Monday, December 31, 2007

Close the 2007 in the best possible way: Shek Kong 30k race

the 2007 has been a fabulous year for my running: I started it as "mid-pack runner" and it all went in crescendo up to yesterday morning, with a victory in one of the hardest road races of the Hong Kong calendar, the 30k Shek Kong "Pre Marathon" race (the race is a sort of tune up for the incoming Hong Kong Marathon in February).

The race is held on a out and back course along a catch water road and around a reservoir in the TaiLam Country park. The course is really scenic, with great views of the New Territories, but also extremely tough. There are probably only 4km of flat, and some climbs were so steep that I judged more reasonable to walk for 20/30 meters rather than making a all out effort just to run. I definitely recommend this race if you happen to come to Hong Kong for the end-year holidays.
A rough sketch of the course. The number of twist and turns is uncountable...
The weather was excellent, the best of 2007: 14C/60F, dry, chilly wind from North. 450 Runners at the start.

Graciously of the organizer, I was given the #1 bib due to my new status of "2nd best marathon runner" in Hong Kong (this is outrageous ... there should be something going wrong in Hong Kong if a middle-age grey-haired beginner can claim any similar status").
I settled in the leading pack with other pre-race favourite and let them do the pace. My HR had ups-and-down like a rollercoaster following the ondulations of the course and the splits were ranging wildly into the 3'20"/4'30" range. So I just impose myself to: a) stick with the first pack b) slow down only if the HR would have stayed too long over 170 in the flat sections.
Some climbs were so tough that our speed was probably close to 10 Min/Mile but I enjoyed the scenery and I was very resolute to stay calm until 7/8km to go and later place surges either in the flat on a very steep hill with 6km to go.

It all went to plan: I did manage to keep the effort into a "marathon pace" until the 23km/14Mile and on a flat section, I placed a surge, finding not much resistance from the others. The last 7k were like making a tempo run, even if a long climb at 25k mark really made me struggle (the other behind were probably struggling even more ... I later found out that I had already gained 1 minute at the top of the climb).
that's it ... 1h56' as finishing time, brought home 200USD value of vouchers and this race marks really a personal achievement for myself and my running life.
I can still remember like yesterday when I did my first race in Hong Kong back in 2002, after having quit running for 3 years. It was a miserable 1h35' in a HM, 100th overall....
And another strong memory is dated only 13 months, for another failed HM, where I eventually realized that my training philosophy was completely wrong...


One note: the lady on the right is the female winner, Joe Joe Fan, who was subject of a previous post on her incredible endurance and recovery. I guess that a 30k was for her only a "tune-up for a couple of marathon in the next weeks...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Running in Hong Kong vs Running in Dongguan

Yesterday was a very pleasant "Tempo Run" of 9k, done at moderately hard effort. My Polar strangely stopped reporting "reasonable" levels of heart rate right in the middle of the effort (grrr), so I went on by feeling, trying always to push at a level where I could say to myself: you can go on like this for another half hour. I did come out a 31'54", a very respectable 3'33"/k (5'42"/Mile), with HR most likely in the low 170s (judging from the effort).

Anyway the purpose of the post was mainly to illustrate the feeling of the incredible difference between running in Dongguan vs Hong Kong.

- get up from home at 5.45am, the road is not lit
- cross the town center, paying attention to the motorcycles that normally does not switch on the headlamps (...most likely, lights stopped working 2 days after first use)
- from start to end, pay attention to the pit-holes in the road and especially to the covers of drainage system (many are stolen during the night to be sold as scrap metal)
- pass nearby the local "wet food market" and judging from the smell coming out, the hygiene must be quite optional inside...
- take the large new avenue, pay attention to barbed-wire fences. It is still bloody dark.... run slowly to see my steps
- reach my usual training loop of 4km, in a quiet new residential area. Pay always attention to the scarce traffic and the missing drainage covers. Avoid some trash thrown on the road.
- Landscape: industrial buildings, residential building
- Mental effort: tough, I am glad to be back home

- out from home at 5.45am. It is still dark, but the roads are clearly lit
- short jog from home to reach the Shatin-Taipo/MaOnShan cycle path. The whole path is along the ShingMun River and Tolo Harbour. It is lit 24hours and far from any traffic. All together, you have a 40km+ network of seaside cycle track.
- run along the fence of the "Horse Race Course", horses are already training. They always train very early in the morning, I guess that to be a good jockey you must be a real "Early bird"
- the path is also marked every Km, since it is the venue of several races.
- I run along the seaside, with a good morning breeze coming from the sea. It is very quiet, few cyclist or runner can be met so early.
- I can run for 10/15 km in one direction and than back home, complete mental relaxation.
- Landscape: Sea on one side, mountains on the other side.
- Mental effort: low, just let the mind float to enjoy the pleasure of feeling fit.

The result: is that at the same effort "easy run" (70%to 75% HRmax), in Dongguan I struggle to make 12/15km at 4'20", while in Hong Kong I could on for 25/30km easy at 4'10" !!!

One day I will post some pics for more evidence...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas !!
Enjoy the holiday period with some good run.

I am eating like a pig and I will probably put up 2 kg (4Lbs).
This morning I made a "fat-burning" session: running at very easy effort (HR around 70% of max): 21,1km in 1h28' (not a bad half marathon time ...). My daughter has now the habits of wandering around the house at 3am, it does not help my sleep.... only 4 hours average in the past 3 days.

The weather in Hong Kong is now gorgeous: 15C/60F, low humidity. I run along the sea, with the sea rising during the run. It must have been the idyllic environment to make me feel going so easy.
I am in my 2nd week back to serious training after the Marathon and legs are feeling very good.
This week-end, I will aim for a 30k race. More about it next post

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Marathon Recovery Hong Kong style

If you believe in the "traditional" approach of taking a good period of slow training, no races after a marathon, you have probably to reconsider your diet, switch to Cantonese food and marvel on how fast some Hong Kong runners can recover after a marathon...

- Choi Tat Ming: run Fukuoka Marathon in 2h40' with slight bonk in the final 5k. One week later, makes his SB in a 10k (!!). Not happy, the following week-end joins the Taipei marathon with another 2h40'.
- "Joe Joe" Fan: this "iron lady" runs Singapore Marathon on December 2nd in 3'02" (temperature around 29C, humid). One week later, a light shakeout taking part in a 30k off-road race in Hong Kong
- the excellent Master Chan Hwa Kwai (Keith) is clearly disappointed in running 3h03' in Shanghai Marathon on November 25th ... to recover morale, one week later runs a Half Marathon and a 10k the following week-end.

I am baffled ... since the marathon, I am just running easy ...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tragic News

At least 10 killed in Dongguan cafe fire

At least 10 people have been killed in a fire that broke out at Ming Tien cafe in Zhangmutou, Dongguan , Guangdong province
One person was seriously injured while six others were slightly hurt, Xinhua said last night. The fire broke out shortly after 5pm and firemen arrived at the scene five minutes later.

The blaze was put out in 10 minutes and it was estimated that it had spread over 400 square metres. Police were investigating the cause of the blaze last night.


my comment: I have been in this coffee/restaurant several times. I actually makes many of my morning runs in the stretch of road in front of it because it well lightened also night time. This morning the road was still blocked by Police. Unfortunately the safety is often neglected in China and many people pay a tragic congruences. The TV reported it was an explosion from a bottle of gas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Your Opinion on HR Profile

with the Karvonen's Formula.

I invite comments from the expert runners reading this blog about the best HR "profile" to use during a marathon.
This is my HR profile during the Fukuoka marathon. I hope it is clear enough.
The color zone represent the different intervals for "standard" workouts, calculate using % of HRR
My max HR rate is around 197bpm.
Keep in mind that my pace was pretty constant in the range 3'44" to 3'49"/min. The 5k split are very even (variance of 10 sec), so the "output" (speed) was constant.
I constantly monitored the HR for the first 20k and tried to stay in the range 165-169 (MP effort). After the HM mark, HR drift slowly into a "HM/LT effort" (low 170s) and I settle into a slightly slower pace to avoid the HR climb too soon in the hi 170s (that is full Lactate threshold for me).
For the last 10k, I just considered it like a 10k race and gave it all: the HR climbed right into a "10k race" kind of effort (>180bpm) for the last 5/6km.
I found very positive the capability to still push the effort into the 180+bpm, compared to other marathons I did in the past, where in the last section I was incapable to go faster and the HR started to drop in the last 6/7km (typical symptom of fatigue).

