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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Newton 25K Challenge - The December 2012 Series

This morning's Newton 25K Challenge marks the last and final race of the year for me. Running wise, it has been a pretty good year which I hope to bring along into the year 2013 as well.

The Newton 25K Challenge is strangely a race that happened twice in the same year. Earlier in the year, January 1st to be specific, I ran this race for the first time and for reasons only the organizers can comprehend, I'm running it for the second time this year.

The build up to this race actually had me pretty worried about running it and could have possibly been my first DNS of the year. Three weeks prior to this run, I sustained an injury to my ankle. Being a stubborn headed person, instead of resting I kept on running, even doing a trail run at that and kinda made it worse.

I hope I don't have to pose with his medals next year ...
Two weeks prior to the race saw me forcing myself to rest and only managing a measly 25K for the entire two weeks training session was not a good indication of doing well in the race and the fact that the ankle was healing pretty slowly was also worrisome. Thoughts of not starting were being considered but thank god the forced rest helped with the healing.

I was glad that I wouldn't have to pull myself out of the race but coupled with the Christmas merry making and the enforced rest, my stamina took a dip in form. I would just have to rely on my determination and resolve to better my previous timing during the first edition of this race as my motivation. It wasn't going to be easy, mind you.

With the 12K Women's Open winner, Sheela ...
I consider the Newton route as one of the most, if not toughest, race routes in the entire Klang Valley. With countless steep rolling hills greeting you one after another and with 'Ammah Hill', that bitch of an incline thrown in, it would take a lot of 'pain' to get through the route. The only ace I had was that I've run this route before and knew what to expect but it didn't make it any easier.

I had already planned to go easy this time around, taking the ankle into consideration but wanted to also make sure I could better my previous timing. After all, I wanted to end the race year on a good note. The race started on time. I started from way behind and it took me close to 3 minutes to cross the small start arch.

The finish line in sight ... pix courtesy of Lina
Once through the arch, I took on an easy 6:40 pace, not like the previous edition where I was caught up with the other enthusiastic runners and went out way too fast only to see me suffer towards the later stages of the run. Besides it wasn't as flat a start as it looked cos there was a long incline immediately after the police complex. And true enough, there were already quite a number of runners who started off way too enthusiastically walking up this stretch.

There were three slight changes, for the better if you ask me, to the route keeping it more confined, especially with the doing away of the previously boring Persiaran Lestari Perdana stretch but another steep incline was put in to replace that stretch. I guess you can't win them all.

With Lina after the race ... pic courtesy of Lina
I wasn't having too much problems with the race until the 16K when the ankle started acting up. Slowed down the pace a little to alleviate the slight pain. At that point, I was worried that it was going to ruin my run completely. It started to hurt a lot more especially when I was running downhill and couldn't speed up as much as I wanted to. I had to actually run much slower on the downward stretches while everyone else was burning rubber downhill ... siggghhh ...

Thank god though, that once I got back to the flatter terrain and even the inclines, the pain was a lot more muted. I decided that I would speed up during these stretches as much as I could without totally damaging the ankle. The only good thing was after the 20K mark, it was mostly flats and I could get up to speed. Ran back the last 4k with a much faster pace and squeezed in across the finish with a time of 2:36 taking off close to 14 minutes of the previous edition of this run though it was an under-distanced race.

I don't have much to bitch about the race though I would have preferred if they did provide Isotonic drinks at the water stations or at least every alternate station instead of the measly one station around the 17K (I think). Water alone wasn't cutting it for me. I guess Isotonic sponsorship was a problem. Overall it was a decently organized race and I had fun, well as much fun as one can have trying to negotiate one incline after another ... LOL!

A big congrats goes out to the wife for attempting and finishing her longest distanced race to date. Well done, honey :D You've come a long way since you started running and I'm looking forward to seeing you do a lot more!

Met a lot of friendly faces before, during and after the run, which is always a good thing. I decided at the last minute to switch my race shoe from the Skechers GOrun 2 to the more tried and trusted GObionic which performed exceptionally well as always :D The GOrun 2 will have to wait till next week for me to race test it at the MPIB run, my first race of the new year.

