Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Skechers GOrun Bolt: Initial Review

The 'knitted' shoe technology has been around for quite a while now. If you're a runner, especially one who keeps up with shoe technology, you've definitely seen them or even own a pair or two. I've always wanted to try one of them but the thing about these 'knitted' technology shoes are that they're quite pricey.

But the shoe gods must have heard my prayers. I was lucky enough to get a pair of the Skechers Performance version of this technology last Saturday, the Skechers GOrun Bolt (GRB), a knitted fabric upper on the heels of the proven and reliable outsole of the Skechers GOrun Ride 3. I'm not sure how the name Bolt came to be though.

The GRB is basically a GOrun Ride 3 but with a completely new knitted upper fabric called the FitKnit by Skechers Performance. The GRB sports a multi coloured seamless woven advanced lightweight FitKnit upper replacing the standard mesh upper of the GRR3. The outsole is the very same one found on the GOrun Ride 3.

I'm not going to go into too much details on the specifications of the shoe. Like I said, it's basically a GOrun Ride 3 with a new knitted upper. You can always read my previous review on the GRR3 here for a better understanding on the specifications of the shoe. It's still as lightweight as the typical Skechers running shoe.

My first impression of the shoe was how different could it be from the current GOrun Ride 3, yeah a new upper, name and all but it's still built atop the same GRR3 mould. When Jamie, who collected the shoe for me, handed me the shoe prior to the MPIB clinic run last Saturday, I decided to give it an immediate test. I mean, why wait, right?

The first signs that my assumption of the GRB being the same as the GRR3 were quashed when I first slid my feet into them. The fit was perfect. The seamless woven upper fabric flowed over my feet like soft comfy socks. It felt totally different from the upper of the GRR3. While the GOrun Ride 3's upper was flexible, breathable and all that, it was a tad bit restrictive on my feet.

The Skechers GOrun Bolt on the other hand felt like you only had on a pair of socks over your feet. It was a pleasant surprise. Upon warming up and walking in them before the run, even the outsole felt a tad bit different, much more cushier and softer. I put that down to the illusion of it being a brand new shoe. The outsole is after all an exact duplicate of the GRR3.

My first run session in them covered a total of 13.5km and they were definitely way different from the GRR3. In all my runs with the GRR3, I was always aware that I had them on but with the GOrun Bolt, it felt the opposite. Never once did my mind waver to my shoe, which in shoe terms is really a good thing.

The bounce and cushioning of the shoe, which is in essence a 4mm drop shoe was quite amazing. It makes me wonder if Skechers really didn't tweak the outsole somewhat. The GRB comes with custom fit insoles, giving you the option of running with or without the insoles. I ran without the insoles like I always do. The ride felt completely different from the GRR3.

The upper was very breathable and I could feel the cool morning air flowing through the shoe somewhat. The FitKnit upper was pretty flexible as one would expect with a 'knitted' shoe and the material expanded nicely and seamlessly along with your feet. The woven upper also provides lateral and medial support for stability during runs. The usual padded tongue and heel counter were still apparent though. I've always preferred thinner tongues though. Weighing the same as the GRR3, the GOrun Bolt tips the scale at 8.4 oz in the men's size 9. The fit was simply perfect for me in my regular size 8's.

Top shoe is the GOrun Ride 3, bottom is theGOrun Bolt
I was so impressed with the shoe that I decided it would be my race shoe for the CAPAM International Half Marathon the next day. I know almost everyone says not to run a race in a pair of brand new shoes, I find that totally hogwash cos I've run in quite a few totally brand new shoes without any incidents. Besides, my feet are simply cut out for most of the Skechers Performance shoe and no, I'm not saying that just to please Skechers. I'm fortunate to have feet that can accommodate most running shoes.

As expected the shoe was a joy to run in for the event and not once did I have to worry or think about my shoe throughout the race. The Skechers GOrun Bolt was like an extension of my feet and freed up my mind to completely focus on the race itself. It worked so well that I managed to even PR the tough and demanding course.

No hotspots and the upper expanded nicely along with my feet throughout the race. The only thing I cannot be certain of is how well the upper would perform in the rain or wet situations. I guess that will have to wait until a rainy run, which I would be reluctant to try them out or wait for one of the other shoe testers to do it .. LOL!