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Corporate Games in Chinese Sauce

Competitive Sports in China is not for everybody: all the competitions are organized among "Sports School" with a calendar that is kept unknown to outsiders (the mania for secrecy is a typical trait of State Organizations here).
For the "common mortals", the only events to take part in are usually "Corporate Games" or better "Danwei" Games, organized between Organizations of any sorts (companies, universities, neighboorhoods, etc).
Last week was the week of the Corporate Games of our town, organized among the different factories of the area. For the employeed is one of the rare moments of doing something else apart from work on an assembly line. Saturday was the day of the "Long Distance Running Competition", for which I was very keen to have our factory to show up well.
The crazy thing about the race is that the first 3 runners were awarded 1000RMB each (130 USD) + minor awards up to 10th place.
This 130USD is roughly equal to 1 month salary of a worker !!!! So you can just imagine how motivated were the runners at the start of the 3500meters course.
I also wore my running shoes for the run, mainly to "got points" as a factory whose GM can also run fast (the usual General Manager here is more keen on Golf and alcohol). I was the only "gwailo" in a sea of chinese....
It was an easy win, even if the opponents were half my age but obviously with very precarious training. Our factory also scored a 3rd and a 10th for a impressive team performance.
At the end, interview (in Chinese) with the local TV and trophy presented by the Communist Party Secretary (whom i know very well and in the future he will not miss to remind me of the race).
With the 1000RMB I need now to throw a dinner for our team, otherwise I would feel morally guilty for a while ...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Fukuoka Marathon debriefing and aftermath

legs are quite ok, only a moderate pain somewhere. I am quite happy with the recovery, being able to go down the stairs from Monday is quite as satisfactory as a PB. 4 days without run, today a 40 min easy
It is time for a debriefing on the race:
  • What would I do differently
    • I made a mistake like a beginner to end up 2 weeks from the race still with new shoes to test. The muscle strain was really a stupid injury. Racing shoes must be there from Wk1 of training !!!
    • More hill training, either in form of strides or CV intervals
    • The specific training period was only 13 weeks, but I guess 16/18 is better, so that you can have a more gradual build-up of the long run and some extra tempo run
    • a good Half Marathon 4 to 6 weeks from the Marathon is a must ...
    • more strides, running drills and streching. Getting older, I have much less flexibility and mobility, etc. Drills gives you less injuries and more motion range
  • What went well:
    • the aerobic approach paid off once more. I was never tired or overtrained, but at the same time I did probably the hardest workout in whole my life.
    • The "bigWorkout" concept. Give a look at the for a more detailed explanation. Especially the long runs with MP intervals are a tremendous boost to the stamina and endurance. Once you hit the 20Miles mark on race day, you are ready to accelerate, rather than just hold-on to avoid bonking...
    • carbo-loading with powder carbos: I recommend this. Friday and Saturday I had around 300g/day of powder carbs and gave me a real boost for race day, without having to eat tons of pasta/bread and feel heavy on the stomach. They were significantly disgusting, but once a year can be ok.
Final Remark:
there is a interesting website in HK that keeps count of your results in terms of IAAF points and basically ends up with a local road running ranking.
I traced my results since I started running again in end 2005 and the graph looks very good. I need now to populate more PB in the 680 points area (5k, 3k, 15k, HM are all there to be improved)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Fukuoka Race report

Saturday I went for a short shake-up in the Ohari Park, which is considered a "cult" place for the Japanese running movement. I read somewhere that hundreds of High-school and University runners gather there every day for their sessions.
The park itself basically consists of a lake with a 2km road around it. In the typical Japanese sake for organization, the lanes for walkers, runners and cycling are clearly marked and everybody seems to respect it ...
the running lane is marked every 100m, with markings embedded in the asphalt ...

I got really impressed by a scene that clearly reminded me of the particular honesty of the Japanese: a woman arrived by bicycle, removed her tracksuit and started running, leaving the bike unlocked and the tracksuit hanging from the handlebar.
I did have to reflect on how many other countries/regions you could leave your bicycle and clothes unattended and go for a run ....

In the evening there was still time for the welcome buffet for the athletes. It was not exactly a "pasta party" since it also offered sushi/shashimi, fried tempura and beer. Japanese runners looked very keen in intaking carbs in the form of Beer ... it must be the secret tip for running so fast...
I also had the pleasure to chat with Brett Larner, who is the author on a very interesting Blog on the Japanese Running scene. Brett was very kind on giving me some useful tips about the race.

Night: I slept almost 6 hours ... with the help of some Melatonin

Morning: I started piling up in Voltaren and Ibuprufen to avoid pain in the right leg. At the end the count was around 200mg Voltaren and 300mg Ibuprufen. Not to repeat in the future ....
I also went for a walk to kill the time before the noon start and digest somehow the breakfast.

it is time to move to Ohari park for start ...

Weather: practically perfect, temperature in the 14/15C range, RH around 50%, very light wind

Pre-Race set-up: it was all very much runners friendly. Changing room available and also a "last minute" clothes drop-off point was arranged 50m from the start line. Basically it was possible to warm-up and pit-stop at the toilet until 5min from the start.
The start arrangement was obviously very organized: the runners were ranked based on their qualification time and aligned in rows by 12. A judge would check one by one that you were in your own assigned spot (!!!)

The Crowd: unbelievable crowd support. All the 26 Miles were lined up with people, cheering the runner with "Ganbare" (Do your best) and I even heard several calling my name.

At 12.10 the gun went-off and here I was .... running a marathon in Japan ... whose time limit is 19'30" for each 5k ... after months of early morning runs in the dust/pollution of Dongguan.

first 5k: After 2k I was amazed to see that while running at 3'40"/km (under 6'/Mile) we were still densely packed ... hundreds of runners going so fast
5k in 18'34", I kept always an eye on the HRM to avoid going more than 166bpm

up to HM: the section was largely uneventful. I tucked into a small pack and tried to run relaxed, avoiding overstriding, enjoy the crowd. HR always around 166/168bpm.
10k: 37'15" (18'41' split) , 15k in 56'00" (18'45"), 20k in 1h14'44"(18'44"), HM 1'18'57"

from 21k to 31k: our pack was starting to break apart and my right leg was giving signs of tension, affecting the stride. So I decided to slow down the pace a little, I was much ahead of the 2h40' target pace and it was still a long way to go.
I hit many kms at around 3'50" and at 27km mark, I started to really feel pulses in the right buttock ... so I took another 50mg of Voltaren pills that I was carrying with me...
Personally I really find these Miles from HM to 32km the most difficult, it is very easy to lose concentration and go off pace.
25k in 1h33'38" (18'54") 30k in 1h52'34" (18'56")

31k to the end: the 31km marks the turning point and the long return to the city center and the finish.
It was now a 10k race ahead of me and to may amazement, the body was still able to pick up the pace to 3'45"/km. I felt like making a tempo run ... unfortunately the right leg was tightening especially while extending the leg behind the body, so I adapt my stride to run with very short steps (I was probsably looking like one of those Japanese or Chinese female runners ... their stride is so characteritic).
The HR was responding to the increased effort and went into the 175/177 range.
In the last 7k, I caught up at least 50 runners and I still felt in control of my body.
the 40k at 2h30'10" (18'42" split) gave me the certainty that a sub 2h40' was sure.

But running with altered stride was putting a lot of repssure ont he abductors and when we entered the stadium, the legs were gone and I started to feel cramps everywhere.
I took the last 550m on the track as my "personal tour of honour" a good reward for all the sacrifices done.
by 100m to go, I cramped without remedy but it was only a short shuffle to the finish line.

Post-race: 10 minutes later after I crossed the finish line, the Asashi Shinbun Newspaper was already distributed to the crowd with a special 2-pages edition with results and commentary !!!!!
I made my way to the changing area, with several spectators bowing at me in sign of congratulations ... very EMBARASSING ... I was 30' after the winner ... nevertheless I thanked everybody with large doses of bows and "Arigato".

In the evening, award ceremony and farewell party: after many speeches in Japanese, many awards being presented to Wanjiru and final buffet dinner with the opportunity to mix with the top runners and taking pictures together.

Overall: I am very satisfied with my race. Good training plan, good race and outstanding final 7k. I guess that my special "long runs with intervals" paid off.
I ranked 154th out of 312 who finished within the time limit. Full results here.

Fukuoka is a "dream marathon" for a runner: the course, the set-up, the organization all together make up for the ideal setting to run at your best. It is totally runner-oriented, without all those trade-off with commercial interest like most of major marathons.

My thanks go to the organizer for setting up such an event and special thanks to Mr Ogushi and Ms Yuko for taking so much care for a "gaijin" a bit "lost in translation".

Monday, December 3, 2007


I am delighted. A very even pace with a strong final 7k.
The ailing right leg held almost to the end.
The Fukuoka Marathon itself is a superb race, the dream of every runner.
Wanjiru makes a great race, but challenged until the end by Deriba Merga.
Detailed race report tomorrow

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Fast update from Fukuoka

Taking advantage of Blogger Mobile, a quick update from Fukuoka:
-Perfect weather, around 12/15C (55/60F). Some wind
-the number pick-up area consisted of 1 (one) table with 2 staff. This is the advantage of having 460 entrants.
-Japanese are exquisitely kind as usual
-Met Wanjiru and his Italian agent in the lift: the agent claims Sammy is in excellent shape and "tomorrow everything can happen"
-the pain in my right leg is still there, but I am intaking an unreasonable amount of Voltaren (Diclofenac Sodicum) and Ibuprufen. Finger crossed.
-made a 8km run to move the legs around the Ohari park... Many other
fellow runners there : temperature was 13 degrees but all geared with
heavy track suits and caps. By the way... They are bloody skinny and
light. They should set-up categories by weight as in boxing ... I
would have chances in the heavyweight category

Friday, November 30, 2007

Pollution or what ?