And that concludes my races for this year. I'd like to take this opportunity to wish each and everyone of you out there a blessed New Year and may we all keep on running happily and injury free!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Wishing all my running buddies who celebrate the festival, a very Merry Christmas. To the rest who don't, happy holidays and an even happier time running :D

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Skechers GOrun 2: The Initial Review

My love affair with the Skechers brand of running shoes started way back with their very first minimalist shoe, the Skechers GOrun. For that I have to thank the wife who first took notice of the Skechers brand of running shoes though back then if you told me I'd be putting on a pair of Skechers to run, I'd have reported you to the loony bin police.

To cut a long story (and I can be really  long winded) short, the Skechers brand of running shoes have found a very close place in my heart. Aside from the occasional runs in my two other favourite shoes, the Brooks Green Silence and Pure Connect (which are now just collecting dust actually), I don't own any other running shoe brand aside from the entire Skechers GOseries.

The GOrun, though being a slightly weird little shoe holds an extra special place in my heart cos I ran my inaugural marathon in that shoe. Great to run in but painful to walk in with the 'bump' in the arch. While the shoe was simply great, the 'bump' was so pronounced that a lot of runners had issues with it and that kept the GOrun from being a great shoe.

Now close to nine (or was it ten?) months since, Skechers have released the GOrun 2, the next generation model of the original GOrun and I must say that it's simply a big improvement over the original GOrun.

The wife's strikingly fierce looking GOrun 2 ...
As usual, the color range of the Skechers shoe ranges are pretty striking, sort of like a trademark for them. I've always been a sucker for glaringly bright shoes and am drooling over the wife's color scheme of the shoe which simply exudes character unlike the really quiet and shy  looking black one that I have! (Hint, hint Skechers ... LOL!) Anyways, the review you read below also has contributions from the wife on her take of the shoe as well.

My 'strikingly' quiet and shy looking GOrun 2 ...
The GOrun 2 is touted to be designed for speed, promoting a midfoot strike. Constructed of a nearly lightweight synthetic and an almost seamless mesh fabric upper, the shoe weighs in at 6.6 oz for the men's size 9 which makes it radically lightweight for a shoe in its category. If you loved the upper of the original shoe, well this is even better.

The smooth, lightweight breathable upper fabric ...
The toe box, constructed of a 4-way breathable stretchy mesh fabric gives it a very roomy feel. The roomier forefoot and extra space it provides helps to reduce friction with a better toe off allowing for a better spread of your toes, at least that's what Skechers say cos for the life of me, I don't really know if my toes do actually splay out all that much.

The nice and roomy toe box
One thing I noticed (the wife too) is that it fits a little narrower than the original. Though the fit didn't affect me at all, it did play a part with the wife. Her shoe got just a tad too tight around the edges after feet expansion during longer running and I'm thinking a 9.5 for her would solve that (I wonder if Skechers carry half sizes over here). The soft and smooth lining provides for sockless running and even removing the insole, you're still good to go running sockless though I'm taking the wife's word for that since I don't run sockless.

The removable insole ...
Skechers have retained their proprietary lightweight injection molded Resalyte™ Midsole with memory retention to help absorb impact. With the same 4mm heel drop as its predecessor, the GOrun 2 gives you as close to a natural barefoot experience as one can actually experience with a shoe though I'm not too sure about that yet cos with the old GOrun, I could actually feel the road. With the GOrun 2, it seems to be a little muted. Maybe I'm so used to the Bionic's zero drop that I'm comparing it against that shoe which is largely unfair.

One thing that I'm loving about the shoe is the non-existent (it's still there but you don't feel it) 'bump' you felt pushing against your arch in the original. This makes the shoe so much more bearable to stand and walk in. I remember using the original for the SCKLM marathon. While I was on the run there was no issues, but when the cramps hit and I had to walk from time to time, let me tell you it wasn't a pleasant experience. For those put off by that in the original shoe is going to love GOrun 2 with the totally negligible arch.

