Monday, November 10, 2014

Keep on Running

Much has happened in my running journey since my last post.  After the weird FM that was Singapore Marathon 2012, I was determined to try again.  Not only did I want to do more FM's, I wanted to finish them strong.

So, I decided to try a new plan - the Hanson Marathon Method (HMM). had been featuring articles on it, and I was suitably intrigued that I bought the book and actually tried to follow the plan.

Boy, was it hard.  HMM calls for 6 days of running, most weeks I could only manage 5, sometimes 4 , due to work and personal constraints.  The Thu tempo runs grew ever longer, and since I usually ran in the evenings, some days my runs finished at 9:30pm.

But gradually I began to feel stronger.  I felt more ready for the KL Marathon, the race I targeted.  But the heavy haze in June 2013 forced the postponement of the race to Oct.  I was frustrated but kept at the plan, although the runs dwindled to 3 to 4 per week.  Finally, it was time to see if all the hard work paid off.

And it did!  Well, partially.  I did manage a 10 minute PB from the Singapore Marathon (4:41). I ran strongly up till km32, but I ran out of fuel.  Luckily, I had gels with me which managed to keep me going till the end.

On a whim, I decided to try an ultra 2 weeks after that - the Back 2 Endurance at KL Lake Gardens.  This is one of those events where you try to run as much as you can in 12 hours.  I figured I'll just go at a very easy pace and see how long I can last.

The race was quite fun - the ultra community in KL is quite small and close knit, there was plenty of food and laughter as we ran loops round and round Lake Gardens (2.3km per loop).  My legs ached like mad after 50k and I finally stopped at 63k.

Suitably stoked, I crazily signed up for another ultra in March 2014 - the Gunung Nuang Ultra.  Little did I know that this required running on very technical trails up a steep mountain.  Surprisingly, it was not the climbing that broke me, it was the coming down.  This is because going downhill really trashes the quads.  The first 30k was fun and exciting, but the last 20k was just trying to survive.

I got hit by a sciatica injury after that, and had to go for treatment by a chiropractor.  Luckily the lady doctor that treated me knew what she was doing and after 4 therapy sessions I felt much better.

But in the midst of that I had already signed up for the Borneo International Marathon in KK in May.  So, I decided to do a slow and steady race in KK.  I was under-trained, and by the time I reached 25k, I was already alternately walking and running.  The weather in KK was super hot towards the end of the race, but I survived it and finished in 5:16.

I took stock of my running, and decided that my aerobic base was weak, and with that, I went for the Maffetone method.  This is where most of the mileage is at very easy paces and the heart rate is kept low.  The idea is that this will stimulate mitochondria growth and enzymes which enable better usage of body fat as fuel.

I was aiming for the KL Marathon in Oct 2014, and about 4 weeks out, I realized that I was a bit under-trained.  I decided not to try for a PR, but instead try to see how far I could go in running a strong but sustainable pace.  Unfortunately, I made a mistake of eating late night supper (1 am in the morning?!), which caused major stomach upsets along the way, and I ended in the portable loos twice during the race, losing about 6 minutes in the process.  But I surprised myself by running strong throughout and only walking less than a few hundred metres in total (on some steep slopes in the dreaded Bukit Tunku stretch).  My last 5k was strong and I managed to finish in 4:54.

After some thinking and analysis, I've come to the following conclusions:

  • After doing Maffetone this year, I realized that I've been doing the Hanson plan all wrong.  The main problem was I have been doing the easy runs and the tempo runs too fast.  The easy runs have to be Maffetone pace, while the tempo runs has to be at the lower end of the HR range.
  • Mini Mars bars, PowerBar gels and Gatorade works best for me for refueling.  I need about 6 gels and 2 mini Mars bars to get me through 42k :)
  • There was not enough consistency in my mileage to make a difference to create a training effect.  Between 45 to 60k a week is required to nudge the needle.
  • Using shoes 1.5 sizes larger makes for less black toenails and toe blisters.

So, I've decided to switch back to HMM, and this time I'm determined to follow it more closely.  Let's see if it'll help me to finally crack 4:30 in 2015 :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Most Magical 20 km

Another post about running :)

After my terrible marathon experience at the 2011 edition of the Singapore Marathon, I was determined not to repeat my mistake so I put in more effort for the 2012 race.  I even managed to complete two 30k runs during my training.

One of the key decisions of a marathon race is deciding which pace you want to run at.  Aim too low and you feel demotivated that you might not get a PB.  Aim too high and you set yourself up for a crash and burn second half.

According to all those running calculators online, I should be able to do a 6:20/km pace.  So I was really tempted to go for a 6:15 pace.  In the end I decided to play safe and went for 6:30.