Int he run-up to the Olympics 2008, there are many press articles about the problem of pollution in China and Beijing in particular.
Due to the sensitivity of the issue here, real data are unavailable or anyway not realistic.
Being a long-stayer here, I guess that my lugs are already thickened by NOx and particulates and getting accustomed, but I can bring here some evidence of what is in front of the athletes.

This morning, 7.50am in Dongguan. Due to the northen monsoon, the air is cold and dry. This is the view from the balcony of my Dongguan's flat. What is that mist ? it does not really look like "morning mist" ....

Few minutes later, on the road to the factory...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"weird" feeling

I do not know if other marathon runners had the same feeling before their marathons, but I feel basically "numb".
I am tapering 20/30% off from my peak, 3 weeks ago I set my lifetime PB on 10k, no more heavy workouts in the past 10 days : I would have supposed to feel pretty energetic and in "runner's high" .... no, I feel like: legs like stones, I would rather sleep 24hr and I do not see myself running for 2h3x' in 3 days ...
possible explanation:
- typical "pre-race" nerves ...
- mental and hormonal build-up: I can guess that the body "knows" that Sunday will be a great battle so it is storing energy for that day
- I am in physical burn-out already

What I feel at the same time daunting and fascinating about the marathon:
- actually have to run the first 30km before knowing the answer about your true form
- it is a "one-shot" race, no second attempt (for some months) if something goes wrong

Running a fast marathon is probably one of the hardest mental and physical efforts for the human being ...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Samuel Wanjiru's tapering strategy

if you feel doubts about how to taper for a marathon, either you follow the advice of "Runners' world", either you read this incredible news from Japan : Sammy Wanjiru scores a new record in an Ekiden race just 8 days out from his marathon debut .... I guess that "take it easy" for the 15 days before the marathon has different meaning for different athletes

Monday, November 26, 2007

Race Predictions for Fukuoka

First a weekly recap and later my predictions/committment for my incoming marathon:

- total weekly 90km/56Miles with a good long run of 21k/13M
- total weekly drive: 982km/610Miles (year peak ..)

- I feel like crap: a Herpes in my mouth, but worse of all I feel a sciatica-like pain in the right buttock from last week long run (silly idea to run without orthotics) ... The pain is decreasing day by day but still there especially at higher speed. I guess that I need to pile up in Voltaren and other anti-inflammation pills ... a real mishap after avoiding even the slightest leg pain or injury for all the training cycle !!! I hope everything goes for the best before Sunday.
I should be also rest more because I do not feel too energetic at the moment.

- more than 2h45' : a real disaster. This also mean a DNF, due to the time cut-off in Fukuoka
Shall be unlikely unless the pain in the leg comes out very strong
- 2h42 to 2h45: mmm .... disappointment. I think I am in better shape than Boston (2h42') and Fukuoka is faster. But it can happen if the leg pain shows up in the last 12km
- 2h40/2h41: great ... a PB
- 2h39: fantastic. If everything goes well, I must be shooting at this
- 2h37/2h38: wild dreams, supported by Jack Daniels' Race time predictor (34' for 10k = 2h37 for FM ...). In such outcome, I buy you a bottle of wine

Sunday, November 25, 2007

There are never "easy" wins .... you must give 100% when you wear a race number

The estate where I live in Hong Kong houses 9600 residents (10 block/40 floors/6 flat per floor). That is pretty standard in Hong Kong (do not raise your eyebrows ...). The management usually sets up several activities all year round to enliven the community (tournaments, interests classes, etc, etc). Today was the day of the annual Running Festival, where on the 1km driveway around the estate, they held a bunch of races for kids, youths, adults, families resident in the Estate.
Coming out from 3 wins in the past, I was pretty confident in another easy win of the "Male Adult" 2k race: a solid pace with the leaders and a surge in the last 500m was usually enough to earn some admiration from my neighbours. There are plenty of runner enthusiasts in the Estate, but the best of them are around 38min/10k runners, so easy prey of a very fit "BY7".

So I crawled out of bed 15 minutes before the start, slip on short/shirt/shoes and jog to the (early) 7.15am start. The plan was for a "recovery" day: warm-up, race, some cool-down to reach 8/9km easy after yesterday's long run.

At the gun, the unexpected: a young guy (probably just turned 18 and who likely raced in the Youths in the previous years) started fast, very fast. My legs were cold and heavy like marble, my Polar was showing a 3'10"/km pace (!!!) but the guy was simply pulling away. I guessed that it took me at least 600m to react from the shock and made up my mind that even if it was supposed to be an easy day, I did not like to lose my winning streak. With 1k to go, i was probably running in 3'15" (!!) and 10 seconds behind (crazy ...). I slowly gained space to him and let him ahead to cook for a while, placing a surge with 500m to go right while I was passing him.

At the end: win in 6'18" for a 2k on cobblestones !!! This for a "easy" neighborhood race ....

Legs like stone for the rest of the day ...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Someone have suggestions ?

I am looking for suggestions from the readers (few) of this blog:

how would you carry some gels during the marathon ?
I plan to intake 4 gels during the race, that should give me some small energy for the final miles.
2 can fit into the small pocket of the running shorts, but I am tinkering on where to stick the other 2....
using arm pouch ? (horror...), sticking them to the number bib ?, pinning to the singlet (will not they bounce all around ?) ?

NOTE: in the past I never made too much use of gels during marathon, but in the last Boston, I started with 2 on my own and than take other 2/3 given out at the food station at mile 18. It was really a good boos and felt full of energy also in the last 2/4 miles, when I would be normally struggling (placebo effect ... let it be)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Trial Run

Hong Kong has many pleasant aspects, one of these is that roads/paths/cycle tracks are all lit, well kept, safe, well organized. It is basically all set out for a 24/7 life.

So heading out at 9.15pm for a long run after an hectic Sunday was an excellent way to close the day and the week; the air was getting cooler and there was a sustained northerly breeze from the sea. The cycle track from Shatin to TaiPo spans for over 20km along the sea and it was the ideal setting for a trial run: around 30km, with 15/16km (10Miles) at Marathon Target pace.

after a 10km warm-up, I did made 15km at a 3'44" pace (6'00'/M sharp). The HR was in perfect target (167-168bpm) for the first 10k, than started to drift over 170bpm mainly because of the breeze getting stronger (around 10Miles/hr), so it was more demanding to keep the pace.
I cut short of the last km because of persistent pain in the right buttock: I guess that wearing the NB RC600 without orthotics was not a good idea as i was probably overpronating too much and straining the muscles too much. This is a corrective action to test asap.... or I will have troubles on race day.

total weekly: 103km/64M

Will you run a sub-2h45' marathon once aged 53 ????

The organizer of Fukuoka Marathon have released the complete starters list.
Obviously the top-guns like Paul Tergat and Sammy Wanjiru make headlines but I am more impressed by

No. name age nationality
576 TSUKAMOTO,Namikazu 53 JPN
644 UCHIYAMA,Tokuhiro 53 JPN

Hei!!! these guys DID run a marathon in less than 2h45' in the past 2 years !!!! (this is the entry requirement to Fukuoka).
I am amazed .... 53 years and still running in the best 0,5% of the running population...

We still have time to achieve our PB then !!!!

Other small notes:
- there will be less than 10 "whites" at the start (excluding Japanese, Korean and Kenians), so I will not pass unnoticed...
- around 580 at the start ... a small pack, hope to find a group to hang with for as long as I can
- compared to Japanese runners, I am FAT !!! those around 180/181cm like me are 60/65kg !!! I am probably the heaviest in the starting field ?? (at 181cm/69-70kg)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Now you know if the Starting Gun can be harmful or not

I got this incredible news from South China Morning Post (a Hong Kong newspaper)....
I think we all wandered if the starting guns used in track races are "real" guns.
My best wishes to the injured teacher, I saw his pic on the papers and he is not really in good conditions.
From now on, take care if you have to do the starter at the school race...


The Leisure and Cultural Services Department has suspended the use of starting guns at its sports venues after one of them went off accidentally and injured a teacher at an athletics meeting in Wan Chai yesterday.

Ho Koon-lam, 24, a Chinese-language teacher at Heep Yunn School, took the handgun from a colleague before the start of the 4x400 relay in the school's sports day at Wan Chai Sports Ground. The accident occurred at 11.45am. He was checking the gun to see if there were enough blank cartridges in it before the race started, the headmaster, Lee Chun-hung, said.

"Suddenly, there was the sound of gunfire. We saw him covering his eyes with his hands. There was blood on his face," he said.

A police source said the victim was taking a close look at the gun before the accident. "An initial investigation showed that the gun went off accidentally and sparks flew and hit his eyes," the source said.

