2019 Round Rarotonga Road Race

Today I ran the 2019 Round Rarotonga Road Race (RRRR). My unofficial time was 2:11:03. While this is quite a bit slower than the sub 2:00 I was targeting, the race gave me an excuse to (finally) visit the Cook Islands!

While the race and weather could have went better, I did have a good holiday in “The Islands”.

The RRRR involves running one 31km loop around the entire island.

The race began at 5:30 am in darkness. While there was some light from street lamps and the occasional vehicle, many people (myself included) brought head lamps. This was a good idea as the roads were not closed off from traffic and had uneven surfaces – there was even potholes!

The race also began with rain that just became heavier! While the rain helped to suppress the temperature, it was still above 20C with high humidity. It also made it harder to hold pace as my shoes and clothes became soaked with water.

I head out at an honest 3:45 min/km pace and felt it was within my limits to hold this in spite of the warm and humid conditions. However, 18 km later this the pace slowed to 4:00 min/km and by 24 km the “wheels fell off”.

While I like to think I can run to feel, this is easier said that done when racing a distance and environment you’re not used to. One good technique is to run by heart rate monitor (HRM), provided you know your HR zones.

Unfortunately, racing to HR zones wasn’t an option today despite wearing a chest-based HRM. For some reason, my HRM wasn’t detected prior to starting the run. Hmm…

After a very slow last seven kilometers (29 and 30 were at 6 min/km pace – eek!), I’ve crossed the finish line fourth overall. While I’m disappointed with the run, I manage to come first in the “Open Men” division.

The last half marathon I ran felt long. And today’s 31 km felt way too long long, particularly as I’m “low mileage” and mostly training towards shorter 5K races.

All in all a hard and humbling run in paradise. It’s been a while since I’ve “hit the wall” as bad as I did today. While today’s weather wasn’t kind to today’s runners, it was a run event that was well run.

Notes to myself:

  • A little heavy at 78 kg.
  • Ran in Nike Streak 6 Flyknits. While these shoes are perfect for longer races, having done 700 km they are a bit worn.
  • Had water at most aid stations and one gel and a muslie bar for fuel. The muslie bar was a poor choice – it was impossible to swallow without water and just made it hard to breath as it stuck to the side of my mouth!
  • Weather on race day was 20 – 22C with 92% RH.
  • My Garmin 935 watch did not connect to my HRM! Unsure why this was and had the optical HR disabled – wasn’t able to regulate pace by HR.
  • Had a seemly low cadence (170 spm) at 3:45 min/km pace. Probably a side effect being used to running 180 spm but at a faster speed (3:15 min/km).

2018 New York Marathon

Today I competed in the 2018 New York Marathon. My unofficial time was 2:50:05. This was quite a bit slower than what I was targeting (ideally sub 2:40, but would have been happy with sub 2:45). It was also one of the most painful marathons I’ve done, with a nine and a half minute positive split (first half: 1:20:20, second half: 1:29:45)! But the atmosphere during the race made it one of the best races I’ve entered.

The journey to New York began on the 27/10/18. I took an unusual route that involved two 13 hour flights to get to NYC. I then flew to Toronto and stayed there until the day before the race. This helped me recover from the 46 hour ordeal (including layovers, customs and the flight to Toronto) and become acclimatized. It also helped that I was able to stay in the comfort of my brother’s (and his girlfriend’s) apartment!

Fast-forward to Saturday, the day before the big race. I have already picked up my race pack from the NYC Marathon expo. I have also mapped out how I am going to get to start line and have packed all of the things I need to take with me, including my breakfast. I have even written down the 5K splits that runners on Strava of the previous year did with a time similar to my target time. I assumed they did even effort (can’t use even pace on an undulating course!).


