23 March 2012

Seoul International Marathon 2012 Race Report

I am a man of no talent. I don't have big dreams in running and my lifetime running goal is simply a sub-3 marathon. All of the mileage, the workouts, the pain and thesoreness, the 5am early morning runs - everything that I do are all geared towards that single goal.

And on that bloody Sunday, I ran 3.00.17 !!!!!!!!!!!!

Missed the target by running 0.3 secs/km too slow over 42km. Was on track at 40 km with 2.50.35. I needed <9m25s to cover the last 2.195 km, but I hit the wall and it took me 9m42s

I took a chunky 3m30s off my PB. But for sure, this is one PB that I am not happy with !

The Taper:

Legs felt good during taper. Ran 9km easy on Monday, 11km with 4km MP and some hill strides on Tuesday, then 9km easy Wednesday. Flew out on a red eye flight on Wed midnight, arriving in Seoul on Thursday morning. Had a good nap at the hotel (JW Marriott) before heading out for 11km run with some pick-ups along the Han River bike path. Took Friday off but walked for about 5-6 hours. On Saturday, I jogged for 25mins and also walked around town for a couple of hours. Not sure if these walking around had any impact on that 17 seconds. Only God knows.

Carbo-loading wise, I actually changed my approach a little bit. I ate normal quantity of carbs (rice, bread, buckwheat noodle), but I drank more carbs. To avoid digesting junks that come with food, I drank litres of gatorade, juices, and soft drinks. I believe this hits two birds in one stone, it hydrates you and at the same time it loads clean carbs without junks/fats.

Weather was fantastic during the trip. A week before we arrived, temperature was around -5c min and about 0 max. When we were there, the weather turned nicely into a pleasant 5-10c.

The Race:

Left the hotel at 6am and took the subway to the start point. Had about 90mins to wander around, pee (twice), and do warm up. Weather was a pleasant 6c, which was perfect for me. When I ran the same marathon in 2010, it was 0c, which was too freezing to my liking, especially with the wind chill. The elites started at 8am (course record was eventually broken with a time of 2h05m) and us in the 'A' (<3.30 marathon) corral began 5mins later.

My strategy is to ran a bit faster than goal MP in the first half, as the route is much easier. In the second half, there were 2-3 climbs, although ain't steep, but they are placed near the end when you feel the most tired. The first k was downhill and I had to hold myself back so that I splitted 'only' at 3.50 (that's my 10k pace, by the way). After that I began to ease into goal pace and crossed the 5k timing mat in 20.42 and the 10k in 41.38 (second 5k in 20.56). My average pace for the first 10k was 4.10 min/km.

I felt like a transformer robot in the second 10k, clicking km by km at a very narrow range between 4.10-4.14 min/km. The first half of the course is easy and very much wind protected due to buildings and this allowed for consistent effort. On the flip side, the second half had several stretches which are open to elements, so my strategy is always to bank a bit of time. Passed the second 10k in 42.25 (21.16 and 21.09 for the 5k segments). Split at 20k was 84.03 or an average pace of 4.12 min/km.

Halfway split was 88.41 (av 4.12 min/km). At this point, my Garmin was overstating the official distance by about 150 meters.

Felt tired slightly, but in general, legs were still holding up. My 5km splits between 20-25km and 25-30k were 21.22 and 21.13, so a tad slower but still right at the goal pace. The third 10k was covered in 42.35. Cumulatively at 30k mark, my elapsed running time was 2.06.38, an average pace of 4.13 min/km. This still gave a projected finishing time of 2.58.07 assuming I could maintain the same pace. I cautiously felt confident that this could be 'the day', but as they said, marathon usually only starts at 20 miles. Garmin was now ahead of the official markers by around 200-250m.

My pace began to slow due to tiredness. At the same time, there were a couple of spots where the wind affected my pace. We crossed a long bridge towards the south part of the city and this spot was open to elements. There were also a couple of places near the end where wind tunnels existed. I took my last caffeinated gel at km 31 and then an isogel (a pre-mix gel and water inside a satchet) at km 35 as mitigants to avoid the probable slow down. 5km splits between km 30-35 and 35-40 were 21.54 and 22.03 respectively, so I was fading big time. The fourth 10k was covered in 43.57 or an average of 4.24 min/km. However, due to the time in the bank from the first half, I crossed the 40k mark in 2.50.35. This gave a projected 2.59.57 finishing time assuming a constant pace. I told myself that I needed around < 9.25 to shower myself in glory. I smelled blood and began to close in for the kill and pick up the ante.