Overall, I'm very satisfied with the performance of the shoe. I've been using them for all my runs since I got them and have acquired some pretty high mileage in them already, around 60km plus, which is rare for a shoe that's only been in my possession for about 4 days and with work commitments thrown in. My only 'complaint' would be that the shoe lacked the usual funky colorway of the GOrun series. But nothing that couldn't be rectified with a change of the laces. I have loads of spare laces since most Skechers GOrun series shoes comes with a spare set of laces.

The Skechers GOrun Bolt will be launched end of this week in Skechers outlets here and will be retailed at RM399 for the women's and RM419 for the men's. Is it worth checking out? Yes, it definitely is worth looking at, whether you're a competitive runner or a casual one. It's also way more reasonably priced than its competitors out there. I'm just waiting for Skechers Performance to knit one in some fluorescent colors, that would be insanely cool.

The pair of Skechers GOrun Bolt above was kindly provided by Skechers Malaysia for wear testing. This review is of my own personal experience with the shoe and is in no way influenced by Skechers Malaysia whatsoever.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

CAPAM International Run 2014: Race Review

I wasn't really looking forward to this run. The route for the CAPAM run was the exact duplicate of the PNM route the previous week and the thought of having to have to go through it again was really not very appealing to me. I suffered tremendously during the Putrajaya Night Marathon.

When I signed up for the CAPAM run, I didn't know which route they were going to be running. The route info was practically non existent on the organizers website. I only signed up cos the distance matched my training plans for the week. It would be like an LSD with a whole bunch of other people.

At least I had the company of Jamie, who was also crazy enough to sign up. Come race day, I reached the race venue early to pick up both Jamie, Choon Yuen (who couldn't make it due to work commitments) and my bib. I had to leave the bib collection to the last minute due to some unforeseen issues. The wife decided to tag along to lend support  and to be my unofficial photographer.

The weather though was lovely. It rained the night before in my place and I'm not sure if Putrajaya rained or not but the place was cool. Perfect weather for running. But I was expecting things to heat up fast as is always the case with Putrajaya.

For an event dubbed with the words international in it, there was surprisingly few participants. Jamie and me warmed up, and headed to the start pen for the 22k (yes, it was officially a 22k event) runners to await our start. The MC got on my nerves with his rambling and I couldn't wait to be flagged off to be rid of him.

The gun went off right on the dot at 6.30am and it was time to get to work. Since I was familiar with the route and its ups and downs, I was at least much better prepared to negotiate it this time round. The initial start pace was a tad too fast with the Garmin clocking in at 4:55 minutes for the first kilometer. Both Jamie and me decided that it way too fast a start and dialed the pace back down. After all, there was still a long way to go and we had to keep something in the tank for the second half of the race.

We ran together for close to 18km averaging a 5:15 pace, slowing when we had to and stepping it up when we needed to. Water stations were grab and run cos both of us weren't planning to stop just to re-hydrate. Every second we kept moving counted. The water stations were spaced out exactly as in PNM and that made it easier to anticipate when we would reach them. A nice mix of water and isotonics as well.

Surprisingly, I was feeling fine, even with a pace I wasn't really comfortable with. The legs kept going with not much protest and no signs of the knee issues showed up. Thank god. As I had decided earlier, when we reached the Taman Cabaran area just after the cemetary, I walked up both the inclines. Lost some precious time there but I wasn't about to challenge that climb. Once that was done, I got back into a steady pace again. Somewhere around the 18km mark, the 10k runners merged with us and things got pretty crowded.

At this point, I was already feeling tired. I didn't have breakfast prior to the race and had no gels with me. I was hoping that this wouldn't be a bad decision. The legs were already showing some signs of fatigue and I stopped at the 18km water station to walk. Thankfully there was no cramping this time. Jamie was still going strong and headed off on his own.

After a short walk to recover, I started my attack for the final 4km. I glanced at my watch and realized that I could finally break my 3 year old 21km PR. The confidence level rose. I upped the pace a little more even though I was gasping for air by this point. Surged up the final incline and passed the 21km mark in 1:54, I was ecstatic. My 3 year old 1:59 half marathon time was finally broken.

Now all I had to do was make it through the last 1.2km and the torture would be over. Once again the thought that I would shave off last weeks PNM timing was spurring me on. With every bit of effort I had left in me, I made a bee line to the finish and crossed the line in a time of 2:01, taking 14 minutes off my PNM time last week. Oh the joy!

I really didn't expect the results I got seeing as how I wasn't at all confident before the race but I'm a happy camper today. I'm hoping this is no flash in the pan and that the training plan I've cooked up is what contributed to this somewhat. We shall see how it really pans out in the next three months or so.