The outsole still retains the independent circular GOimpulse sensors. These sensor offer flexibility and feedback for a more responsive running experience. This time around the sensors are much more widely dispersed and solved the annoying issue of having pebbles and small stones getting stuck between your soles while running. Throughout my runs with this shoe, not a single pebble or stone was stuck between them unlike the original where you would find me digging out stones from them after every run and sometimes even having to stop mid run to dig them out! The GOimpulse pillars have shrunken in size and are a lot more with 13 lugs compared to the original's 9.

The much more spread out GOimpluse sensors ...
The heel counter seems a little higher than the original and holds your heel in place nicely without the worry of your heel slipping out mid run. The wife has more mileage with the shoe than I have but the first time I slipped my feet in them and took them out for a short run, I set a personal best in them for a 5k run. 'Designed for speed', hell yes! And I was nursing an inflamed ankle at that, though I did get an earful from the wife for being an idiot and running with a busted ankle! She loves the shoe but says it would work better for her if she could size it up by half a size and I just might hit the stores to see if they carry a 9.5 and get one for her.

My impression of the shoe is that it would definitely appeal to the masses who liked the original GOrun but was turned away because of the 'bump' in the arch. A much better shoe than the GOrun Ride (and that shoe is no slouch either) and looks capable of running a marathon in though you'd have to wait till next year for me to test that theory out. I'm totally sold with the GOrun 2 and will be giving it a race test during the coming Newton 25k challenge at the end of this month. I'm guessing the shoe is going to come through it just fine, well as long as my ankle holds out that is.

Would I recommend this shoe for everyone? Yes, most definitely I would. A good, lightweight, serious minimalist shoe that works great as a transitional shoe to foster as close to a barefoot running experience as one can possibly get short of running with a zero drop shoe or actually going barefoot.

The shoes are already available in the stores (a pre-launch), the women's version anyway. I'm not sure when the men's will be out but I do hope they bring in the more striking color themes. I've got my eye on these two awesome and loud looking colors!

Of course the Lime Green one is my first choice :D
Note: The pair of Skechers GOrun 2 used for this review were kindly provided by Skechers Malaysia for wear testing purposes. This review is in no way influenced by Skechers Malaysia whatsoever.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Skechers GOtrail Threesome

I've never been a trail running kinda person, simply because places like these are reeking with creepy crawlies, bugs, leeches and snakes! Yeah, I'm a little coward in that way. Then there was the preconception of trail shoes being thick, bulky and plain heavy, which was really a turn off to me since I'm more inclined to run in more minimalistic shoes.

But getting my hands or rather feet on the Skechers GOtrail a few weeks back forced me to abandon all my cowardly yellow streak and misplaced preconceptions and take the shoe out for a test run with two other fellow Skechers wear testers in the wilderness of the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia, that's FRIM to the locals.

Taking a break along the Pinus Peak path ...
(Pic courtesy of Jamie)
This is actually my third time running in the shoe, with the first being Broga Hill and the second, a road test of the shoe, both times with the wife (also in a GOtrail). This time around, it was running the FRIM trails with both Jamie and Yvonne. Both of them have run FRIM before, I just tagged along like a good little boy and followed their lead, mind you, it wasn't easy with the pace there were doing!

A totally unflattering photo of me clinging to the roots like a sissy with Jamie in a macho stance ... LOL!
(Pic courtesy of Yvonne)
To say I didn't have fun traversing the many uneven, rocky, wet, muddy and 90% of the time uphill trails (at least it felt that way to me) of FRIM would be a lie. I did have fun even though I was practically huffing and puffing most of the time. Being my first time there, Yvonne was patiently explaining to me all the numerous trail paths I could explore when I bring the wife here for a run the next time.

