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 :)

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