While there really is nothing I can say about the event cos it was kinda low key for me, the organization was pretty good. The race experience was decent, the volunteers were as always spot on and did a great job. Kudos to them. The only complaint I have was the lack of mobile toilets. Overall, save for the annoying MC, I say it was a pleasant experience.

A big congrats goes out to Jamie for his superb run and thanks for the company, well at least for 18 kilometers of it anyway.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Putrajaya Night Marathon 2014: Race Review

Don't let the title fool you. It wasn't the marathon for me this year, just the half, which in hindsight was one of the best run decisions I made in ages.

The entire event was under threat of a bad haze enveloping parts of the country. The situation was so bad that I was contemplating to skip the event but decided to play by ear and wait till race day to weigh my options. I didn't want to miss this run not because I was intending to try for a PR or anything but simply because me and the entire gang were running our respective races in support of a very good friend.

If fact, this would be my longest distanced run in nearly two months since recovering from my knee injury. A conservative pace was in order. This marks only my second time running the half in the Putrajaya Night Marathon, with the previous two installments being the full marathon. I simply wasn't interested in reliving the pain of running a night marathon in the humidity of Putrajaya. It was a wise decision.

Thankfully, the haze let up a little on race day and the event was a go, not that the organizers actually had any intention of calling it off that late in the game anyway. Too much was already spent for it to be called off. The wife (who was also running the half) and me made our way early to the race location, bumped into Arman and Suzie before meeting up with Jamie.

The signature balloons archers of the organizer ...
After chit-chatting and warming up, we made our way to watch the start of the full marathon category. Back in 2011, I was running the Putrajaya Half marathon for the very first time and was envious of the Marathoners and vowed to be in the start pen with them one day. This year though I was smiling from ear to ear that I was not in the start pen with them. Jamie echoed my thoughts by stating that we made the right decision by signing up for the half instead of the full.

Caught watching the girls ... errr, I mean runners go by ...
Pic courtesy of the wife.
Soon enough it was our turn for flag off amidst a colorful display of fireworks. It was a new route for all the categories this year. And having run the route before I kinda knew what to expect. To say it was a tough route is an understatement. Right from the start you're already negotiating the rolling highway. Jamie already bolted off with a strategy of his own and I wasn't about to latch on to him, not with the pace he was going. I was still cautious about my leg and eased back into something that better suited my current level of fitness.

The first 12k was not too bad. I surprised myself that I could get into a 5:20-5:40 pace through that rolling highway stretch. The entire stretch though, even with a huge TV screen at the 9K mark (I think) was absolutely boring. Safe for the volunteers at the drink station, you were on your own with the darkness of the night. Mind numbing, I tell you.

A percussion band belting out some catchy tunes ...
By the time I reached the cemetery area, my knee started feeling wonky. It wasn't such a big deal, just a twitch on and off but I wasn't going to risk a recurrence of the injury so I dialed in the pace considerably. Which actually was a good thing cos that was when we reached the PICC incline. I made a decision to walk this stretch which even though I've run it before, felt like forever.

At this point I remembered that I forgot to take my one and only gel and quickly pulled it out and swallowed it down and in my haste I failed to make sure there was a water station nearby. You know la how these gels are when you don't really have water to wash it down. With a sticky taste in my mouth, I continued, hoping the gel would kick it but realistically knowing that it wouldn't really happen, not with one gel at that late stage of the game.

The half marathoners waiting for flag off.
Pic courtesy of the wife.
With about 7k or so to go, it was slow going. Even with the dialed in pace, I was struggling to reach the finish. The lack of proper and consistent training was clearly evident. Slowly and steadily I trudged on and finally after 22.3km and 2:15 later I crossed the finish line, not my best time but happy nonetheless to complete my longest run to date and remain injury free. I have a chance at redemption next week though cos the CAPAM International run plies the same route or so I'm told.

As with most of the Twenty First Century organized events, you get the volunteers personally putting the medal around your neck. I thanked them, quickly grabbed my finisher tee, headed to the car to get a quick change of tee and headed up to meet with Jamie to help him distribute some race flyers. After practically bugging everyone to take a leaflet, I ran back to the 20km mark to wait for the wife and pace her back the final 2km plus to the finish.

No one fights alone. This is for you 'Iron Man'
She did well considering getting cramps and all and I accompanied her back to the finish. Technically this was the first time I ran with her during a race :D She was happy with her performance and said she PR'ed the cemetery stretch ... LOL! Good job, hon.