The teacher was not wearing protective goggles at the time of the accident, the department said. Eye protection is provided by the venue.

Police have taken the starting gun and more than 20 blank cartridges to the force's Forensic Firearms Examination Bureau.

Mr Ho, who has worked at the school for about three years, was taken to Ruttonjee Hospital and later transferred to Eastern Hospital. He was in a stable condition last night.

After the incident, the school used an air-horn in the remaining three races.

Chief Inspector Leung Sai-kau, of Wan Chai police, said an investigation found nothing suspicious. He added the injured man had a permit allowing him to use a starting gun.

After the accident, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department decided to stop the use of starting guns at its sports venues.

"For sake of precaution, we have stopped using starting guns while the police complete the investigation over the incident," a spokeswoman said. Air-horns would be available.

She added that pistols were maintained regularly by a contractor. There were safety guidelines over the use of starting guns and staff members were required to show people how to use them.

Starting guns are converted revolvers and can be loaded with five blank cartridges.

The cartridges contain gunpowder but no bullet.

A police spokeswoman said starters had to apply for a temporary permit from the police under the Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance before being allowed to use the guns.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fukuoka pre-race panic

it is only a mere 17 days to go to my Fukuoka Marathon.
everything seems to go as planned (training, health, race results), but I am assailed now by a dramatic pre-race panic about being able to complete the race.

Because the main trick is that their cut-off time is a 2h45' pace. Every 5k, they have cut-off at 3'55"/km pace and if you are too slow .... race over.
For a 2h40' runner like me, basically means that even a toilet stop in the first 10k would already put me out of the race ...

Most of the marathon in Japan are for "elite" runners: entry fee is very low (only 20$ for Fukuoka) but the entry requirement is a recent PR under 2h45' or less (was 2h30' for Tokyo)
Fukuoka has been for long time one of the most prestigious marathons and the winners list is impressing (Frank Shorter, DeCastella, Densimo, Dionicio Ceron, Seko, Thugwane, Gebre being the last ..).
In Asia it is recognized as the fastest course (give a look here)

Said that, for a "AlsoRun" like myself, I would feel the pressure to be basically almost dead last and having to push like hell just to make the finish line. I can not imagine to fly back home saying to my wife that I was out after 30k because too slow ...
The main advantage it is probably one of the few races in the world where the starting pack is small (300/400 at the most), and many runners would be close to my level, so I hope to run in a pack as much as possible.

I am really starting to freak out on this ...

Monday, November 12, 2007

"Uncle" Yip

Uncle YIP is local legend and I must pay tribute to the vitality of this gentleman who aged 87 (!!!) take the starting line every week-end and can show all the well being of a active lifestyle.
he is beloved by everybody in the running community in Hong Kong. It seems he picked up running quite late in his life (in his 40s) so his running career spans only over 40/50 years (No comment)
His "PB" in the last couple of year is around 1'05/1'10" for the 10k : every time I see him, I just remind me to wish myself to be able to walk on my own once I am over 80 too ....

Nike 10K ==> mission accomplished

So it cames the day .... the Hong Kong Nike 10K Race is the largest running extravaganza in town (besides the Hong Kong Marathon) and gathers 7000 starters in a far-away district in the North West corner of the Territory.

This races marked my personal "first anniversary" of the conversion to a different system of training. Last year, same time, I was doing wonders in my interval training workouts but that Sunday, after only 5k, I was struggling ... the last 3k were like climbing a hill, even if the speed was much lower than my interval training.... at the end, I crawled in with a 35'35", with HR climbing to 197bpm by the last 300m (some unforgiving organizer set the finish line on the top of a long overpass).
So this year was very meaningful to see how much improvement could have be seen with
my new training philosophy...

so we go .... I started very conservatively and I was not better than 30th after 1 or 2k. Then little by little I started to pick-up runners ... the HR climbed to the low 180s and was quite steady. By half race I was in the top 10 and still feeling ok. With 3k to go, I reached a pair who was in 6th,7th place, while the leading group of 4 was definitely too far ahead. I actually started to pay the effort and the stride was a bit heavier than before. So I hang on with them, until the final 500m "climbing" the overpass were an all-out sprint among us, but I was with no more kick and settled for 8th overall (2nd Master) with a gun time of 34'02".
I really gave it all in the final 100m to stay under 34' but legs were really too heavy ...

  • 1'35" improvement in 52 weeks,
  • my new PB on 10k,
  • achieved my target to stay in the low 34' and be in the Top 10 overall ...
WOW! Well done!
I went home with a pair of Nike Katana Racer and 100USD Nike voucher, so it was really a good occasion to celebrate with a huge lunch with the family.

I raced at 3'24" pace and basically I never trained at that speed : the validity of the "aerobic" approach to Road Running is in my opinion undisputed. On a faster course and cooler weather, I guess I could have done 10sec better (just my new personal target ...)

Now some images:
here a gorgeous view of the runners after 500m (I am very well behind still) ===>

This is a brutal picture of sheer suffering on the final sprint

but if you want to see more, click on this fantastic photo album with many nice pictures of the race (you can see a guy chatting at 18km/hr .... that's me)

Total weekly count:
Car: 883Km (551 Miles)
Run: 85Km (54 miles) (no long run ...)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Fresh milk

this morning I saw a very amazing scene ... 8 years in China, but still many things to learn ....

A guy was driving a motor-tricycle with 4 goats on the carrier. He stopped at different houses and customers walked out with an empty bottle. The guy started to get milk straight from the goats to the bottle !!!! He was the most "just-in-time" "organic" fresh milk distribution seen in my life !!!!!!!!!! Unfortunately I did not have a camera ...
This is the meaning of FRESH in China ....

otherwise it was a good medium pace run, with 5km @MP because the legs were going well and I was bored to death to run slowly...

Sunday is the big race: "Nike 10k", the most important short race in the local calendar. I hope to make a good race and stay in the low 34' range. It is a very important milestone to check my progress towards the marathon. For more details, check out the website of Nike HK

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pijamas as running singlet ?

This morning was a very quiet 5x1000m @ 3'24" pace + some strides on the school track. I did not feel "Reactive" legs, probably I have not really recovered yet from the sunday's long run. On top of poor recovery, I feel some tightness in the right leg, I guess due to some poorly-made stretching (I start to believe the stretching can be sometime more dangerous than helpful).

Anyway the main topic of this post are the folks who populate the track in early morning.
Knowing the secretive nature of chinese institutions, it was quite surprising for me to find out 2 years ago that the primary school 1km away from my house had a all-weather tartan track, and most amazingly the track was open to the public in early morning (from down to school start).
Basically it was the real factor that prompted my return to running, because I was really not very keen in running on treadmill all my life. And the track is at a mid-hill location, very quiet and in a good environment. So in late 2005 I resumed running, mostly for the pleasure to make some fast track workout and feel again the unmistakable smell of tartan rubber.
The only drawbacks:
- the track is 300m long ... and the stretch is only 70m
- the other folks: it seems that everywhere in the world, many like to go to a track to just walk or stroll around (there are reports about even a walker with a dog).
In China, there is more or less the same, but obviously all in Chinese fashion:
many people run backwards (Chinese believe it is very healthy for the back ... I guess it can be healthy until you crash against someone alse...), many run/walk barefoot but the most amazing are those running in pijamas. Every time I spot 2/3 ladies who jogs in pijamas or night suit. It is definitely a good way to cut on the time needed to reach the track from the bed, but I would not like to try to sleep in my running singlet either.
And finally, a group a old ladies who behaves in typical Cantonese (south china) fashion: they walk 10 meter apart from each other, so they have to shout very loudly to make themselves understand. Cantonese (both in HK and mainland) are very very noisy and the noise is part of their culture, but still now I am not very clear because the people should greet each other with a shout when they are 20 meters away and not wait to get closer ...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Farewell to my shoes

I publish this post in tribute of my Asics Tarther , that after a long life of service have taken the way to the rubbish bin.
The photo reveal clearly that they had gone a long way for supporting my heavy stride (I am 70kg/155lbs) with a marked pronation.

I am very sentimental about my running shoes, usually hanging on on every excuse to keep them for years: my Adidas LA trainer (used in the 80s during my first spell with running), are still in my parents' house with the excuse that I could need them for a run if I pass by there (....12000km from here...). Also in my cabinet the Reebok used in NYC marathon in 1999 (supposedly I should use them as leisure shoes...) (this pair can claim to have done a around the world trip: purchased in China when I was still living in Europe, they took the plane back to Europe, than come with me to US for the NYC Marathon, and later transplanted back to China for their retirement) and I still take care of a pair of Diadora running flats that I was using in the mid 90s' during my second running phase, very remarkable these Diadora are too tight and too short so I really must find a good excuse to keep them ...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Peaking Long Run

This morning was the peaking session for my marathon training.
It was a 10k warm-up + 3x7km @MP
Everything quite well, I felt good legs all the way, but I struggled in the last interval because of the wind coming from the sea
- 1st interval: 3'46"/km average HR avg 161, felt very easy (even too much ... was the wind ?)
- 2nd interval: 3'51"/km, HR average 167the wind was gaining strength and in some section I had to push the throttle
- 3rd: 3'52"/km . HR average 168. I was obviously getting tired, but still manage to respect both the pace and keep the HR inside the 170bpm. My biggest issue was strong pain in the feet.
I was probably running "heavy" and my NB lightweight trainers are abandoning me ... So I felt every foot landing very painful.
total 35km/22Miles .

