Monday, September 28, 2015

Boston Marathon 2016: My Second Slot

I earned my second Boston Marathon slot two Fridays ago.

It came as a surprise as I did not expect to get confirmation so soon. I registered on Wednesday, on the second-tier (more than 10 minutes faster than my BQ) of submission of my entry.

I look forward to racing on Patriot's Day next year. I aim to earn a BQ there, as several of my friends have done for years.

Run Clinic 2015

I gave a running clinic two Saturdays ago. It was, essentially, about my lessons learnt from racing in marathons and triathlons. Dubbed 'Run Less, Run Faster to a BQ', about 50 participants turned up on a hazy, afternoon to hear me talk about my 11 years of Ironman training as well as racing in marathons.

One of my inspirations to do the Boston Marathon, 83-year-old Mr Kr Hong Fatt (on my left). Pris Chew is the author of the blog,

A summary of my clinic (minus the 5km run, as the air quality was deemed 'Unhealthy' at a PSI of about 150), was featured in Pris Chew's award-winning blog. Enjoy!

Additional data that was missed out were:

1) I eat clean, generally, following the 80:20 Rule. I have as much vegetables as I can eat in my meals.
2) Tart cherry juice is great for reducing muscle soreness. I learnt about this while watching an episode of 'The Doctors'.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Trust Your Base

Trust your base. I don't mean the 'bass', and treble.

Your base is your foundation. In endurance sports, your base is your 'aerobic base'. It is one of the main engines that drives your ability to 'go far and long'. Yet, the aerobic engine is shrouded in misnomers and confusion.

To build your aerobic engine, let's review the mathematics of heart-rate. Using Phil Maffetone's approach: 180 minus AGE is your Maximum Heart Rate. Never exceed this, when building your aerobic foundation. Even if you have to slow down, and walk, keep committed to this heart-rate limit. Once your heart-rate falls at the same intensity of work, you can then step it a notch higher. The main goal and intention is to teach your body to be more effective in using fat as a main source of fuel. Today, the popular term is applying the ketone-diet. You can train on an empty stomach, or breakfast-free. I use Bullet Coffee (with coconut oil) to run up to 2 hours or ride up to three hours.

Your aerobic base will buoy your anaerobic system, or higher-intensity workouts. It will also relieve stress on your body, reducing the chance of injuries, sleep better, and recovery faster.

Leadership Lessons: Return to basics. Maintain 'Beginner's Mind'. Learning and re-learning can be useful, whether you are a specialist, expert, consultant, teacher or champion. There is something to be gleaned from each experience, perspective and result.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pace Your Way To A Faster Run

With running-mate and pacer, Melvin How in Gold Coast Marathon 2013.
The difference to earning a new PB/PR in your running, may be more than just more training. Your choice of race, climate, and use of pacers can make a big difference in slicing minutes off your time, and finishing strong.

In my best races, I almost followed a pacer. The pacers are either the officially-appointed ones, or those I designated to follow - my friends.

In 2013, I was pacing with my friend Melvin How for the early part of the Gold Coast Marathon, until his injury side-lined him. He still held a decent pace and an honorable finish. I earned a PB and BQ, thanks to his early fast-pacing. We were holding a 4:30min/km pace, and both aiming a Boston Qualifier (BQ).

This year, I followed the official Gold Coast Marathon Pacers, until the 2km mark, where I had to pee. Costing me precious minutes, and losing sight of the 3:15min/km pacers, I had to catch up with familiar faces. I designated them (in my mind) as my pacers, and kept up with them until my pace led me to overtake them. A few of the F1 Runners from Singapore kept me company for parts of the first 21km. My occasional running and racing-buddy, Andrew Cheong was my other pacer, who I kept in my gun-sight for most of the 42.195km. I was concerned about holding my mild lead of less than one minute over him. This year, my focus on slopes and hills gave me more confidence over the mild rolls of the Gold Coast. 

Thanks, pacers for egging me on!

Leadership Lessons: Be broadminded to run with faster runners. Ask permission to stick closely with these pacers. They can give us a massive psychological boost. The Gold Coast Marathon Pacers are so accurate that they guide you through to your potential PB. They also actively cheer you on, with positive energy and explicit encouragements. It is perfectly fine to follow them. Followers can prosper!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Osteoporosis And The Athlete

Remember the film ‘Unbreakable’, where Elijah Price/Mr Glass keeps breaking his bones? What a horrid way to live!

1 in 2 women, and 1 in 4 men over-50 years will experience a bone fracture because of osteoporosis. With such scary statistics, and in the light of deficiency from foods, we will need to deliberately reduce such a situation.
The infographic illustrates the urgency of keeping ourselves healthy and active, to reduce the occurrence of this debilitating condition. Invasive surgery such as hip and knee replacements, are not long-term solutions as these mechanical parts, too, need to be replaced through constant use.

As an active athlete, experiencing wear-and-tear, of the body is a major concern. Our bones are our endoskeleton, supporting the amazing muscles and connective tissues that keep us 'in' place. When bones heal, they become naturally stronger. However, osteoporosis can hamper normal recovery and cause us to be structurally unstable. A weak skeleton and musculature can encourage the onset of injury, which is unhealthy and unpleasant.

With the collaboration of the American Recall Centre, more preventive advice will follow soon. Meanwhile, stay physically-active (walking), get off the chair regularly, eat bone-enhancing foods, and spend some time in the sunlight.

Running Into Your Fifties

I will hit the half-century mark at year's end, with about 11 years of endurance racing and training in the bank. What have I learnt in my years of sustained efforts and performances?

