Sunday, April 27, 2014

Weekend #8: The Longest Night Training

With just 8 weeks remaining to race night, The NightHawks were gathered at MacRitchie Reservoir park for the second time in the training program for a 21km and 32km Marathon Pace (MP) long run.

In view of the longer time to be spent on our feet, we started registration at 7:00pm and by 7:30pm, we were flagged off in our respective groups along Thomson Road.  Because of the Run350 race in which many of the NightHawks were participating, the crowd was a lot smaller and more manageable.

The Sundown Pacers and NightHawk Trainers were in force to lead their respective groups of trainees along the winding Old Upper Thomson Road, and then onto the long stretch of Sembawang and Mandai Roads.

The first half of the run went great for all the pace groups who were keeping close with one another till the U-turn point of the Half Marathoners at Mandai Rd/Yishun Ave junction.  The return for the HMers went just as well, at least till the 18km mark for the majority...a good showing indeed.

The Full Marathoners proceeded strongly and on target MP all the way to the junction leading into the Zoo.  After a brief 'technical' pause for the respective group members  to reconvene and have a refuel, the NightHawks made their way back along the route they came from, trying to maintain the target MP for as long as possible.

The humid weather, especially along the heavily vegetated OUTR and parts of UTR made it a lot more challenging to sustain the pace.  It was only along the straight Mandai Road stretch where there were mild winds, giving the NightHawks some reprieve.  By the 25km mark, the NightHawk FMers were feeling the effects of the weather and to some extent, the lack of hydration points along the way.

Group 1 dug deep to keep the whole group going at MP all the way back to MR Amenities Centre for 32km @ 5:40 average pace.  Groups 2 & 3 did well to sustain MP till 70-80% of the prescribed mileage requirements, with a portion of the members falling back to a slower but manageable pace, forcing in some recoveries in-run.  Groups 4A & 4B did well to complete as much mileage at MP given the 4hr training cut-off time.

Group 3 @ Mid Point - Credit FatBird Lorraine

All the runners completed their quests by 11:30pm.  Overall it was a challenging training run, complete with most of the tough conditions of night running - this will go a good way towards strengthening and conditioning of the NightHawks as we progress positively towards Sundown race night in 4 weeks' time.

Next weekend will see the NightHawks doing their longest run of 35km in the whole program, before we enter the Tapering phase.  At the same time, the ante will be up as we move into 'Optimal' Pace training, with the targeted average pace faster by 7sec/km in all pace groupings.  

This will provide our runners sufficient buffer to meet their Sundown Marathon targets even in the face of slowdown from the 32km mark due to fatigue or unforseen circumstances such as blockages and slower starts because of the crowd.

The NightHawks Are On Track For A Crack (at Marathon PBs)!

Photos from FatBird Chin

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Week #7: Sundown Marathon Lead Up Run 2

The second Sundown Marathon Lead Up Run saw another capacity crowd arrive early to the Playground @ Big Splash, ECP.  After the overwhelming attendance for the 1st Lead Up Run at night, registrations have filled for the 2nd and final lead up runs, allowing for a more manageable crowd in terms of pace guidance and resource allocation.

Because of the longer distances of 21km for the Half Marathoners and 30km for the Full Marathoners, the Sundown Organizers was at the Playground way before 6am to setup for the early arrival of the enthusiastic Sundown Marathoners.  

The Sundown Marathon Pacers were also out in full force, carrying pace timing Boards to mass the participants into their respected pace groupings of (2:00h, 2:15h, 2:30h) for the HM and (4:00h, 4:30h, 5:00h, 5:30h, 6:00h for the FM.  There was an air of excitement amidst the cool morning, albeit with humidity rather high in the face of impending late morning rain.

After the route and pace group briefings, the respective groups were flagged off to the sounds of the air horn with the Sundown flag waving proudly in the air.  The objective of this training run was to maintain and sustain Marathon Pace (MP) for the respective distances.  

With the help and guidance of the Sundown Marathon Pacers, the participants were all rev-ed up to do their best to meet their personal targets in terms of pace and distances.

It was a motivating sight to see all the timing groupings led by their respective Pacers (with timing bibs on their backs) moving as one along the straights of the East Coast Parkway.   

There were applause and shouts of encouragement, interjected with the occasional whistles, as the various groups pass one another - that always injected extra energy into the runners, providing additional boosts to their mission of sustaining Marathon Pace.

The first 12km was done with all groups on pace and ever energetic as we took a 'technical halt' at the Maxinutrition hydration point set up at NSRCC.  The hydration team comprising of Maxinutrition and FatBird volunteers did a sterling job to manage the constant flow of electrolyte drinks without much of a delay to the runners' continued advance back to the Playground.

By the 15km, the various groups have thinned somewhat with the faster runners moving ahead at their comfortable paces, whilst the ones who were not able to keep up with their respective paces falling slightly back.  

