from 84-100k, while in the past my mileage tended to swing wildly from one week to another due to tiredness/overtraining. Actually, if that 84k week (due to overseas trip) is taken out, my mileage has an even narrower range at 94-100k. It is believed that Deek & Mona did almost the same training/mileage week in and week out during their careers, so I guess consistency is what Aussie training system is all about.

Whilst on the topic of Aussie system, the taper is again different to what I have done in the past. Previously, I followed the modern taper where no fast work (intervals, races) is done during taper. The belief is that you will be teaching your body to burn carbs faster when doing fast stuff. But if you do marathon-paced work close to the race, your body will be more familiar with the marathon fuel metabolism and you will never touch 5k-10 pace during the race itself anyway.

My taper this week will include 3 x 10-15 minutes intervals and another 8k time trial. The belief behind the Aussie system is to prepare the body/mind for race-like situations and to make the marathon pace feel easy.

Anyway, training ths week

Mon (easy):
7k easy (av pace 5:16)

Tue (time trial):
4k warm up to F1 track
8k solo time trial in 30:50
Splits: 3:47, 3:49, 3;49, 3:49, 3:51, 3:55, 3:54, 3:56 (last k into headwind)
4k cool down
Total 16k
Not happy with last 3k (lost 15secs), legs seemed to run out of steam (32k long run 3 days before)
McMillan calculator equates this effort to 38:50 10k and 3h:02m marathon.

Wed (long):
20k in 100mins (av pace 5:00).
Legs like lead, took it easy as I probably need some fat-burning fix anyway.
XT: planks, bridges, abs crunches

Thu (easy):
34mins recovery on treadmill (av pace 5:43)
XT: light weights, squats, lunges

Fri (fartlek):
75mins aerobic fartlek (av pace 4:35)
Total 16k
Too hot & hazy outside, so ran indoors. SW plan is short fartlek @ 5k pace, but difficult to do on treadmill. Decided to do more longish fartlek between 4:40-4:00 pace.

Sat (off):
No run

Sun (off):
No run

Mon (long):
28.6k long run in 135mins (av pace 4:45)
10k @ 5:00, 6k @ 4:45, 10k @ 4:16, 2k+ cool down
Running at sub-3 pace even for only 10k was damn hard, even after 2 days off
Don't think it is a sustainable pace for me

Total 94k for the week (6 running days + 2 off days). Last 7 weeks average 95k