With everything set and planned in advance, there was one thing left to do. With Daylight savings ending in the early hours of Sunday, I decided to manually “wind the clock back” on my iPhone.
Sunday morning. I wake before the alarm sounds and have had a good night’s rest. I head to the subway. I notice that the time on all clocks is an hour later than what mine says. A mild sense of panic overcomes me. But after talking to someone who has done the race before my concerns are put at ease. I can catch the 0700 ferry when I was scheduled for the 0600 one. There should be heaps of time before the race. I arrive at the terminal to board the Staten Island ferry, along with thousands of other runners.
On a fine morning The Staten Island ferry is the way to get to the start line. There are fantastic views of NYC as well as a view of the Statue of Liberty. The ferry ride ends but then there is massive queue for the bus to Fort Wadsworth. The wait for the bus is agonizing. Finally I board the bus. After 15 or so minutes, the bus driver does something odd. He does a three point turn and begins to backtrack for 10 whole minutes! The bus driver was lost! He manages to find the correct route but by then it is a mere 30 minutes until I am meant to be started. Everyone in the bus is flustered.


I run to the “Start Villages”.
20 minutes remain!
With my heart racing I search for the bag drop.
15 minutes remain!
I line up to go to the toilet.
10 minutes remain!


With a mere 10 minutes before start (instead of the planned 2 hours), there is zero time to have breakfast. I will start this marathon without sustenance!


I search for my start corral. I eventually find it but have have to un-apologetically weave through thousands of runners! I finally arrive with minutes to spare. And the race is off!

The first mile is up the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and is uphill. I reach the first mile marker right on track (6:49), and same with the 5K/10K/15K/20K points. Despite feeling fine, I’ve noticed that my heart rate has been higher than usual. I reason to myself that this is just to do with state of euphoria that I’m in. With most streets packed full of passionate supporters, who wouldn’t be excited?


I reach half way at 1:20:20. This is well within my target time and I’m happy with this. But as the 30K marker comes around, I’m feeling worse for wear. Would I soon pay for the higher than usual heart rate? Would I soon pay for the lack of breakfast? Unfortunately, the “wheels fall off” from herein. And the wheels really fall off at 20 miles!

A mere six miles remain to the finish line, but this is a long, long way when your tired and fatigued! I eventually slog it out to the finish line in 2:50:05. While it is not the time I was aiming for, it was certainly an unforgettable race!

Notes to myself:

  • 74.6kg two days before race (76.0kg race weight).
  • Ran in Asics Kayanos 23 (US 11 / UK 10, 340g per shoe). They have had 1200 – 1500 km of running so far.
  • After the two week taper I felt fresh, but hard to tell how well it worked due to pre-race drama and lack of breakfast.
  • First marathon without strapping feet! Did not have any blisters afterwards.
  • Had a gel and a muslie bar before race. Usually I have this and a large serving of oats with brown sugar. Next time have breakfast!
  • Had four gels during the race, and generally a third of a cup of water or Gatorade at each mile aid station. There was no problems holding two gels in each hand.
  • Bring hot water in a thermo flask next time! This would have allowed eating breakfast during transit.
  • The Race Screen app for my watch worked well. Remember to disable auto lap (need to manually lap)!
  • Set my watch to use GPS + Galileo (normally GPS only), as per advice from Garmin at the marathon expo. This worked well – the watch overestimated the distance by 230m (less than usual).
  • I still don’t know where the hour discrepancy came from! Perhaps my iPhone further adjusted the time, despite disabling automatic timezone settings? Darn daylight saving time changes!
  • Consider printing name on singlet! Some runners did this and got an extra boost from bystanders!

100 Day Run Streak

Today marks the 100th day of my run streak! I originally set out to run every day of July; suffice to say I’ve well surpassed that goal! My previous run streak was 10 days. Ten. Measly. Days!

What possible motivation is there for running every day? Wouldn’t you get too sore by running every day? If you were to run hard every day, you certainly would! Just like a lot of runners I too subscribe to the easy-hard training philosophy. I do an easy/easier run after a previous day that had a “hard” run.

Ironically, I found that running every day actually increased my ability to recover! While the two weeks of my run streak was hard, it got a lot easier as time went by. Running without a rest day hasn’t hindered my hard days.