And a big congrats also goes to my GC buddies who ran the SCKLM the next day, who did great in their marathon with a few getting some exceptional PR's and some on their virgin marathon attempts. Great job guys. 'Iron man' will be proud of all of you! As for me, it's time to work harder to keep up with these bunch of speedsters!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Boh Highlands Run 2014

It was a cold, wet and muddy affair at the Boh Highlands Run 2014 this morning but it was not without fun. The rains that came pouring down just before the race start and remained until the event was over didn't damper the spirits of those present. In fact, everyone reveled in the rains, mud and cool, crispy fresh highlands air.

The wife and me started our journey to Cameron Highlands for the inaugural Boh Highlands Run 2014 at the ungodly hour of 6 am. We took a nice slow and easy drive up to Cameron's with the intention of avoiding the infamous Brinchang 'pasar malam' gridlock that had me fuming with rage a few years back. Back then it was our first visit to Cameron Highlands, also for a run event and we were stuck in the crawl for close to two hours.

The infamous Brinchang Gridlock, and I thought KL was bad!
We weren't going to have any of that this time round. The drive up was uneventful and pretty much easy. With a stop at one of the highway rest stops earlier for breakfast, we reached Copthorne hotel, our 'home' for the weekend around 11.30am. The traffic was already getting a little congested and we decided to park the car in the hotel car park and explore the place on foot since it was still way too early for checking in.

We weren't short of places to visit seeing as how just a few metres down the road were shops and stalls selling all the usual Cameron Highlands knick knacks and food. We took our time checking out everything, bought a couple of stuff and before we knew it, it was time to check in. Checking in was a breeze since our reservations were made out in advance.

Upon checking into the room, I was already plotting a route in my mind for the wife and me to run later in the evening. The roads were not really safe nor very conducive for running, what with it being narrow and choked with slow moving cars. The next best thing was to make a beeline towards the Boh Tea Centre at Sungai Palas. After a short rest I was already bugging the wife to get ready. My feet were itching to get in some running before dinner. Besides, I really needed the mileage and the sublime weather was simply begging for a run.

The beautiful tea plantation scene that accompanied us on our run to the Boh Centre
The plan to run to the Boh Tea Centre was a sound decision since the route, though a little narrow was devoid of much traffic. The run was scenic with a beautiful view of the tea plantation on our right. The weather was simply cool and reminded me so much of our Gold Coast Airport Marathon excursion. It made me miss the place all over again. Yes, yes, I simply love the Gold Coast! There, I've said it!

A castle like dwelling on the way to the Boh Centre 
Anyways, we reached the race start location and the organizing committee, led by Dominic and the event crew, led by Wan, were still busy setting up the place. Caught up for a bit and then headed up to the Boh Centre before heading back to the hotel. The journey back was a little more difficult, what with the entire route back being uphill but we both got a nice good quad workout. It rained on the way back and that didn't bode well for tomorrow.

A cute goat that posed for me on our way back ...
After a quick shower, a disappointing dinner at the hotel, it was back to the room to chill and call it an early night since we planned to drive to the centre instead of taking the shuttle bus provided by the organizers and our main concern was getting parking since space was limited.

The mist waiting for us on the trail route
Up bright and early the next morning, we were out of the hotel and headed to the race start location by 6.00am. The place was already filling up with those who opted to drive on their own. The music was already blaring and the place was starting to get in a party mood. Most of the participants had fancy hats or head gear on since the theme called for a wacky hat. Shereen, from the organizing committee passed me a hat to wear, which of course I was too shy to put on ... LOL!

Then, as per my deductions, the rains came which had everyone scrambling for cover under the tents. I was secretly and sadistically happy but god, was it cold and chilly. The rains didn't let up and for a moment the event looked set to have a delayed start but thankfully Wan, the race director decided to keep to the schedule and off we went. I was a little concerned about the participants cos at least 95% of them were wearing normal road shoes instead of trail shoes and the route was bound to be muddy and slippery.

The hard working organizing committee
The start for me was pretty screwy. The thin mountain air and the uphill start had me gasping for breath as early as 600 metres into the run. As expected the route was muddy, water logged at certain points and very slippery. Since I had on my grippy and trusty GObionic Trail, it was all systems go for me and I pounded the muddy paths as fast as my legs would allow.

