Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tokyo Marathon 2013: Race Review

Cut to the chase: 4:13:01

If you have the time ... read below ..

I dont think i have ever started any of the 7 marathons i have run with even the slightest clue as to how the race would progress for me. Doubts about my readiness, about my training or lack  thereof, about the ability to cross the next 42kms on foot are always my irrepressible friends, but each of these friends, come with their own allies, namely excitement and anticipation ... and this dichotomy of thoughts and feelings is precisely why i line up with thousands others every once in a while to experience some human propulsion (and no, farting isnt a sport ... yet). This feeling is just impossible to reproduce except for those few hours when you are actually in a "Race".

My ideal time target would have been something like 3:50, if only to show an improvement from last year. However, i have learnt now, that to go for a goal time is approaching the race from the wrong end first (atleast a goal time without any basis, but if you are a seasoned runner and know your own capabilities well, then a goal time is a good way to base your training on).

As much as January was a great month in training , February was quite the opposite and the fact that i had run only 80kms in Feb until race day, coupled with the incessant travel since the first week of Feb meant that on race day, i was left questioning myself as to how best run the race and what should i adopt as a pacing strategy.

Come race-day and i arrived at the start area about 80 minutes from the start time. It was brutally cold unsurprisingly, with weather forecast at 2deg and windy so the wind chill dropped the temps even further. I was adequately dressed in the sense that i was not shivering like a tuning fork but even then, it was difficult to maintain any warm-up effects so i decided to just use the first few kms as warm-up before settling down.

The race got underway, and i started out to find the answer to the question "How would i fare today?". The first few kms are with a very gentle net declination so i started out cautiously but given that it was colder than last year, it took longer to get into a rhythm .. the first 5 kms whizzed by and i was enjoying myself enough to just take in the surroundings, not switching on the mp3 player and also trying to spot all the cosplay runners. Around the 6th km or so, i found myself moving quite smoothly and looked down at my Garmin to see i was running a tad faster than i should be. Willfully slowing down was obviously out of the question as it would have been a sensible thing to do and i am not known for my sensibilities in running. So since i felt good, i just held the pace and kept it steady. At around the 10km turn, i saw the elites go through in the opposite direction but didnt manage to spot any of the wild animals that must have been chasing them, for how anybody could run that fast unless their lives were at stake is beyond me. Gel strategy was different from last time - so first one was at 15, 2nd one at 23, 3rd one at 30, 4th one - i am not sure when. I went through half in 1:57ish or so and held sub-4 pace until 36kms. After that, one quad started protesting a bit. The other quad decided to join in on the fun. Seeing the obvious din that was going on, one antisocial hamstring decided to become extra uptight and just shut shop. This posed a peculiar problem. One of speed. Of Hobbling. I was going to become a Hobblit from the Shire. So there I was ... dragging one feet behind the other .. looking for some external source of inspiration that was trying to avoid me as best as it could. So with sub-4 out of the window, and with sub-5 comfortably in the bag (qualifying time for Comrades), i considered doing the Zombie walk for fun, aimlessly moving forward with glazed eyes, and raised arms, staggering sideways and all that but since i wanted to return to Tokyo again some other time in the future, abstained from doing so. Crossed the finish line finally in 4:13 and then stretched a bit before doing all the usual stuff, collect medal, water, isotonic, towel etc etc ..
One good thing about my stay this time was that i was only 2 minutes walk from the finish point and that was a huge advantage for someone who has just finished a marathon. I went over, had a quick shower, and then went to an italian restaurant nearby where i waited for another 30 minutes before getting a table and gorging on some creamy food.

So now, i have to set my sights on doing a decent job of training for Comrades.

Edited to add: I started to write this race review with the intent to add a lot more specifics on how each stage of the race progressed but as always, i got bored midway and just ended the piece quickly enough. If i get the urge,  I will try and add some more spice later ... 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

2013 unwinds ...

Well .. Yesterday was New Year and today, January is nearly gone. Atleast thats what it feels like to me - this month has just gone whizzing by. And I sure do hope that the start i have had for 2013 is a sign of things to come for the rest of the year.

January has gone largely according to my training plan and i am quite happy to have found the wherewithal to follow through with it. I slowly ramped up mileage from my Dec resurrection for 3 weeks, followed by 1 cutback week before ramping it up again for 2 more weeks prior to my taper down over the next 3 weeks until race day. I have been running consistently, have been running different routes (although the Bishan PCN is like a default option), had fun running, experienced some very low lows and many enjoyable highs. With 2 days to go in the month, i have already covered 245kms and remained injury-free in doing so, thanks to my largely easy pace running. Speed is something that i have just not been able to train for much but once Tokyo is done, i will start to incorporate more speed workouts during the week as i train for Comrades on June 2nd.