Last 2.2 km (whichfelt like forever)
Yes, I duly picked up the ante but unfortunately, the increased effort didn't translate to an increased pace. My tank was almost empty. My stride length got shorter. My cadence was lower. My muscles were burning like hell. I felt dizzy and disoriented and on a couple of occasions, I felt that I almost fainted. I was akin to being in a hypnotized, trance zone where everything around me moved in slow motion. But suddenly, I was awaken when I saw a herd of runners began to sprint like being chased by lions. I recovered from the groggy-ness and saw a 2.58 on my watch and started to make one last push as we approached the 1989 Olympic Stadium. I began to look at my watch anxiously every few seconds and saw a 2.59 when I entered the stadium tunnel. Is this it? Could this be the day that I've been looking forward to?

Although, I ran the same race 2 years ago, but I couldn't exactly recall how far we had to run inside the stadium. When I saw the 2.59.15 on my watch and I seriously thought that marked the official 42 km mark (my garmin was already showing 42.2 km), meaning we only had to run the last 200m on the track. Woohoo! 200m in about 45 secs? Yesss, baby !!!
I left the stadium tunnel which was almost pitch dark and began to plant my jelly footsteps on the rubber athletic track. Now I was bathed in a daylight and I could clearly see everything inside the stadium.

To my horror, the finish line was not 200m from the tunnel as I envisaged. It was located 3/4 lap from the stadium entrance tunnel. My heart sunked and I said "I am fooked".

Whoever the Greek or spartan guy who first ran the marathon distance should have stopped at 42.095 km. To me, that 100m is worth 17secs….

The Aftermath:

During a ride back to the hotel, my mind was full of IF, IF, IF. What would happen IF I started the first half a tad slower, will this help me to avoid that 17secs? What would happen IF I rested my legs more instead of walking around the town before the race? What would happen if I take a cup of sport drink at km 40, will this keep my glucose level high and wake me up from my trance mode 17secs earlier? What would happen IF I do 18-week training plan and not the 12-week plan?

Perfect weather (except for the wind tunnels) and a good marathon prep. Will I ever get a chance like this again in the future?

In terms of marathon prep, I feel that the Pfitz plan suits me well. Although, the plan is very minimalist in terms of workouts (only once a week of tempo/speed session), but for a runner like me, this seems to be outweight by the endurance benefits from doing 2 medium long runs plus 1 long run plus 10-12km 'filler' recovery runs. Plus I didn't get injured at all during this cycle ! I also modified the plan a bit by incorporating workouts from other sources, such as Jack Daniels' infamous threshold-long run-threshold workout, Hanson's 2*6miles at sub-MP effort two weeks out, and an Aussie style fartlek (alternating fast & float recovery) and the combination of all these at least kept me in the hunt until the 40km mark.

So damn close to my lifetime running goal. Hmmm….maybe it's now time to move the 'post' to 2.55 ?

That's it for now! Time to head for a run, the road is waiting for me....

11 March 2012

Week 11 of 12

One week to go !!!
In previous years, I always felt that I wasn't training enough and still doing workouts close to the race in order to capture that last-minute fitness gain. But this time around, I felt that I have done enough !

For this cycle, my mileage is higher - last 10 weeks were 89, 88, 98, 105, 91,100, 109, 108, 84, 98 = avg 97 km. In previous training cycles, my average mileage is probably 10% lower but I did more intense speed and tempo sessions. This time I loosely followed the Pfitz program, which focused more on endurance, ie 1 long run, 2 medium long runs, and 1 workout; as compared to my normal structure of 1 long run, 1 medium long run, and 2 workouts. We'll find out whether this one works.

We will fly to Seoul on a red-eye flight Wednesday midnight, arriving in Seoul on Thursday morning. This leaves me a good 2.5 days to catch up on some sleep and acclimatize to the weather. Today's weather in Seoul is bloody COLD at between -5c and 2c with a windchill of -6c and windgust of 35 km/h. !!! Accordding to weather.com, this feels like -9c. The long-range forecast suggests it will be around -1c and 10c but with 60% chance of rain !!!!
Makes me think that maybe I should do marathons more frequently such as 3-4x a year. Waiting for that 'one fine day' with perfect conditions is like winning a lottery !