The route though short and slightly under distanced, at 4.5K or so was by no means a pushover, what with the uneven, muddy and sometimes rocky terrain coupled with its ups and downs. It took some effort at certain points to keep going. But everyone looked like they were having a good time with lots of participants taking advantage of the simply beautiful backdrop of the tea plantation to stop and take selfies.

Overall, safe for the rain which no one can control, the event was pretty well organized for a fun run, if you asked me. The 500 or so participants all looked like they were having a blast in the rain. Their spirits weren't dampened and I had a blast myself. How often do you get to actually run in the rain in a picturesque tea plantation?

There were loads of activities on hand such as the 'BOHfie' competition where runners took selfies at 'BOHfie' spots around the plantation. 20 prizes were set to be won and three people I personally know managed to grab a prize each. Kudos to Max, Evelyn and Marlina for grabbing a hamper each for your 'BOHfies'.

That small green dot is yours truly captured by the wife. 
The main objective of the run was to actually create awareness on the importance of environmental conservation. All proceeds from the run registration which amounted to RM25,000.00 were channeled to the Malaysia Nature Society for environmental education projects to be implemented in all the 27 schools in Cameron Highlands.

All that's missing is the Mad Hatter ...
The wife and me finally made our way back to the hotel, tired but happy and after a bath and a short rest headed for home. This was the least exciting part of the weekend. Before I go, I'd like to say thank you to Boh Plantations for your hospitality and complimentary entry for your event. I had a blast. If you're planning to do this again next year, maybe a longer and even more challenging route this time round? :D

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Reality Check

The pain of the recently concluded Starlight Ultra is still very fresh in my mind, which has resulted in me downgrading my entry for the Putrajaya 100 Miles 100km category to the 52km category. I thought about it long and hard, a whole 3 seconds to be exact, before making the decision to write to the organizers, went down on my hands and knees to beg them to downgrade my entry.

They so graciously accepted my pleas and downgraded my entry to the 52km category. No, I didn't chicken out. I'm simply being realistic. I'm not ultra material. Period! Yes, there's a 30 hour cut off for the event and I could crawl on all fours around Putrajaya and still make it back within the 30 hour cutoff but what's the point? It would only prolong the suffering and I still wouldn't be ultra material, not by a long shot.

As much as I would love to delve into different aspects of running, I've got to stick to what I'm capable of. Running an ultra requires a dozen lorry loads of dedication and commitment, both of which is beyond me. Running around my neighbourhood a few hours a week is not what one constitutes as training for something like an ultra. I'm only setting myself up for disappointment. Personally, I'm still suffering minor depression from my horrible Starlight outing. 

Taken from Google Images

So I decided that I best put a stop to my delusions that I could play around in the backyard of the big boys of ultra-marathoning. Might as well save myself the heartache and pain and stick to something I can do a little better, just plain old marathoning, the 42.195km kind. I'm a pretty competitive (with myself) person and my failures hit me harder than I'd care to admit. 

I put a lot of effort (sometimes to the point of being fanatical) in my training and failing to achieve what I set out for does weigh heavily on me. I was pretty depressed after the Starlight Ultra that even had the wife worried. Even though she thinks I should do the P100, she's been a pillar of strength for me and supports my decision to quit ultras. For now anyway. Maybe when I'm done chasing my marathon dreams, I might just be brave enough to try ultra-marathoning again.

On a different note, my training post Starlight has taken a huge beating. I'm nursing a busted knee, which I suspect is ITB and probably caused by my persistent need to not 'dnf' the Starlight Ultra. The pain is pretty bad that in my last long (if you can call a 15km run long, that is) with the GC gang on National day, I had to limp and walk back half the route. I've been in sort of a rehab mode since then with very short 4-5km slow runs to nurse the knee back to good health. 

My fitness has taken a huge dive south and it's going to be a long, slow road back to my pre-Gold Coast fitness level. It's not something I'm happy about but patience is the key to a good recovery or so I've heard. Unfortunately patience is something I'm very short of but for now, a regime of stretching, icing and strengthening of the hips are high on my priority list. The last two sessions has seen some positive signs and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that what I'm doing is contributing to it. I can't wait to get back to regular running again.

And speaking of regular running, the MPIB run clinic will be making a return somewhere mid-October. I for one am hoping to recover in time and join in the clinic again, and based on last year was nothing but fun. Aside from the fun, you get to learn lots of interesting tidbits and tips about running from a host of experienced runners. First hand tips and sharings like these are something you can never find in any running books. Don't just sign up for the clinic only though, make sure you sign up for the race as well. What better way to start the year than with a run!