What I envy most to the Pro runners is that after a tough run, they take a long bath, massage and a nap. My recovery was a quick shower, making breakfast in 30 seconds, and having my daughter wanting to be carried around on my shoulders and running all around the estate ... her leg speed would rival Veronica Campbell ...

total for the week: 109km(68Miles) run and 870km(550Miles) driving the car ...

today's issue: do you also make long runs with intervals or other kind of variations in pace ? or still prefer the long steady pace run ?
Personally, in a modern marathon training, we can not avoid simulating more closely the specific of marathon also in training. For a runner on 70/90 Miles/week, a steady run of 20M can be like "too" easy and not very stimulating. The real challenge of the marathon is keeping the pace also after the 20Miles with depleted reserves and muscular fatigue and this need specific conditioning.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

daunting mental challenge

What would be more challenging for your mental toughness than a workout on a treadmill watching chinese TV political news ??

I got into it and lasted only 36minute at easy speed....

This morning I hit the road (by car) very early so I had to skip the daily outdoor run and resort to a evening treadmill run in my china weekday house (all the large housing complex in china have e gym, pooln etc).

But at 7pm sharp, all the 100+ chinese TV channels simultaneously broadcast the same news program that follows always the same format:
- a report on the day activity of. the President Hu Jintao (visit so me model factory, receive some foreign president, etc)
- a report on the daily activity of the Premier Wen jianbao
- some similar report on Politburo's member
- more report on PCC meetings
- several reportages on how the government is well taking care of the problem of ordinary people
- 2 minutes of international news
- sport (usually Yao Ming...)

After 30 minutes of this torture - hit the remote and switched to the 7.30pm english language news on Hong Kong Pearl TV.
The main news was that Police had raided a famous fashionable homeware store because it was selling a shirt with a logo "K14" that allegedly similar to the banner of a triad society gang !!!!
The 20+ shop assistants and store manager were ARRESTED and now could face up to 5 years jail !!
Beware of the T-shirts in your closet:also a owner of a seditious T-shirt can face the same sentence !!
This can happen only in a place like hong kong where the criminality is almost absent and the Police has anyway to spend the time somehow.

UPDATE: read more about this on the Standard

Watching such a news I was almost tumbling down from the belt from too much laugh. It was anyway too much to bear and I quickly closed the session with 36' at 136bpm
Now I feel ready to run in any circumstance, even watching a Oprah's show !!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cooler weather .... cool LT Run

Temperature dropped down to 19C and some drizzle (!!!) so it was the ideal setting for my long(est) Tempo Run: 12k (7,5Miles).
I never made such a long Tempo Run before, as my past of "interval trainer" was more based on running 4x1000m at "burning legs" speed and felt duly exhausted after the 3rd interval ...
Also I felt very important to gradually increase the length of the tempo run because they really show the improvement of your aerobic condition.
A usual 20/25 mins effort involves pushing hard from the start and does not give a real indication of how fast the HR would drift from the ideal LT training zone to the "over the top" area.
While running at least 35 min let you settle into a good speed and observe the feed-back from the heart and legs more carefully. Ideally, you must rise gradually into your LT training zone (for me 170 to 180 bpm) and stay comfortably in that area.

to set a pace, the table from "Daniel's Running Formula" gave me a pace to respect of 3'39"/km (5'53"/Mile). (if you do not have this book, you are making a mistake...)

It all went very well ... I was running very easy and I avoided on purpose to push more than the target pace, even if the HR was still not in the target zone for LT training until Km8.
At the end, I totaled a 43'12" that is a very fine 3'36" pace very steady and easy. Still have stamina to push the last 2k into the 3'2x' area.
Could I have gone faster ? I guess that hitting earlier the 170bpm and than rising to 175/177 I could have been more in the 3'32" range ... but "train not strain" seems a good idea in this phase.

As I said before, I am now in the final tune-up stage of the training period and I find the workouts more and more easy to complete. Also the recovery is very good. It is a good indication that the training is going in the right direction, but I believe that for every runner at this stage there is a dilemma whether to push more and gain some little extra plus or just go with the current form ...

to close, I post also the HR curve (included speed and cadence) because it is really a nice graph!!
(AMENDEMENT: I am struggling to transfer the Polar curve into Jpg or Tif because I could not find a conversion SW that I hid somewhere ... the chart will be uploaded asap ... be patient)

  • Do you use the tables in "Daniel's Running Formula" ? (all Daniel's tables remove a lot of subjectivity in the training, perhaps it is no the right way to improve the sensibility to your own running feelings and physical conditions, but overall I find them quite challenging and sensible)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Only in China - barbed wire on the walkway

Only who has been in China long enough knows that in general, the attention given to the well-being of citizen is much much less of what is given to economic development, money or face or "looking good".
this morning I had a painful reminder of how a plot of grass can be more worthy than well-being of a passer-by ....

At dawn (still dark), I was running my usual route and the walkway was blocked by construction material, piles of gravel, etc (actually the stuff is there for over a month ...), so stepped over a strip of grass dividing the walkway from the road (as I have always been doing since the walkway was obstructed by the construction material).... and "Huaaaaaaa" ....
some idiot from the local government put barbed-wire (!!!!) to avoid the people stepping in the grass !!! My leg was wounded in several point and blood was flowing ... grrrr
I was really enraged, not really for the pain, but for the total disregard in this country for the ordinary people. They (the administration) did not cleared out the walkway of the material, but add a barbed-wire to simply put-off the people from their "precious" grass, that gives an impression of modernization to this dirty town and gives face to the "development" activity of the government ...
So anybody having to use that walkway, either make a U-turn, either climb over some construction material left there for the convenience of some home-build, either risk his skin slipping by the barbed-wire ...
everything was so typically Chinese that my colleagues understood my feeling straight away ... "the grass is taken care more than our lives" was a good comment.

Anyway ... this is my left leg after after the accident. Other cuts are in the right tight and right/left tibia ..

Sunday, October 28, 2007

How to spoil a long run

I was very determined to make a good long run Sunday, with 5x4k at MP in order to see how easily I could handle the 3'45" pace targeted for the Marathon.

that was the intention ....

the reality is that I started to run and after 15/20 minutes at warm-up pace I was already sweating like it was not supposed to be ....
I pushed through the 1st fast section, but the HR was already into the 170s territory, while it was supposed to be at a more comfortable 165bpm. The second fast slot was even worse as I was always off pace and feeling already deadly tired...

I called a quit and simply went on at a steady pace to close with 33km(21Miles) , including other fast stretches here and there....

I was pretty depressed to have performed so badly until I gave a look at the website of the HK Meteo Service. they have a real time tracking of Humidity and temperature for each district, so you can have exact data : the conditions were 24C(75F) , 85% Humidity, 60 Air Pollution Index (High to very High) ...
so in these conditions, you can probably lose at least 10sec/km or more at the same effort. It is a reality difficult to accept, but when temperature rise over 20C, performance is impaired significantly, especially with high humidity and lack of breeze

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Awesome Video ....No Pain No Gain ...

the video comes from website . The site is a sort of blog about the daily life/training of a group of Kenians based in Boulder.
This video is awesome ... Stephen Baba Kiogora makes a 30k run at MP or faster (I guess..) and you can see his suffering.. very inspirational
Also the top runners suffers in those long runs ... marathon training is really a tough life.

QuickTime version click here

It also spells the last doubt about the "old" myth of "Long Slow Run' to prepare for the marathon: to survive the last 10k you must get used to run at "faster" pace for long time. Next week-end I plan a Long Run with at least 20k @MP

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Never felt as good as today - hard long interval session

the 2 days of slow run did have an effect !!

this morning I headed for one of those "tune-up" sessions for which we are usually very "anxious" because they give you a clear feed-back if the training plan is going in the right direction.

Personally I still did not devise a good "signature" workout that could give me an assessment of my form in a comparative manner (during the yearly plan) ... I generally monitor the HR in some key workouts and relate it to my actual speed. So a MP run gives usually a good indication of your aerobic form, since it does not involve that kind of exertion or effort that sometimes is influenced by poor recovery, temperature or else.

to cut short, I did a 2x4000m @ targeted MP (3'45"-3"50") with 2'30" recovery jog and later open the afterburner for 2x2000m @ LT effort.
The MP effort went very well because i barely entered in the HR typical of MP (for me, from 165 to 170). First 4k at 158bpm, 2nd at 164bpm. This gives me a good indication that at that pace I can easily handle the first 25k (hehehe.... after 25k , you are never sure until race day).
The faster intervals were in the 3'25"-3-28" range with an effort right in the middle of my LT zone ... also not bad

- I will start a poll, about what is your "test workout"

Monday, October 22, 2007

2nd Long Run in a week ...