Generally, i alternate my recovery runs with every other type of run i do - so that i dont continuously build stress in the body which may cause injuries later. Also, for my longer runs, i have diligently had either a whey protein drink or a recovery drink, both of which help get back to normal faster after a hard effort and which makes preparation for the next run that much easier. The only thing about whey protein is that it is keeping me away from my weight loss goals i had set for myself before the start of the new year (that is to be at a racing weight of 71kgs).

4 weekends from now, i will put my training to the test. The hope is that even if i have a bad day at the race, i can come under 4:15 and if i have a good day, come close to 4. We shall see what the future has in store ......

Just remembered ... on one of those rare occasions that i was running on a treadmill, last Monday, in a hotel in Osaka, i crossed 5000 kms in career mileage .. yippeee !!!!!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 is now a thing of the past .. and with it, my running during those 365 days. Its been such a mixed bag for me that i am wary of describing the entire year with just a single adjective ... i came off a slump in end 2011 with no running and 4kgs overweight in Nov 2011 after Deepavali. I started a 3 month training plan in Dec 2011 to run the Tokyo Marathon in Feb 2012 and miraculously ran a sub-4 on just those 3 months of training. With the beggar hitting the lottery jackpot, the fall from grace was swift with the next 4-5 months of complete slacking and doing very little running before finding the groove again in August where i clocked 230+kms and probably that was too much too soon and again the familiar pattern of a drop in mileage happened to no running in Sept-Oct-Nov whence i lined up for the Osaka marathon and crawled to a 5:52 finish. I decided to change this totally erratic running behavior starting Dec where i found myself in the same place as i had been in 2011 - no running and 4 kgs overweight.

 So my plan for Dec 2012 was to just run consistently and easy and get out of the door often enough. That has happened and i have run 175kms in Dec mostly very easy (my slowest monthly pace for the entire year i think).

The New Year is now upon us and i have tried to keep my running objectives very simple:-

1. Run consistently (week after week, month after month): This has been the biggest bane of my life and where i have maximum room for improvement. No matter what, i should be running a minimum of 45 kms every week.

2. Run variety: I need to add some mix to both terrain and workout type to what i am doing currently. My current routes are restricted to Bishan PCN, McRitchie and Home Slopes (some slopes near my place). I want to actively add Mount Faber, Bukit Timah Hill, Old Upper Thomson Road and ECP (for LSDs) to the mix.

3. Lose weight and never binge: My weight has largely been in line with my erratic running. I run, i lose weight.  I slack, i gain it back. I want to as a first goal, get down to 71kgs and stay there for a while before trying to go down to 68kgs.

4. Have fun running: A constant in all my years of running (i will be entering my 4th year of reasonably regular running).

5. Travel to Run: This is more of a wish than an objective. First up i hope to line up again at Tokyo end Feb.

I hope this blog helps to crystallize my objectives in mind as well - to an extent, that it becomes second nature for me to execute the training plan i have put together for each of the upcoming races. I will write-in again at the end of this month to see how the first month has been.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Army Half Marathon 2012: Race Review

I ran the AHM in 1:57:12. Its definitely not the time i was shooting for (which was 1:50-1:52) and i am actually ruing the lost opportunity because the weather was really outstanding. Yet, i dont feel too bad about the outcome for a few reasons and am motivated to improve upon this significantly in the days to come.

After 3 months of aboslute slacking, August was a good month in overall mileage terms as i hit 230+kms. It was a sudden pick up in running volume (as shown in the graph below, courtesy of where i log my runs) but i managed to navigate this without any injury and hoping that my body would remember how it used to run back when i was training for the Tokyo Marathon.

I was quite eager to actually "race" this and managed to even keep my running ongoing while i was traveling on work. Piled on a whole lot of random carbs on Saturday and then it was race day before i knew it. I woke up at 3.30am, finished with the morning ablutions, made myself a small cup of coffee and got donned in my pre-race wear. I am obsessive enough to lay out everything i need for a race the previous night and this time was no different either. Got out of the house at 4am and parked at Raffles city by 4:20am and then made my way to the baggage area and did my pretense of a warm-up. 25mins before the race was to start, i downed a gel and that was to be my only pre-race nutrition, not counting a small handful of nuts i had gobbled before i left my house in the morning.