In addition to the run streak, I set myself a number of other goals that included:

  • Run at least 100 km a week (high mileage for me!)
  • Do more marathon specific training (namely spend a lot of time at target marathon pace).

  • Add strides to the end of my easy runs.

Success on all accounts! Over the last 14 weeks, I’ve averaged 103 km/week (with a minimum of 100 km/week and maximum of 107 km/week).

Sooner or later the run streak will end. I’m happy with where it is and I’ll soon start my taper for the big race.

Here’s the highlights!

Everyday I’m Running

I’m on a run streak! Since the start of July, I have ran everyday! I’m pretty chuffed with my 34 day run streak; my previous run streak was 8 days.

Every now and again my fitness will plateau. It sometimes goes backwards as well. I decided to introduce a number of challenges and new workouts:

  • Run every day of July.
  • Add strides to the end of my easy runs.
  • Add variety to my weekly track run.
  • Do two to three quality runs a week.

Mission accomplished! I’ve also reached a new fitness level.

Windy Wellington Half Marathon!

Hilly tempo run

9x 200m on 200m jog: 31.0, 34.7, 34.6, 34.7, 34.1, 35.6, 36.8, 34.1, 33.7

Treadmill 10K

8x1000m with 200m jog: 3:20, 3:26, 3:25, 3:27, 3:27, 3:25, 3:34, 3:32

5x1600m with 200m jog: 5:38, 5:40, 5:39, 5:39, 5:40

Strides at the end of an easy run

4x1200m with 400m jog: 3:56, 3:52, 3:51, 3:55

Fartlek run (1km on 1km off)

6x1600m with 200m jog: 5:33, 5:32, 5:35, 5:37, 5:30, 5:30

Post Keto Recovery – I’m fatter and faster!

Two months ago, I embarked on what was the most daring thing I’ve tried in the name of running: try a low carb high fat (LCHF) diet! While there are several LCHF diets, the one I was on was the Standard Ketogenic diet (SKD) and limited myself to 30g/day net carbs!

Over the course of the LCHF diet I would eat food that was almost incompatible with my normal diet. Things I normally would consume in spades included: bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, apples, bananas, carrots, milk, chocolate and biscuits! I wasn’t allowed any of this! Instead, I ate fatty slices of meat, added 40g of full cream to each cup of coffee, and fried egg omlettes in 30g of butter!

One of the benefits of a LCHF diet is that it forces your body is burn body fat for energy. On the 12th day of SKD I was offered to have a skin folds test done. Unsurprisingly, I was very lean at 6.1% body fat! It is also likely that by the last day of SKD that I was even leaner than that. Yikes!

Out of curiosity, I decided to track my macros for a typical day. Using data from myfitnesspal I consumed 2110 calories:



Fat (g)

Protein (g)

Net carbs (g)

115g bacon





130g cream





35g olive oil





160g chicken





2 eggs





10g mayonnaise





70g coconut cream





20g fat bomb





60g bean sprouts





225g celery





160g lettuce





60g spinach





40g gherkin






172 (53%)

118 (36%)

29.5 (9.3%)

I later upped the fat intake and dialled back the protein. Having too much protein isn’t good for a high fat diet as it can get your body out of its fat burning Ketosis mode.

So what else happened over the 33 days that I was on Keto? In a nutshell I became skinner and slower! The first week on SKD was really tough and it certainly tested my willpower. Fortunately the second week wasn’t as bad, and everything besides running returned to normal.

In terms of running performance, I found that I was worse across the board. My fast track runs were slower. My fast road runs were slower. Even my slow runs were slower! On the 28th day of SKD, I decided to see how fast I could run a half marathon. Although it was self-paced, I was almost 10 minutes slower than what I had done earlier on the same course earlier in the year! This is despite being 4.1 kg lighter and in cooler weather!

It has been a month since I have reverted back to my normal diet. I’m proud to say that I’m now fatter and faster! Today’s skin fold test revealed that I’m measurably fatter at 7.4%. Success!