Mon 05-03-12
36mins easy run (av 5.20)
Easy run at Padang grass field.

Tue 06-03-12
10.5 km in 50mins, including Deek Quarters session
The program calls for 3*1600 at 5k pace, but I decided to do a Deek Quarter session instead. Rationale is that the program includes 2 tune-up races, but I didn't do any due to races inavailability and I thought a continuous session like this will bring a bit of pain Splits for 400m fast/200m floats: 86, 48, 86, 55, 85, 52, 88, 54, 88, 54, 87, 55, 90, 54, 89, 53, 43 = total 5k in 19:25. Paid the price for doing the first few 400s at 85s, resulting in a surival mode in the second half (slowed to just under 90 per 400). Anyway, it was a good practice since I haven't raced for 4 months. HR wasn't high at 171 with a high of 182 bpm (my Max is still in 190s, I think)

Wed 07-03-12
8+ km recovery run in 45mins (av 5.25)
Easy run around the river. Went for massage in the afternoon.

Thu 08-03-12
15 km in 69mins (av 4.36), including 2*3 miles tempo
This is outside the program, but just something that I normally did before some of my better marathons, a good MP-HMP tempo about 10 days before the race. In the past, I used to be too aggressive by doing 10-13km continuous tempo, but this time I decided for something more moderate. Did the first 3miles in 20.21 (av 4.14/km), 3.30 recovery, then the second in 19.19 (av 4.01 min/km, last 1k faster at 3.50s). All up, 9.6km worth of work in 39:40 (av 4.08). Felt quite OK throughout, helped by the decent weather right after the rain.

Fri 09-03-12
9+ km recovery in 52mins (av 5.30)
Easy run around the river.

Sat 10-03-12
20 km medium long run in 98mins (av 4.55)
Surprisingly legs aren't still that snappy even with taper. Maybe because I did 2 workouts this week, instead of 1 as envisaged in the program. Started with couple of slow ks (5.30-6.00 min/km), the moved to 5.00s for most of the run and finally picked up the pace to around 4.40 in the last 30mins

Total 70k in 5h49m (av 5.00)

04 March 2012

Week 9-10 of 12

Lots of workouts re-shuffling in the last 2 weeks due to a combination of work trip, family matters, and a couple of missed/failed workouts.

In the first 8 weeks, I'd say that I have followed the Pfitz program to the tune of around 90-95%. Missed some mileage here and there (e.g. my highest mileage was 108 km versus 113 in the plan), but I did all the scheduled workouts.

However, nothing resembled the program in the last 2 weeks. Essentially, my aim for Week 9-10 was to do a 'salvation job', i.e. 1) to minimize missed workouts/mileage as scheduled in the program; 2) doing make-up sessions on a couple of missed/deferred workouts; and 3) find the balance to achieve #1 and #2 while simulatenously trying to not over-tax the body.

I want to have a proper taper in Week 11 and 12, so Week 10 is essentially the last drop dead date for making training adjustments. The changes as follows:

- The deferred Race (10-15k) from Week 8 was replaced by 8*1300m @ Threshold in Week 9 (no race available, too lazy to do TT)
- Due to the above adjustment, Intervals (6*1000) scheduled in Week 9 was replaced by Yasso 8*800m in Week 10
- For the final long run of 32km in Week 9 which was cut short to 20k, I decided to leave as it is.
- Week 9 actual mileage is 25% lower than Pfitz program due to travel/family reasons. I decided not to chase the shortfall, but I did slightly did more kms Week 10
- The scheduled Race (8-10k) and 21km medium long run in Week 10 were 'integrated' into a single run which included 2*9km at MP

Sorry Mr Pfitz for being a bad boy….will try my best to follow the last 2 weeks schedules to the T :)

Two weeks left to Seoul…..

Mon 20-02-12
8 km recovery run in 42mins (av 5.22)
Went on a work trip to Aceh, a site of the tsunami disaster in 2004 and decades of civil wars. The good thing is that we stayed in a staff housing compound, so the place is safe and has less traffic. Tired legs from yesterday's 37km run.