Yesterday I throw my heart into a 2nd long run in 5 days. Actually this was a regular Sunday's long run while last Tuesday's one was to recover the missing one during the week-end.

I felt quite good, but lack of "sprinting legs" . At steady pace of 4'15" I was fine, but I inserted sections at MP pace (3'45") and I was feeling heavy legs.
Overall was a 32km/20Miles with 8Km/5M at MP pace + 2 long climbs (each 2k at 5,5% gradient) ... so not a stroll
the week has been very hammering on my legs and to say it plain .. I have now dead legs. But at least I feel confident that both distance and speed are up to the requirement and it is now time to sharpen the training.

With this run I close the 2nd phase of the training plan: "LT and endurance build up" and move in the finale phase of "specific endurance". From now on, only 2 serious workout per week, while all the other would be easy run.
It is important to have good feelings during the final phase and be fresh for each workout so that you can actually perform well during training.

Friday, October 19, 2007

3'38" (5'52"/Mile) pace

Weather is getting "chilly" (21C in early morning) and I felt quite good, so I decided to stick to my original plan of a 10k Tempo Run, even if my conditions earlier in the week were to be classified as "deadly tired".

At the end, It was a 36'24" (3'38" pace) with an average HR of 175. The HR went over 170 only after 2k and I always lift the throttle when it was surpassing 180, so I had only few spikes at 180 in the slightly uphill section of my 3,95Km loop (the usual one around People's Hospital and Residential Area).
So everything went right on target: If you read Daniel's "Running Formula", a Tempo Run of 40min for a VDOT of 63/64 should be at that exact speed and effort ....

This week I will therefore do 3 serious workouts, but there is around a very sounding philosophy of making only 2 Big Workouts in the sharpening phase of Marathon build up. Give a look at the website I like it very much and coach Tinman is very wise in his suggestions. So probably for this week I will overdo a little but from next week, I will stick to the "2 Big Workouts" philosophy, with a Long Run (with variations) + a TempoRun/Interval/marathon pace or similar.

Another thoughts was about the Polar Rs800sd calibration ... all my pace/effort was based on hoping the Polar was well calibrated. There are several websites speaking about the calibration of the Polar footpod, but at the end of the day, even with a perfect calibration you have a 1% error, that makes around 2 sec/km at that speed (not little, I believe). Also the issue of the calibration is basically unsolvable: I used the NB RC600 lightrainer shoe this morning, and my calibration was done several months ago in fairly accurate way. But my stride perhaps is changed a little and this affect also the calibration factor. And do not forget that the calibration is also affected by the actual speed so basically you should have a array of calibration factors based on the shoe and the speed of the training ...!!! Said that, I am considering to buy a Garmin Forerunner... at least I would be 100% of the average speed and distance (even if also the Garmin has his share of weak point).

Lastly .. the name "People's Hospital" for public hospitals in China is really misleading ... because basically patients have to pay everything. There is a very limited social security system with medical insurance, but cover only local residents and also it is common for hospital asking extra-money to boost their income, plus the awful habit of local doctors to ask for bribes to take seriously care of patients.

To summarize, 4 concepts on the table today:

- Speed of Tempo Run (do you follow Jack Daniels' tables or use a HRM o go by feeling o use McMillian's website pace calculator ?)
- 2 Big Workouts concept for marathon sharpening
- Polar vs Garmin (and why Polar's watches can not have their firmware upgraded ...grrr)
- Social Security in China and Medical Care (...a little off topic)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Long Run

4.56am and I am out the door....

the purpose was a long run, but not too demanding because next Sunday I want to do another long run with MP intervals (that is a real killer training for a marathon)

I was not at my best and the Polar HRM did not help either: it was not working properly and my HR was showing 195bpm at 4'30" pace... I also got the impression that pace measuring was also troubled... so I forgot about the HRM/pace monitoring and just run on sensation, with a chilly wind from North making my usual 4k loop a bit harder.
the loop is actually 3,9 km (more or less) and my benchmark is a 16'30": less than 16'30" means going fast, more ...
So I did 16'26" - 16'16" - 16'38" - 16'45' the last lap looked much better until i stopped the lap ... strange...
than headed to the school track and did a 4k @3'50" pace but I was a bit heavy.
total for the day: 29km

Did someone have other experiences with Long Run at Mixed pace ?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Incredible ... I won a race

this Saturday was the last race of the 5K series in Hong Kong.

I was slightly tired from the long run and little rest, but in 5K it does not make sense to have moments of fear...

Without boring the readers with a detailed report of every meter... I can summarize as follows:

- my original tactique was to stick to the leader of the series for my master category and see at the end of the race if I could outkick him and win the series (I was 2nd...)
- We started like crazy at a 3'10" pace and I felt better after 2k (warm-up)
- With 1 km to go, I was glued to Mr M and we were approaching to the race leader. I was obviously working hard, but the legs were still fresh. We eventually caught him with 500m to go.
- With probably 300m/400m to go, I made a terrific kick and no one was responding. I was not sure of the distance left (the course is very winding and narrow) so I pushed the gas until the final 5meters.

The course was 300/350meter longer than 5k, so the 17'15" time means something in the 16'10"/16'20" range. It will be forever my PB in the 5350 meters...

Since the purpose of the blog is to discuss training philosophy for competitive amateur runners, I think that we can take a good lesson:

- the key to strong performance is always a good aerobic training: aerobic base and aerobic power. This gives you the power to race 5k strong from start to end.
- it is not always necessary to train very fast to make a fast time. I kept a 3'10"/km pace (5'12"/Mile) without having made any single workout of fast intervals. Probably I never went faster than 3'20" in training (unless strides).
- A high LT means that you can keep a high cruising speed without accumulating lactate. The extra-speed needed to race a fast 5k come from anaerobic power, but ON TOP of the aerobic power

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Long Run

this morning I got up at 4.30 (Jesus...) and head for a long run...

My maximum frustration is to read all those nice blogs where people head for the trail or forest or some park, perhaps together with a bunch of friends who act as pace-maker .....

Who on earth would accompany you in a long run consisting of 5 loops around an industrial area in Dongguan, at 5am ????????

So I resigned myself to keeping a regular pace, keeping an eye to the HRM: HR in the range 70/80% of HRmax. The laps went smooth around 16'30" each (each lap is 3,90km). I was a bit tired from lack of sleep, but still paced consistently. For the final, I headed to my usual school track, where I struggled a little to keep the targeted 3'50" pace.
Total for the day: 31km and run back by 7.10 (shall I change the blog title) ?

Monday, October 8, 2007


just back home from a short holiday in Thailand.

since it is a running blog ...
I lost 4/5 days of training out of 8 days, so not very good.
I made some short runs over there. it was really hot and humid, even at dawn.
But it was very interesting to take those secondary roads and see the thai villages from close range. Different from Hong Kong and China, the dogs were very peaceful and did not bother about my presence.

Back to Hong Kong, I was deadly tired by the trip, but I managed to make a good track session

7 x 1000m in 3'25" recovery: 2'00" (200m jog).
Heart rate around 175/180, drop back to 120 in the recovery.
the purpose was to stimulate the upper limit of LT. I felt a little tired at the end. Probably 3'25" is my current 10k speed (this would be great...)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

New Season - New target

After a well deserved Summer break, the new season is started.
I did not post for a while because it did not make sense to write endless description of slow runs with 90F temperature and 90% humidity.
I will probably make a specific post on Summer Running in South China, but now let's focus on the new season.

I started more seriously since the beginning of September and now my eyes are towards the Fukuoka Marathon on December 2nd. It is very challenging because their cut-off time is a 2h45' pace (!!!!!!!!!!!!!) so basically I have to take the tail of the race and stay with the "sweep" car ... that would be already enough to make a PB !!

For the training, I will compress the schedule to a 12 weeks preparation because it was not sensible to start earlier. Try to make more miles (perhaps more closer to 70Miles/week rather than 60M for last race) and increase a little the intensity and duration of tempo run, etc. Also have more strides to improve the running form further.
Based on my new credo "Lydiard stykle" I avoid too stressful fast interval training and focus mainly on aerobic improvement, strength and tempo runs.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Running with 30C and 90% humidity and pollution

I guess that no one in Europe or USA can even imagine what is running in Summer here.
Those making paragons with Florida or South Europe do not even get close... because also pollution and the total lack of breeze adds up to the count.

Normally I go running at 6am (at the latest) but the sun rises fast (very fast). The night temperature never drops under 28/29C so there is no much benefit in going night time, apart avoiding the heat from radiating sun.
Generally I "last" 20 minutes: I can run around 4'30" (7'12"/mile) for 20 minutes but slowly my speed decline dramatically .... to 4'40" and later is a struggle to keep 5'. I normally take also some break every 15 minutes. .. and perhaps stop a while to squeeze the water out of my socks

NOTE: does someone know a brand/type of sock that can withstand extreme heat and sweat ? (basically it is like running in a hot pool) ??