LESS IS MORE: As I enter a new age-group (AG), I have found that more rest and recovery enhances my performance. By performance, I mean either increased speediness, or retarding the degradation process of performance. Between my Boston Qualifiers (BQ) of 2013 and 2015, my time was slower by 54 seconds. In effect, it was negligible as I lost about two minutes for a forced bathroom break. Plus, I prepared for this third BQ in less than six weeks. My usual BQ preparation is 12 weeks, or 3 months, with 3-4 workouts per week. All my runs are done at tempo-paced, fartlek, or time-trial. Intensity supercedes 'junk miles'. In the off-season, low-heartrate, aerobic activity is crucial to building up the 'fat-burning, aerobic-base'. I subscribed to Phil Maffetone's approach to building sustained endurance fitness.

EATING WELL IS KEY: With an orientation to eating 'clean', and applying the 80:20 Rule, my recovery is much better. I have included more essential fats into my diet, increasing it to about 20-30 percent of my overall diet. What has changed is including extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, butter, eggs, and fish oils. An increased use of antioxidant-laden nutrients such as krill oil, deep-sea fish oils (Omega-3 fatty acids), pomegranate juice, tart cherry juice (for reducing muscle soreness), colourful vegetables, probiotics (gut bacteria), and ginger. Eliminate or reduce allergy-causing foods, as it sabotages your overall health.

STRENGTH TRAINING IS A MUST: Muscle mass loss is significant once we pass the 40-year mark. I learnt the hard way that maintaining and even increasing muscle mass (lean tissue) is critical to running better. Long-distance runners, marathoners and ultra-marathoners are too 'skinny'. The emaciated look can be perceived as unhealthy. A weak upper-body supported by stronger lower-limbs, may jeopardise potential speed required for attending to hills, and the last burst of sprint speed for the finish or PR/PB. Commit to a gamut of regular, functional-strength-focused activities like yoga, core-strength, cross-training (e.g. riding and swimming), circuit-training, plyometrics, CrossFit, and the like. Gaining lean muscle weight (and thus, strength) is fine, and would not affect your performance.

STAYING MOTIVATED: Performing well physically, gives one a heightened sense of confidence. The occasional PB/PR can be empowering, whilst poor performance can riddle my race-plans with doubt. The key is to review each performance and learn what can be prevented, reduced or eliminated in future races. Sometimes, it can be physiological and beyond my control. Focus only on what you can control. The nice thing about 'aging up' and entering a new AG, would be the implicit or explicit allowances on qualification times, or potential podium placings in the Masters' category. My static time for my BQ, has recently earned me another 5 minutes for my BQ lottery. I look forward to a slot in the 120th edition of Boston Marathon with a margin of over-12 minutes for my new AG.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

How To Earn A BQ For Boston Marathon

With an upcoming running clinic, I would like to share some of my thoughts about how you may qualify for a Boston Qualifier (BQ). Be warned: My approach may not be aligned with yours. Although sound, it is non-conventional, perhaps because of my age and background in multi-discipline, endurance, sports.

The Boston Marathon, is the holy grail for serious marathoners, and it sits parallel with Ironman triathletes for a dream-ticket or podium-slot for the Ironman World Championships in Kailua, Kona. These events and many others in the endurance sports, including ultra-marathons and desert-runs, and Mount Everest represent the zenith in one's training/racing history.
I have earned three BQs, in 2011, 2013, and 2015
I completed my first Boston Marathon in 2014 in 'Boston Strong', and hope to earn another slot amongst the 30,000 on Patriot's Day 2016. My approach for all three BQs were similar and minimalist.

1) I ran, predominantly, on-road: My chosen races were all road-races, thus, I raced specifically, on tar/tarmac.
2) I raced both on-road and off-road/trail (ultra-marathon, 52.5km) to engage different muscles and responses. In my last BQ at Gold Coast Marathon, I integrated off-road sections and some slopes/bridges, which seemed to help me finish strong (although I ran much less).
3) I trained 3-4 days per week, mostly single sessions. Additional aerobic stimulus came from riding indoors or outdoors (2-3 hours per session). My total training mileage per week has been about 40-50km per week.
4) My run training was based, mainly, on one long/two short sessions - all at tempo/time-trial pace. I eliminated 'Junk Miles'. [I subscribe to 'Run Less, Run Faster' philosophy, although I intuitively applied that since 2010 after my biking accident.]
5) My workouts include 2 X 10km, plus one long 21-24km, all done at Tempo or Fartlek (. I did no track intervals, hill-work, and very few group-running. Consistency and discipline is key! A short run is better than no run. However, skip runs if you are feeling unwell, as illness sabotages your training plan.
6) I included one more run/race before my marathon preparation block (12-week). The race could be a 10km, 21km or 32km. A 32km race or run would be done 2-3 weeks before race-day.
7) I cross-trained (cycling and swimming) all-year-round, as required of a triathlete. I race two Ironman triathlons annually since 2006, so that included two in-race, marathons already. 
8) I did some strength and conditioning workout, using bodyweight (circuit), kettle-bells, or free-weights. I relearnt my gait, focused on mid-sole (as forefoot running may have led to my first hairline toe fracture in 2012, and a dismal Berlin Marathon timing of 4:00 hours).
9) As racing is a personal event based on tactics and strategy, I raced regularly to accustom myself to race-pace (or faster, over-10km and 21km) and earn my confidence to race uncomfortably (including Zone 4/panting zone).
10) I learnt to eat well, using the 80:20 Rule, focused on more essential fats (including coconut oil, butter, extra-virgin olive oil, and nuts).