Tue 21-02-12
13 km easy run in 67mins (av 5.10)
Found a quiet 2k loop around the complex and ran it 8 times. Also did 6*15secs hill strides on gentle hills
Wed 22-02-12
22 km in 102mins (av 4.37) - including 8*5mins tempo intervals (3.52 min/km)
Since I missed the schedule TT last week, I decided to do a replacement workout that slightly mimicked a TT intensity but with less stress. Found a 650m loop around the circumference of Arun football stadium which has a long gentle decline and then a short uphill to bring back the elevation drop to 0. After 3k warm up, did 5*1300m (2 laps) with recovery between 1.5-2.00 minutes. Splits 5.05, 5.02. 5.03, 5.02. 5.02, 5.00, 5.02. 4.54, total 10.4k worth of work in 40.10 (av 3.52 min/km). Surprisingly the effort didn't feel too hard. Hmm…perhaps the GPS overshoot the loop distance because it was akin to running round and round the track? Did 7km cool down to make it 22k for the day.

Thu 23-02-12
8 km recovery in 43mins (av 5.26)
Tired, heavy legs.

Fri 24-02-12
13 km easy in 66mins (av 5.07)
Felt a bit sluggish.

Sat 25-02-12
20 km medium long run in 96mins (av 4.50)
The schedule calls for 32km as final long run before entering the Taper phase. Ideally, I would like embed some MP running into the run, but today I was really off-form. About 5km into MP, I felt crap and shitty. My quads were on fire, presumably from the DOMS due to doing the Wed session in a course which had some downhills. The body also felt tired in general, as the work trip probably took a bit out of me. To make things worse, I was running at ECP which is about 10km long from end to end. Hence, after going out, I had to run back 10k to the place where I parked my car

Sun 26-02-12
OFF. I was hoping to do a slow 30km long run today to meet Pfitz target mileage of 70 miles (113km). But my son was unwell due to fever.

Total 84k in 6h58m (av 4.59)

Mon 27-02-12
17 km in 80mins - including Yasso 800s (av 2.54 per 800)
A deferred session from last week's scheduled intervals (Pfitz 6*1k at 5k pace). Decided for a Yasso because I thought 800s would be less painful than 1000s. A hot day with 35c heat index. Splits: 2.54.3, 2.55.2, 2.56.3, 2.55.2, 2.56.4, 2.56.9, 2.55.0, 2.48.8 = average 2.54 (or 2.56 excluding the last rep). Recovery was 2mins jog around the inner football field, except after reps #3 and #6 where I took a full ~3mins recovery

Tue 28-02-12
8.4 km recovery in 45mins (av 5.25)
Stiff leg from yesterday's workout, ran mostly on grass.

Wed 29-02-12
11.2 km in 60mins (av 5.23)
Easy run around the river.

Thu 01-03-12
22.4 km in 100mins - including 2*9 km @ sub-MP (av 4.11)
A substitute workout for the 8-10k TT in the Pfitz program. Went to East Coast Park and ran a 9km stretch between Big Splash and the water tap at the Country Club. Covered the first 9km in 37.39 (av 4.11 min/km) with splits 4.03, 4.10, 4.11, 4.11, 4.12, 4.10, 4.13, 4.14, 4.12 (av HR 163 bpm, cadence 192 per minute). Then I had 3mins rest for gel + drinks. The second 9 km was completed in 37.35 (av 4.10.5 min/km) with splits 4.12, 4.13, 4.15, 4.14, 4.13, 4.12, 4.13, 4.05, 3.55 (av HR 170 bpm, cadence 192 per minute). Looking from a different angle, in the first segment, my heart had to beat 680 times to cover 1km. The efficiency worsened by 5% to 710 bpm in the second segment, but I am not too concerned given I went for a kick in the last mile and there was of course, the dehydration element. Was hoping to run more at MP, but had to go home to drop my son at school.

Fri 02-03-12
9 km recovery in 49mins (av 5.27)
Ran back and forth a 500m wooden boardwalk

Sat 03-03-12
30 km easy long run in 150mins (av 5.00)
Final long run before 2-weeks taper. Tired legs and felt sluggish.

Total 98k in 8h04m (av 4.58)