While I have yet to do the same half marathon benchmark, I’ve done a number of runs which suggest I’m back at a similar running level as I was before going to SKD. Last week’s track run was slightly different than usual. Instead of six sets of 1200m @ 3:20 min/km pace with 400m jog recovery, I tried eight sets of 1000m with 200m jog recovery. While the average pace of the interval was slower (3:27 min/km), the rest was significantly shorter (1 minute) which made it a more demanding workout. I also did a decent hilly tempo of moderate effort two weeks prior. I wouldn’t have been able to do either of these workouts on SKD.

Mission accomplished! I’m fatter and faster!




% change

Weight (kg)




Triceps sf (mm)




Subscapular sf (mm)




Biceps sf (mm)




Iliac crest sf (mm)




Supraspinale sf (mm)




Abdominal sf (mm)




Front thigh sf (mm)




Medial calf sf (mm)








% fat (Yuhasz)




Wellington Half Marathon

Last Sunday I competed in the 2018 Wellington Half Marathon. I completed the race in 1:19:06. Despite being a flat course, howling northerlies made it anything but a fast race! The weather was so foul that one runner thought it was the worst weather he’d encountered in the last 20 years of entering in the Wellington Marathon!

With winds averaging 20 knots (37.0 km/h), it made a flat course slow and difficult. While Wellington is infamous for its terrible weather, this year seemed particularly bad. The average half marathon finishing time since 2010:





















While there’s other factors that could explain the slower finishing time, it’s reasonable to suggest that the weather was largely responsible for the 5 minute slower average finishing time.

But does wind affect everyone the same? I found an interesting paper titled The Influence of Wind Resistance in Running…. Since drag force is proportional to the square of velocity, it comes of no surprise that the faster you are trying to run, the greater the impact of wind.

Using the regression equations from the paper and a couple of assumptions (i.e., when the runner was running with no wind on a 0% incline treadmill, this is equivalent to running outside with a tail wind):

Speed (km/h)

Wind speed (km/h)

Oxygen consumption (mL/kg/min)

VO2 relative to zero wind (%)

































In other words, if you were running a flat out and back course where you were either running into a headwind or a tailwind, you’d expect to run slower than the same course on a windless day! And the faster you run, the more wind affects you! The same holds true for any out and back course, where the environmental conditions (wind and wind direction) remains constant.

So how does pace themselves during a windy race? By using heart rate! From my last half marathon race, I know I can hold 176 bpm over the race. Since my max heart rate (MHR) is 189 bpm, 176 bpm is 93% MHR. I regulated my speed based on my current heart rate!

How did the race go overall? I suspect I’ve lost a bit of conditioning since trialing a Ketogenic diet for a month. While the wind did not help, I think I should have done a bit better. From my heart rate data, I should have pushed more from 12.5 km, despite predominately being into the wind. I was 76 kg on the day, had either water or electrolytes during the first three aid stations and did not eat anything on the run.

Day Five on Keto

Since last Sunday, I’ve have been on a Ketogenic diet. Typically prescribed for people with various neurological disorders (Epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease…), Low Carb High-Fat (LCHF) diets have recently come to the foray for endurance athletes as an alternative to the usual High Carb (HC) diet! As part of my valiant attempt to further sports science, I’ve volunteered myself as a participant in a running study that examines the effect of a LCHF diet on long distance runners!

The change in my diet could not have been greater. Going from fueled from carbohydrates and sugars — then suddenly — to fat and protein, it has not been easy. Today marks my fifth day on Keto, and here’s what I have endured so far:

Day 1 began following a time to exhaustion test (read: a very long run!). Craving for carbs and sugars, I had to abstain. Instead, I ate a large four egg omelette fried in 30g of butter! Later, I had two cups of coffee with 100g of cream and a chicken breast that bathed in the oven in 30g of olive oil. Yikes! As the sun went down, I became drowsy, developed a runny nose and an unshakable headache overcame me. All signs and symptoms of the noctorious Keto Flu.