So, on the morning of the race, I looked out the for the 6:30 pacers, and moved to the front of the crowd so that I can tail the pacers as early as possible.  The pacers have colour coded balloons tied to them so that they are easy to spot.  This time around, things really went to plan and I was following the pacers within 1 km after the start.

And thus began the most magical 20 km of my running life so far.

You see, there were about another 20 to 30 runners who also decided to follow the 6:30 pacers, and it was evident most of them have trained well for the race.  So, after 1 km or so from the start, all of us settled into a rhythm.

We didn't say much to each other, everyone was just concentrating on maintaining their pace, although the pacers were joking with each other (the pace is obviously too easy for them).

And for the next 20 km, there we were, just gliding along in unison, the only sound the rhythmic soft landing of our shoes on the asphalt.  And I was keeping up comfortably with them.  I was elated and just wanted it to go on forever.

Alas, after 22 km, I started having IT band pain and had to drop off from the group.  The remaining 20 km was an exercise in perseverance.

But that first 20 km remained in my memory long after the race was over.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Running (healthily) again

After my posterior tibial tendonitis injury in 2009, 2010 was a year of recovery for me.  I ran less than 400km that year, and every run was accompanied by pain and the fear that it would flare up again.

2011 was another year of slow recovery, but things finally picked up towards the end of last year when I managed to match my half marathon PB (which I set in 2009) at the Penang Bridge marathon.

Then came the disaster that was the Singapore Marathon, where I screwed up my hydration and threw up at km 10.  I didn't recover after that and finished in a total of 6 hours by walking most of the way.

Finally, in 2012 I was able to run almost injury free, and have hit almost 750km to date.
But through all this, I believe the one thing that really helped was improving my running form, specifically how  Chi Running teaches it.  It wasn't easy to get the hang of it at first, but once the basic concepts are grasped, running felt more effortless, more natural and flowing, a bit like tai chi, you might say.

Of course, changing running form is not for everyone, if you have been running pain free all this while then there is no point in taking the risk to change your running form.  But the ideas shared in Chi Running make a lot of sense and it may be worthwhile checking out their Youtube videos to find out more.

By the way, I'm not affiliated in any way to the Chi Running folks, just sharing my personal experience :)

Here's one Youtube video on heel striking:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Saying Tak Nak to The Star

My blog has been gathering cobwebs recently, but something has been getting my goat for the last few weeks that I cannot resist putting in an entry about it.

I have been reading The Star for almost 25 years now (since 1986), and in all those years, while there has been a slight bias in their news, it was definitely not as bad as NST.

But the since late 2010 till present, I couldn't help but notice the way their op-eds have been bashing/running down certain political parties, and making certain other parties look good instead.  Not only that, I also began to notice the way they filter/place their news to make certain folks look good/bad.

Take the news on Jan 27 2011 that a Commission of Inquiry will be set up about Teoh Beng Hock's case, for example.  On page 2, there was an article about how MCA has been lobbying the PM to get the commission set up.  My foot!!  This totally ignores the selfless efforts and countless hours that have been put in by folks like Gobind Singh Deo and countless others in helping Beng Hock's sister gather support to find out the truth.  Its as if MCA is the only one who has been helping.

So, since a few weeks ago, I have been thinking a lot about quitting my daily habit of reading The Star every morning together with my morning coffee.

And the more I think about it, the more I realize that I don't need it any more.  I mean, news wise, I am a subscriber to Malaysiakini, and there are countless other portals such as The Edge Daily, Malaysia Today, etc, etc where I can get news.  For classifieds, I realized that I have been buying stuff from forums for more than two years now.   Heck, and has much more Car for Sale listings than The Star!  Even buying/renting property, there are countless portals you can go to.  The Sun even offers their paper online for free, if you can't pick up a copy from your office building.

So, I guess the only person who will be unhappy is my "paper lama" man.  So, The Star, goodbye to you and your self serving articles and op-eds, goodbye to your selling out of your integrity to serve your political owners. It has been a great 25 years, but sorry to say, you have lost your soul.  Adieu.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Visit to Anfield

One of the highlights of our recent UK trip was definitely the visit to Anfield, the home of the Liverpool football club.  Despite being an Arsenal fan (!), its hard not to be moved by the rich history and heritage of LFC.  My friend Siva and his wife kindly treated us to a tour of the stadium :)


Outside the impressive entrance to the Museum and Tour Centre

At the main stand of the stadium, with the Kop visible at the back

The team dressing room - imagine the words of the famous managers that used to echo around here :)

Sitting in Rafa's spot, now occupied by Roy Hodgson

The tin in front definitely reserved for Fergie when he comes visiting!