The race got underway and i was quite keen on clearing the initial few kms quickly to beat the crowd and in trying to do this, i had to weave in and out a fair bit leading to a more than desirable variation in pace. For instance, the 1st km was covered in 5:11 but the next took 5:41 .. this dance on the road continued for the first 5 kms after which the need to brake decreased rapidly. It was still quite dark and there were parts of the route where people fell down, sprained their ankles and what not but i successfully managed to navigate those parts unscathed. I kept focusing on the distance ahead and as has become my habit now, didnt look at the watch at all but ran by feel. Managed to grab a few sips of water at each water point and kept going without stopping at any of them. At around 12kms, a moderate stitch came on which caused me to slow down; by cutting my pace, i managed to chase it away. In the 13th km, as per my plan i took my gel and continued to keep going eager to finish the reminder of the race on target. I cleared the 15th km in 1:20 which put me exactly on pace for a 1:52 finish. At around 15.6km into the race, there was a small incline which had people breaking into a walk and i charged on, buoyed by my now-unfounded ability to run slopes so i picked up the pace going uphill and overtaking quite a few people. A few seconds later, i paid heavily for my folly when i was hit by the mother of all stitches that had taken lodging beneath my right ribs and had a relentless vice like grip on my breathing and overall muscle movement. I tried slowing down my pace and prayed for it to go away like it had in the 12th km but this time i was dealing with a well-matched foe. Not wanting to risk a total system shutdown, i just swallowed my pride or whatever little there was left of it and started to walk. I nervously kept checking my watch to see how badly this was going to hit me and wondered what i should now be aiming at, given that 1:52 had flown out of the window. I walked for a couple of minutes and then tried to gently jog to see if the stitch would go away - it seemed to just lurk in the background waiting to greet me once more should i speed up. (It was much like the inverse relationship between Dennis Quaid and Sandra Bullock in the movie Speed, except that here it was that i shouldnt exceed a specific target). I tried my luck and felt ok for a few hundred metres before getting a really big urge to just stop. It took a lot of effort to banish that thought from my mind and i slowly kept the feet moving, trying to look every which way and find sources of inspiration to help continue the race. At no point in time was i ever in doubt about finishing the race, it was just a question of what time i would do it in. With 1km to go, i decided to step up the pace and risk the stitch coming on and while it looked like it just might, i ran out of real estate and across the finishing line. Collected my medal, had a 100+, caught up with some of my friends, had a nice decent breakfast and headed home.

The one thing that i didnt want to write at the very beginning is about my travel prior to the race. I was in Vienna and Zurich on work, in the week prior to the race and as per my original travel plan was supposed to come back on Sunday morning. However, i had to run this race and i scheduled my flights so that i reached home on Saturday evening at 5pm. Went to sleep at 11pm and got up at 3.30am and was out of the house by 4am. So within 12 hours of landing in Singapore, i had lined up for an half marathon. I cant say i felt any Jet lag, the flight to Singapore (via Frankfurt) while long at 12 hours, was still comfortable and even the less than 5 hours of sleep the night before didnt have me drowsy in the morning after waking up. Therefore i believe the race performance was a very direct indicator of current state of fitness than of mitigating factors such as the long distance travel so close to the race.

Next up is the Changi Prison Run 10km race next Sunday. Last year was a disaster where i blew up after running sub-5 pace for the first 6kms and ended up finishing in 1:04. This year i will try to be a little wiser ......

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Home slopes ... and misc

Ran a hard 12km this evening (without water) on the slopes near my home - was a very good run for different reasons least of which was the fact that i was able to maintain my stride in the second half of the run without killing myself. Also i think the slopes became "easier" (actually it wouldnt have) the 3rd time around or i had become numb to the pain; either ways, managed to get through the workout without too much trouble. Original plan was to run 17-18kms at M&Ms but that got canned due to a combination of reasons (couldnt wake up on time in the morning as i didnt sleep too well the night before etc).

Weighed in after the run at 70.5 which is good and bad and not surprising. Definitely beats being 74.5 from just a few weeks back. I think weight is stabilizing around 72kgs or thereabouts - its from here that the weight loss is going to be an uphill battle. Will i ever see 68 kgs again? :)

Also got my supplies of whey protein and BCAA today so unlike last time where i had to throw 60% of the contents due to expiry, i hope to fully utilize all that i have bought thus far. Also got Endurox R4 yesterday only to come home and see that i already had it from sometime before and had just forgotten about it. Picked up Glutamine as well to experiment with some supplements.

My training plan to Osaka is just a melting pot of whatever i want to throw into it. The only thing i want to do is to keep the broad structure in place and then play around whatever is inside .. maintain good aerobic volume (easy runs, high volume); do a weekend long run, atleast 1 speed workout (usually tempo) during the week and run as many recovery runs as i want to. Hoping to run atleast 25kms every weekend in October but thats a pipe dream at the moment (need to build towards that in September). 

Also, god willing, "Up" should happen next year.