I was really low in morale when to complete a 20k run I had to stop 5/6 times with also a rest on a bench ...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Race in the storm

I probably have some debts to settle with the "God of Winds" ...
If I count my races in this season, they were all affected in one way or the other from a shitty weather: either 25C with 95% Humidity, either the NorEaster ....
The last race was not an exception ... the weather forecast was not good and actually was simply pouring heavy rain and strong wind.
The race itself was a local 8k and I did not have particular ambitions, but I wished at least to make a good warm-up !!!
In the 60 minutes leading to the start time, it was raining so heavy that I resolved to make only a last minute warm-up, so I challenged the rain with 20 minutes to go with some jog and strides.
It was not too bad either. .... I felt quite good in the first km and hang up very close to the leading pack. I was probably 10 second far away at the 2k mark when I started to fell better and THEY started to back off or better, to lose some pieces along the way. At halfway, we were very close and I caught them with 1km to go ....
very exciting. ..... a chance to win a race ... never happened before ...
but I was already at max rpm when they kicked out for the final 500m I was stuck ...4th overall and 1st of the "Oldsters" ... not bad anyway

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Long morning run in a new environment

this morning I tried to make a long run in China on weekday, rather than in my usual way on weekends in HK.
It was also actually my first long run after the marathon.
Well, finding 20km of road to run in Soutch China is not easy at all, since the industrial development has been so massive in the past 20 years that basically all the roads (even minor) are leading to some factory, with a 24/7 traffic of trucks, containers, people, fumes, brrrrrrr
Anyway I did this venture and was a decent workout: I used Google Earth to find a minor road who looked promising and wake up very early (5am ....) to avoid meeting too much traffic. Now the daylight comes at 5.15am, so the roads were already busy with people going to wet markets or carrying out their small trades.
The road that I selected was not too bad, but it was anyway passing within several villages. So not really countryside, but just a collection of smelling villages and dust.
I made 21k @4'19" pace. The pace was probably closer to 4'11" but I had to slow down in some sections to cope with roadworks, traffic lights, etc, etc so a couple of Kilometres @4'30" slowed down the total pace.
I will try next time to bring the camera to post some pics.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Boston (again) - some pics

Here some pics of myself in action
(courtesy of Jim Rhoades, Tim Tyler and

I was a little struggling, but it was right at the end of Hearbreak Hill ...

Friday, April 20, 2007

More about Boston

I still have to drain out all the emotions of the last weekend....

the days before: the weather forecast were so awful that I felt really sad, disappointed, depressed. I trained for so many months .... and could the weather spoil my pursuit of the below 2h50' ?????
rain and cold were not a problem, if you feel well and are well trained they should not slow you. But the forecast of a headwind of 40 Miles/hr was too much !!!

the night before: you put yourself in bed and you realize that tomorrow is the BIG DAY. there is nothing more that you can do, just sleep and go to the start line, brrrrrr
I took Melatonin to sleep but still I probably managed to sleep only 4 hours !

the morning: I was pissed off by the prospect of the heavy rain and wind. And actually the slam of the hotel room was a sharp reminder !!
Anyway the rain was not anymore a storm but a "normal" rain and as the day progressed it was looking like that it could have been better and better
In the 3 hours from 6am to 930am, the weather changed at least 100 times: heavy rain, followed by no rain, and start over again.
Suddently, at 9.15am the sky cleared up very mucha dn very quickly and the rain tapered off.
still many downpours in the first 20 miles, but was not too bad at all

the final miles: it was a nirvana !!! I felt good, the crowd was shouting my number, the road was heading towards the center of Boston and my watch showed that I was 2 minutes ahead of the target time. I was catching many runners who were out of fuel, so it was really the most rewarding moment of the past 6 months of training. You feel in total control, the legs responding perfectly and you can thanks the many miles run in training and all the sacrifices.
I am not sure that anyone else apart from a runners can understand this feeling.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Boston Marathon: the big day has come !!!!
So I was very "trepidant" to see if Boston would have confirmed the good shape that I was feeling in training and in the latest races.
Already many have written about the foul weather, wind, etc, etc ,etc.
2 considerations of mine:
- the weather improved so dramatically in the last minutes before the race and during the race that actually the "slower" runners enjoyed much better weather than the faster ones. It was amazing: we arrived at the village in such an heavy rain and rain and suddenly after 900am the rain tapered off and also the wind subsided.
- many runners got "psyched" by the weather and probably lost motivation and concentration. It is not a blame, but really we got so many crazy news before the race that it was difficult to maintain serenity about racing 100% anyway. Personally on Sunday I felt very depressed, because it looked like running a reasonable race was almost impossible. At the starting line I put fears aside and made the consideration that at 38 years old, It could have been my last chance to run a fast Boston Marathon, especially because my preparation went very smooth, so difficult to be so lucky in the future. I decided then to run anyway at the limit and see what would have happened in the final Miles.

I wore a HRM and it gave me a real good help. With all the ups and down in the first 15 Miles, it is not easy to maintain a steady effort and do not burn out in the small uphill rebounds (do not believe those who say that the first miles are totally downhill: there are plenty of ondulations where my HR was dangerously rising).
I kept myself in the range of 165 +/-4 for the first 15/16 Mile (my maxHR is 197) and took care of : a) drafting as much as possible (hehe...) to avoid the wind and spending mental energy for pacing
b) follow the hydration plan (drink every mile, alternating Gatorade and water) and got my Carbo Gels at Mile 10 and then Mile 14 as planned
c) dry out my gloves and hat with a good squeeze after any of the several downpours. I was wearing a double layer of jerseys and was really a good move because I did not feel the chilling wind in the final miles.

I passed the 10k in 37'xx and the HM in 1h19'50" ...definitely much faster than any of my race plans, but the HRM was telling me that the effort was reasonable anyway.

The hills:
there is a real hype surrounding those hills..... I purposely slowed down the pace even more than necessary because I was already in good advance on my target pace and you can simply kill yourself by just running 5 seconds/mile too fast on a hill. The time lost can be easily recovered in the transition and the downhill section ...
Th wind was blowing SSE, so as soon as I turned into Commonwealth Av, it was right on the face and gave us a hard time on all the hills and the final 5 Miles ...
On the hills I was pushing around 175bpm, up to 180 . I tried to avoid going over 180 because I know that I start a lot a Lactic Acid build-up over that.

When the hills are over, legs still ok, but the wind was really blowing right in the face now.
In the last 6 Miles there were many "casualties": I passed at least 30 runners. I noticed that most of them were wearing only a singlet. My feeling is that the chilly wind was draining too many energies for them.
My last miles: I had still good legs and I knew to be in ahead of any of my race targets. Basically the best possible conditions for running the last miles of a marathon. You feel really great and taste the reward for the months of hard training.

I finished in 2h42' ... so good ... I cut my last marathon time by 10 minutes.
at 38 years old, I go much faster of when I was in my 20s, only because of smarter training !!!

If I can give to this post some kind of usefulness also for other readers, I can summarize what I learnt from the past 4 months of preparation plus the race:

- the philosophy of 2 big Workouts works very well with my level of "good amateur" runner. Many running programs are only reduced version of programs for elite runners. Others are really too bland and would only bring you to run 26 Mile, not to race 26 Mile

- the big Workout of the long run WITH MP or LT intervals can really make the difference on how you keep the pace later in the race

- I avoided completely any anaerobic workout and was really great: In the past I felt like a dead for many days after some heavy workout and I did not perform in races because I felt like having "no batteries".

- I personally view the HRM as a really useful training tool: wearing it during training gives you a lot of information on how you are progressing and keep your training effort in the target, independently of external factor such as temperature or weather or hills. For the race day, It paced my effort in a difficult course such as Boston until the moment when you have to simply "give it all"

- in the past I have not too much in love with carbo gels, recovery drinks, etc. I must reconsider myself after following a different approach for Boston.
I took 4 carbo gels during the race and I was still full of fuel also in the last miles. For Long Training Runs, both the performances during the run and the recovery improved greatly

- What would I do different for the next marathon (if any) ?? do more Tempo Runs and hills repeat.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

last (serious) workout

this morning was very chilly for the standard down here (13C) so it was really pleasant for the last tough workout before Boston.
I made 5x1500m @3'40"/3"35" pace with a 2' recovery jog. Was not too hard, almost had to hold the brake to avoid overspeed.
Now I just feel simply overexcited about running in Boston. still 12 days to go, so I must keep my calm for a while or otherwise it would be easy to burn out.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

never race if you do not know the course !!!

just completed my last tune-up race before Boston.
I was perhaps a little naive to select a race on a hilly course to simulate the same effort as in Boston. Actually the Mt Butler race is much much tougher !!!!!
it is a 15k mixed cross-country and road, with 2 climbs of at least 2k each !!! the start is on a stretch with 15% gradient, so if you push too much, you can burn out after only half Mile !!
Well, I started in the lead group that very quickly spread itself on the tough first mile. after a steep downhill we started to climb the toughest stretch to Mt Parker: huhuhu, very painful. My HRM gave me clear indication that I was NOT doing a leisurly LT run, but rather being almost flat out. Better to scale down the pace, man !!
I crawled at the peak and luckily I was caught by a decenty fast group that basically towed me until the 10k mark. I was really struggling , but later I realized that they were struggling even more... to cut short, at the final climb I realized that they were slowing down a little too much for the gradient, so I pushed a little and exploded the small group. That was enough to gain a gap good enough to bring me at the finish line as 3rd Master and win a pair of running shoes.
a good lesson earned: never never run cross-country or hilly races if you do not know the course ... I could have saved my body a tiring hour (I made 50% of the time in the over 180bpm range !!)
The real challange anyway was the painful legs of the Monday ....