The famous sign that visiting teams see when they come out to the pitch

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


In 12 years of driving, I've had my fair share of breakdowns, but they are often few and far in between.

But in a period of 4 months this year, I had three car breakdowns, which should count as a record of some sort.

The first was in April, when my car battery went dead near a friend's house in Serdang.  AAM, which was usually fast and reliable, came after 4 hours.

Then our rental car suffered a snapped fan belt somewhere in Donegal, Ireland during our recent UK trip.  It was a surreal experience, being towed back to Belfast on the night England played their most dire World Cup match ever (no prizes for guessing which one :) )

Last Saturday seemed like the usual, albeit slightly packed weekend.  Fetched the wife to see a lawyer, then a doctor (!).  Met an old friend at Sunway Pyramid.  Then down to KL Pavilion to meet my classmate to discuss a class assignment.  This was followed by a productive trip to PC Fair at KLCC :)

I decided to go back via the Maju Expressway, exiting at Putrajaya then heading towards the Nusaputra Interchange.  About 2 km from the interchange, I suddenly heard a pop.  Then I felt the car wobble.  Then the dreaded klunk klunk sound.  I had blown out my left rear tyre.

No problem, I thought.  I called my wife to let her know I had a puncture. Took out the spare tyre and the jack.  Getting the car jacked up was easy enough, but trying to take off the wheel nuts was another matter.  As I put both feet on the wheel brace to turn the nuts, self doubt began to creep in.  They were not even budging, let alone turn!

10 minutes later and drenched in sweat, I weighed my options.  My phone battery had died, so I couldn't call anyone.  Suddenly I felt alone and isolated, despite the vehicles zooming past me.

For some reason, I thought running back home via the Nusaputra Interchange was the best option and set out.  But a short distance later, a car stopped and the guy asked me where I was going.  After explaining matters, he offered to change the tyre for me.  Halleluiah!  But then came another twist.  After loosening three of the nuts, the last one just wouldn't budge.  The guy took out a walkie talkie and explained that he was speaking to someone at the Putrajaya toll, about 3 km away.  Then he said help was on the way and I should stay put in the car.

And so I waited.  And waited.

Finally, I decided help wasn't coming.  The thought of trying to wave someone down never crossed my mind.  I just thought Malaysians would be too suspicious to stop.

So I ran to the Putrajaya toll.  I knew they had a PLUS Ronda that can help.  An old man met me at the toll office, and agreed to send the PLUS Ronda, but warned that it could take a while.  I ran back to the car.

As I waited in the car for PLUS Ronda to come, I suddenly realized that its been a long while since I really had nothing to do.  I mean really nothing.  Nothing to read, nothing to watch, no one to call, nothing to surf.  Just me and nothing.

As I sat there taking in this unfamiliar sensation, I realized its been a long while since I prayed without any distractions.  And so as the words tumbled out, my thoughts began to gain exceptional clarity.

PLUS Ronda came 45 minutes later, and two nice gentlemen worked together to undo the stubborn nut.

As I sat in my living room after some food and a cold drink later, I reflected on the experience in the car.  To be helpless before the Lord and without any distractions is indeed a rare experience, and something that we seldom voluntarily create for ourselves.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I've Got HSBB!

It all started when my phone line went down due to lightning, and TM took ages to fix it.  Strangely enough, my Streamyx was still running.

So, when TM announced that Unifi is now available in Puchong, I bit the bullet and rushed to the nearest TM shop to apply for it.

The turnaround was very fast - they called back within 3 days to make an appointment, and the installation was done within one week of application.

But be warned - the installation is quite lengthy, so be prepared to apply for leave.  Four guys came to my house at 9.30 am and got to work.  First, they pulled a fibre optic cable from the telephone pole to the back of my house.

Next, they installed the fibre termination box.  Due to the delicate nature of fibre optic cables, up to this point the installation had taken 3 hours.

After that, they drilled a hole in the wall and pulled through the cable into my study room.  They then set up the Broadband Termination Unit, the Wireless Router and the IPTV Set Top Box.  Since this is during a promotion period, the BTU, Wireless Router, DECT Phone and IPTV Box are all FOC.  A good deal!

And I have HSBB!  So, now I have - a 5 Mbps line, a new phone line (I get a new number), and extra channels to watch on TV.  They also have Video on Demand, although the selection is limited at the moment.  For now, you get 100 points per month free to spend on VOD - a movie is 10 points for 24 hours.

How fast is the line?  I got the entire season of Glee in 4.5 hours :)

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