The Sundown Pacers were immaculate with the main body keeping the target MP in check, while there was a lead and sweeper in each pace group to help with the ones in front and at the rear.  It was also good practice and experience for the Sundown Pacers as they got to feel for some of the runners' management issues they may encounter on actual race night.

The HM groups reached the Playground with 21.1km completed with 2min to spare in each of their respective pace timings.  If this plays out to plan on race night, the Half Marathoners would have no problems hitting their race timing objectives at all.  


As the HM rested in the cool shade of the trees nearby, the FM runners came back within the MP timings, but the weariness and fatigue brought upon by the heat of the morning sun could be seen in many of the runners.  

With 9km remaining and in wanting to meet their training objectives, the Sundown Pacers rallied their respective groups to continue with their sustained paces - kudos to their mental strength and resolve to complete the mission at hand.

The second loop after the hydration stop at Playground was tough, especially with the overbearing  heat of the sun testing the steadfastness of the pace groups.  It was a lot harder to keep up with Marathon Pace (MP) as the kilometres drew on, but the Sundown Pacers were giving their all to encourage and motivate the tiring troops to avoid dropping off the MP trail.

After 3 hours, the first of the FM groups streamed in to loud cheers and applause as they complete the full 30km in target paces.  Handshakes and warm words of congratulations went around the group members and Pacers for a job so well done.  

The rest of the groups came back in about 15min intervals, and as they drew near, lots of shouts and whistles could be heard.  The weary but satisfied smiles of the runners when they crossed the finish line were 'invaluable' and that in itself was the just reward for accomplishing what they set out to do in the morning.

Some of the participants did not complete the intended distances, but still felt accomplished and happy that they were able to maintain the targeted MP for 70-90% of the prescribed distances, before slowing slightly to complete the full distances at a slightly slower pace.

It was the great organization and support from Sundown Organizer and Maxinutrition, coupled with the professionalism and dedication of the Sundown Pacers, along with the commitment and positive attitude of the Sundown Runners that made this Lead Up Run a huge success - Congratulations to all who have contributed to make this run so happening!

Here They Come, Sundown Runners...
Here They Run, Sundown Runners...
Oh Yeah, The Sundown Runners!

Facebook Photos from FatBirds CK ChinMeng Kiat

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Week #6: Into Marathon Pace

Week 6 of NightHawk training saw the commencement of Phase 2 operatons - moving into Marathon Pace (MP) territory and upping distances to a few 30Ks LSDs, both night and day.

The unique, but relatively far training location at Changi Beach saw a smaller turnout.  The whole place was full of activity, with difficulty in finding parking for a number of runners.  For many of the NightHawk participants, this was their first at the location, and everyone was just looking forward to the long Marathon Paced run in nice, cool weather.

By now, the majority of trainees have settled comfortably into their respective pace groupings and are familiar with their own group Pacers and members.  Briefings and photo taking take a lot less time, and we were heading towards Changi Beach and Coastal Road by 8:10pm.  

The NightHawks looked and ran very strongly for the first half of the long run, maintaining very steady paces along the 'mentally challenging' 7km Changi Coastal stretch.  With group running, the passage through this often difficult portion was made to feel shorter.

Before we even felt any fatigue creeping in, we were already on ECP and running along the stretch from NSRCC.  The Half Marathoners turned back at NSRCC for their 21km and managed well back along the dreaded Changi Coastal stretch, albeit with slightly more difficulty than the first half.  Still, the Marathon Pace(s) were maintained and the HMers finished in good form.

The FM groups went on to the 15km U-Turn, with Groups 1 & 2 running in slightly deeper before coming back for the 2nd half.  Hydration and fuel plans were seen to be put to good practice and most have not much difficulty maintaining their respective paces.

After 22km, fatigue started to creep in for some NightHawks, and when they entered back onto Changi Coastal stretch, they were stretched even more as some had to pull back on their paces, but still kept moving onwards.  On that front, the NightHawks did very well to sustain a slightly slower pace but still made their mileage in reasonably good form in 3-4hrs.  

There were valuable takeaways and lessons for the trainees on the effects of night running on their bodies, the extra efforts required to sustain the same pace in the night compared with daytime running, in-run recovery to complete the workload upon onset of fatigue/cramping, effects of nutrition and hydration on their performances, and maintaining running form after fatigue sets in.

It was a very fruitful and motivating session for most of the NightHawks, with many feeling the 'highs' of the run, hours after they have completed and rested.  This was the kind of buildup and progression we hope for our NightHawk participants.

As we move forward with a few more 20Ks (HM) and 30Ks (HM), we are confident of the NightHawks building a good foundation to hit their desired marathon goals at Sundown and even other races.

Here They Run, Oh NightHawks!  They Will Train, For Sundown!

Photos by NightHawk CK Chin