Thursday, March 22, 2007

long long run

Last sunday I did a 36km run, with 18km at MP and 2km at LT pace.that is a 22miles (for my readers in USA). It was tough but still not painful, I could push from start to end and the final strech of 6km/4M was rather pleasant still. Pace around 4'10" for the slow legs and 3'55" for the MP.
What do you think about such extra long runs with fast sections ?
Too tiring ? Or too soft ?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


I have still to recover from my HM last Sunday.
I made the mistake to not make any cool down and now I am still aching everywhere: ankles, legs, back.
well, it was not probably totally my fault: I did not expect to finish in the "winners booth" !!!
They kept us in the booth for a good hour, without any opportunity to jog around. I think it was a real killer for the legs.
This morning a very easy 9k become as hard as a long run: I had pain everywhere (knee, ankle, legs) ...huhuh

A good holiday

For the mid winter holidays we went to a nice island in the southern hemisphere.
It was a fantastic holiday, full relax, good food, nice weather, etc, etc.
Since it is a running blog, I avoid bothering the potential readers with these holidays details (leave a message if you want to know more), but I want to write few line about the effect of air/temperature and humidity on the performance.
in HK, the air is really awful: pollution, humidity and heat all together make up a mix that drive your recovery lower and lower. It is probably one of the worst place on earth for running.
In summer, the heat and humidity are simply impossible to survive: a simple jog and you come back home losing 1kg and sweating like a demon for several hours. In Winter, the drier weather drives the pollution higher and higher and the air is really dirty, full of pollutants.
During my holidays I was simply running 5/8 bpm HR lower than in HK at the same speed.
In some LT workouts I was finding difficult to raise the HR at the target zone because my legs were not used to go so fast.
It was really incredible. I did easy many good medium and long runs and especially worthy to mention is a long 33km run on a very hilly gravel road: at the end I was flatten with many aching muscles, but it gave me the confidence that Boston Marathon will be a great outcome

gorgeous Half Marathon

I did the Hong Kong Half Marathon
It was a very humid early morning when the usual huge crowd of 40k runners gathered in Nathan Road for the start. The HK marathon is a sort of running festival with 3 races of 10k, a Half and a Full marathon, with different starts from 530am onwards.
I felt good in the warm up even if I was really worried about doing a good race because it is many years that I failed in Half, normally fading after 15km.
The race strategy was to race at 175bpm until 10k, take advantage of the downhill strech leading to the west tunnel and than push the remaining energy in the final terribly hilly 5km.
I normally run with a HRM, I find it very useful in longer races to avoid overspeed in the earlier stages.
--> does someone else run with a HRM ?

Going back to the race, it all went extremely well, at perfection
I was very relaxed in the first 10k, the heart was in the low 170s and the pace around 3'44". I struggled a little in the next 5k, the road was slightly uphill and front wind. Luckily I was together with a guy that paced me quite well and I hanged up well. He was very fast going downhill but slower uphill.
Then we entered the western tunnel (or better on the terrible climb going out..), I felt still good and I start to hammer: I dropped the group I was in and catched soon other runners.
At the end I close in 1h18 WOW !!
The training. Did really pay off
I must say thanks to the 11:51:41 runs and the long runs: they really gave me the endurance and the aerobic power.
I must really praise the change of training style done in the past months: less (much less) fast intervals and more LT runs
I did not make any VO2 max workout or sprint intervals

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Early Morning in China

Rather than boring the readers with some description of a run, today I feel compelled to say what's going on at 6am in a mid-size town in South China:
- the wet market (vegetables, etc) is already in full swing. People are making purchases in the total obscurity. To be so early, there is already a good bunch of customers !! The Chinese have the mania of buying always "fresh", as fresh as possible, so they buy the vegetables every day or even they buy them twice a day !! It is not really common to make the shopping for a whole week !! All my neighbours are always staring at me when I come back from the supermarket with 5 shopping bags; they probably guess that I have a 10 people family to justify so much food for a day or two
- already some people going to work; waitress and small shopkeepers. Everyday I meet a couple of waitress who wander around wearing a Chipao (the traditional chinese woman dress, with a long cut along the legs). They look pretty much out of time and place
- contruction workers banging and hammering: the bad think about the fast development of China is that to grow fast, you must also build fast. That means working 24/7 in construction site. You can only pray your own Gods that they would never set up a contruction site close to your home: that involves 1 year of no sleep because the hammering goes on every single day and every single hour
- Cleaners: like everywhere else, someone is working to make up the mess left from the day before. But usually the mess in China is much more than everywhere else because of the bad habit of throwing the garbage everywhere ...
- some early bird like me is also doing his/her own TaiChi exercises or jogging. I remember many years ago I was staying in a hotel in a industrial city somewhere in Jiangxi. The Hotel was a "old style (50s)" site built in a park was it was common at that time ==> at 5am, a large congregation gatherred in the park and start singing and playing musice to go along with the TaiChi !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I got the lesson and now I carefully avoid hotel rooms facing parks !!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

January 22: A good week

Last week was a smooth week of good training, moving up the notch to a higher level in terms of speed and distance.
After recovering from the 10k race with 2 days of easy run (in the 145->160bpm range), I finally made my first LT run.
well, it is not easy to go flat out on a dark road with a face wind, so I felt it much harder than it should have been. The pace was in the 3'45" for 8k, but after 6,5k I gave a stop because I felt tired. HR stayed in the 170s range all the way.
I do not know if someone have other experience of how the performance is affected by running in the almost complete darkness.
on Sunday, a good 28km run with the final 8k at MP pace. It was a wet day, but almost perfect for running. Got out from bed at 5.30am (tough!) and start at 6am.
For long runs, I started to intake some maltodextrine (carbos drink) and it looks much better; no sign of slowing down in the second hours and the last section was very easy running at 3'55" with the HR always in the mid 160s.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sunday 14th: Race 10k and I loved it

Today was race day: a 10k, held on a flat course in Hong Kong.

Saturday I got very good feeling about the incoming race: feel fresh, well rested (I do not know why, since I sleep 6 hours per night).
I think that with the experience, you can predict your race day performance with incredible precision even before the race:
- how do I feel on the Saturday afternoon (tired, rested, too excited)
- the Heart Rate on the warm up before the race. If I can jog and keep the HR under 150, than I know that I am fresh and is going to be a great day. If my HR immediatly climbs over 150 in the warm-up, than is sign that is going to be more of a struggle.

So Sunday morning I was very relaxed about doing a good "job": the race is pretty important in the local calendar and is a good test of my shape in the road to Boston.
Since I had (and I still have) a tendinitis on my right ankle, I swallow a pill of Ibuprufen before the start and hope that the ankle would let me alone for a while.
It was really a hassling injury, but I will post about it another time.
let's stick on the race.
I used for the first time the Polar Rs800sd HRM to check the distance, cadence and speed and was pretty useful: The start was pretty narrow so It was easy to be taken away and push too much from the start. I used the HRM and gave a look every 15sec to the instant speed.
So I basically executed the race strategy as:
- keep 3'40" for the 1st K or more
- settle in the 3'35" range from k2 to k7
- just push in the final 3k, trying to stay under 3'30"
At the end I finished in a 35'20" that is really good. It is my season best and probably also my PB of all time !! And I felt good at the end, so I did another 10k of easy run to cool down.

Everything went according to plans, but I noticed 2 interesting factors:
- my HR was always much lower than in previous races. I stayed in the hi 170s- low 180s' range for most of the race; while usually I reach very easily the hi 180s (eg: 186-188 bpm).
- the cadence was in the range of 87. So I still have to work more on repetitions to speed up the legs to 90 and more (recommended by Daniels in his book)

I think that the aerobic training is starting to make his effect. I did not make any interval or speed tranining in the past 6 weeks but I was still able to improve 20sec from my last 10k.
I start to believe that aerobic pace training can really bring substantial benefits also at higher speed.
Probably it brings your aerobic power at a higher level, so that a 10k pace is no more "very far" from the EZ.
Infact after the race I felt quite muscular pain because I was completelty out of training at moving the legs with such stride and speed, but the heart was actually not even close to the maximum sustainable effort for a 10k