Day 2. I was at work and I felt dopey, drowsy and easily irritable. Following from yesterday’s ordeal, today was a rest day. Again, I ate nothing but fats and protein. I also had vegetables that were low in carbs and sugars, such as lettuce, mushrooms and asparagus. These were also drowned in either olive oil or full fat mayonnaise (of course!).

Day 3. Although the Keto Flu lingered, it was much less than before. I also felt like my mind was clearer and was able to focus better than before. Although having thought about it, this could have simply been due to the sudden uptake of the coffee with cream. I seldom drink coffee. I decided to go for a short recovery run. Worst 10K run of my life! What should have barely broken a sweat ended up being more torturous than the last 10K of an all out marathon! The run started off at 14km/h ended in 11km/h. My body was aching from head to toe.

Day 4 was similar to the previous day. Again, I went out for a slow run. The first two kilometers felt mostly like a recovery run, but things got progressively harder. I even had to stop, and doubt I could have run much further than the 12 km I did!

Day 5 (today). From the previous days it appeared that the first two kilometers were much easier than the rest. I decide to do a set of intervals. Less than a week ago, I did 6x1200m @ 3:20min/km with 2:15 between each rep. Today, I could only manage 4x1200m and none of the reps were remotely close in speed! What’s more, the last rep was at least 15% slower than any of the ones done last week. I hate to think of how slow the remaining two reps would have been, had I grit my teeth and slogged it out!

I feel that I’m gradually overcoming the Keto flu and becoming fat adapted. Time will tell how this Keto diet turns out over the next 25 days I am on it!

Rotorua Half Marathon

Yesterday I paced the 2018 Rotorua Half Marathon. I was the 1:20 pacer, but came in one minute too slow! Reflections on the course and my pacing are as follows…

Unlike previous Rotorua Half Marathons, this year’s one was off-road and hilly! It starts at the same place as the full marathon, but instead heads south-east towards the forest. The majority of the course is on an old gravel road. You need to watch your step carefully here: there are countless fist sized rocks and foot deep potholes scattered along the trail! There is also a kilometer of running on wet grass trail, which also has a sandy part and a muddy part! Fortunately there were no river crossings!

Part of the course is also shared with the Quarter Marathon. This makes it hard for the faster half marathon runners; in the last 7 kilometers I had to navigate through hundreds of runners coming head on. This is easier said that done as you also need to choose a path free of things that you could roll your ankle on! The elevation gain was 260m.

As part of my preparation for my pacing duties, I studied the course profile. Instead of even pacing I needed to opt for even effort. I devised a program that gave kilometer splits, given the course profile and target time while maintaining an even effort. I followed my prescribed plan during the race. Judging by my heart rate, this plan indeed resulted in an even effort. I suspect it would have been spot on, had I factored in the surfaces I’d be traversing.

Effort-wise, being the 1:20 pacer was suitable and well within my ability, even on a hilly trail course like the new Rotorua Half Marathon. From races in the eight months, my average HR for the 10K, 21.1K and 42.2K events are 180, 176, and 170 respectively. With yesterday’s run, my average HR was below my average HR for a marathon! My max HR was also the same as what I average in a half marathon race. This was a surprise to me, given the steep hills on the new course.

All in all the new Rotorua Half Marathon course is enjoyable and a nice change from road running. However, I’m unsure whether it is a wise idea having off-road courses added into what has been and is a road-running event. If I were pacing for a 1:20 again on the same course, I would aim to run 4% faster on the road surfaces (equating to 3:36 min/km on the six kilometers of road).

Auckland Waterfront Half Marathon

Last Sunday I competed in the 2018 Auckland Waterfront Half Marathon. My official race time was 1:16:43. This was a great result for me: I managed to slash 3 minutes from my previous best (PB) half marathon!

The Auckland Waterfront Half Marathon is a new race that runs along Auckland’s Tamaki Drive. To reach the 21.1km distance a large portion of Tamaki Drive is covered twice. Unfortunately this meant that there was was a lot of other runners to negotiate around on the second loop. This also made it near impossible to pick up a cup of water at the aid stations! As a result, I did not hydrate properly during the race.

There was no wind or sea breeze. Next time I’d consider running with sunglasses, given the orientation of the course and the morning sun. It was between 15C and 18C with 75% relative humidity while I was out running. This gives a wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) between 13.3 and 16.1. According to research this was a challenging environment to achieve a PB, despite the “fast and flat” course!

Notes to self: I was 77.5kg on the day. This is about 1.5kg heavier than I was two weeks ago! I was out of the country for a week a week ago and was on an untypical diet. During the race I actively monitored my heart rate (HR) and tried to keep it below 176bpm. Despite consuming less water that I would have liked, ironically I still felt bloated for most of the second half of the race. The last four kilometers were tough and it showed in my poor posture towards the end of the race.

Auckland Marathon

Today I ate humble pie. Determined to go sub 2:45, I could only manage 2:54:07 on the day. That’s a huge disparity! Let me explain…

The Auckland Marathon starts at 6am. Despite beginning at the crack of dawn, it was unusually warm this morning at 16C. By the time I finished my run it was 18C, making it the hottest marathon I have run. The air was also uncomfortably “sticky” and estimated to be 90% R.H!

Despite a significantly slower pace and easier course profile, my average heart during the first 10km of the marathon was similar to that of a typical 10km tempo!

Ten kilometres into the run and my heart rate is higher than usual. I’m travelling at 3:50 min/km pace and my heart rate is at 170 bpm – 5 bpm higher than I’d like. My bib is also drenched sweat, no doubt from the hot and humid weather! I reach half way at 1:21:34.

It’s now 26km into the race and I approach the first of two drink stations that I’ve left my own water bottle and energy gel. However, the people manning the station offer no help and I’m lost searching in a sea of nondescript water bottles for my own one! After stopping for a frustrating 10 seconds, I forgo a crucial hydration and energy stop.

Kilometre split comparison between 2016 and 2017 Auckland Marathons.

From this point on, I begin to slow down and start paying for going too hard in the first half. I persevere but the “wheels fall off” at 33km as I begin the slow and painful run back home.

It’s now 36km and I’ve arrived at the last special drink station. This time I yell out my bib number and the course volunteer swiftly finds my drink and energy gel and hands it to me. Much better!

It’s been a long slog but I’ve managed to cross the finish line after several agonizing 4:50 min/km kilometers. This is a pedestrian pace compared to the 3:53 min/km I averaged over the first 29 kilometers! The second half split was 1:32:33, giving me a 11 minute positive split. Ouch!

All was not lost. I’ve come away with some valuable lessons:

  1. Adjust expectations based on current conditions. Hot and especially humid conditions can completely change the course difficulty.
  2. When approaching a “special drink station”, yell out your race number well in advance to the course volunteer so they can fetch your drink for you!
  3. There’s a lot of techniques for breathing while running. In today’s high humidity, I would have been better off breathing “through the mouth”.
  4. Peanuts can give laxative-like effects! By the skin of my teeth I avoided a toilet stop during the race. Never again!
  5. I was happy that I achieved the much vaunted 180 steps per minute over the course of the marathon. A high leg turn over is more energy efficient and reduces the likelihood of over-striding / injury.

Some things to work on:

  • Try breathing “through the mouth” as it is apparently better for running. The only time I should be breathing through the nose is when the air is cold and/or dry.
  • More long runs at marathon pace on profiles similar to that of the course.
  • Consider reducing the number of interval sessions I do with tempo runs or long runs as these are more marathon-specific workouts. Trouble is I actually enjoy the interval sessions!
  • Find out how to “reset” the distance my GPS watch thinks I have run during the race. It always overestimates the distance!

An enjoyable 6x1200m interval session!

Notes to self: I was 77kg on the day and had three gels (8km, 17km, 23km). I missed one gel at 29km and did not feel like eating the one I picked up at 36km. I had either water or sports drink at each of the aid stations. I had flat soda for two of the stations following the mishap at station 29km.