With Jamie along the Pinus Peak Trail ...
(Pic courtesy of Yvonne)
It was mostly an experience for me to be running (and crawling) amongst the many scenic trail paths with names the like of the Dream Trail, Salem High Country (Pinus Peak Trail), Steroid Hill (Tongkat Ali Trail) and the Pacat (leech) Trail, just to name a few. Okay, I'll admit, the Pacat trail was a little worrisome and I think I ran that section the fastest making sure no leeches clung on to me ... hahaha! Though in the end, I found two of the little blood suckers trying to sneak into my shoe!

Jamie has the muddiest shoe followed by mine with Yvonne's being the cleanest looking one.
(Pic courtesy of Yvonne)
My favourite spot of the entire run was basically the Salem High Country trail which had scenery akin to a Star Wars movie. Jamie and Yvonne were expecting Ewoks to appear at any moment and so did I. Unfortunately no Ewoks though :D A lot of photo ops were taken here. The Pinus Peak Trail was basically the highlight for me before we started trekking back down to the car park which saw us doing around 17km in total.

Trudging along a steep incline with Yvonne, at least we're ahead of the mountain bikers ... LOL!
(Pic courtesy of Jamie)
As tired and exhausted as I was, I'm eager to do this again. At least now I know what to expect the next time I do a run in the FRIM trails. There is nothing like spending a Sunday morning outdoors among friends doing what you love best. The wife pointed out this quote to me which I found to be pretty apt to describe this morning's outing - 'While you were sleeping, I was producing lactic acid!'

Jamie, Yvonne and me at the end of the run ...
(Pic courtesy of Jamie)
Both Jamie and Yvonne also decided to make this outing a little more fun with a mini review of the Skechers GOtrail by pretending that we were being interviewed by Meb Keflezighi for a magazine story, not that that will ever happen but dreamers can dream, can't they? Besides, maybe, just maybe, one of our posts might fall into Meb's attention and he really might give us a buzz ... hahaha ... wake up, Nick, the trails must be doing something to your brain!

Some of the vegetation along the Salem High Country route ...
Anyways here were the questions 'Meb' asked us:

The Interview/Review 

Possibly Meb: Hi guys, understand you took the GOtrail out today on the not-too-technical FRIM trail. What do you think of the shoe in terms of fit? 

Yvonne Teo: Nice and comfy. Then I realised it was due to the upper which is stretched to fit your feet as snugly yet securely as possible. I know the GOtrail has a supportive brace for the heel but I think the heel collar should be a bit higher, maybe an additional 1cm or so, to properly lock the heel in place.

Nick Philips: Seeing as how most of the GO series range of shoes fit me pretty well, I have no complains with the GOtrail too though it did feel a little narrow and the heel counter could have been a little higher up and maybe slightly firmer but otherwise, it fit like a sock, at least it felt that way to me. 

Jamie: As with all GO series, mostly good! The GO series has one of the best made uppers and the trail version is no different. While it fits snug, my toes never felt compressed and was able to spread for a more secure footing on the trails due to the stretchable upper. I think having good ground contact is essential in trail shoes and the GOtrail gives you that courtesy of a low ride. One thing which Skechers can improve is the heel section where the collar of the shoe should to be raised such that the soft PU heel stabilizer or brace is located further up the archilles. The present location of the stabilizer is too low negating the intention of what it's put there to do. The shoe has non-removable sockliner so there's nothing to remove when cleaning the shoe. The fabric used to line the footbed appears to be fragile but only time will tell if they're durable. 

PM: What were your other trail shoes? How do they compare to the GOtrail in terms of weight, breathability, cushioning and support?

YT: I have three other pairs of trail shoes; the New Balance WT625GO and WT909GB, and the recently acquired Brooks' Pure Grit. The GOtrail is the lightest of them all. I honestly thought they would be heavy as its lugs seemed to be quite chunky. Despite being light, the GOtrail proved to be stable on uneven ground as the lug traction is quite secure. They are comfortable, too. For cushioning and support, I would say that I'd go with my NB WT909GB for long trail runs as it has proved to be very stable. The hydrophobic mesh upper on the GOtrail is not as breathable as the Brooks Pure Grit. My feet got pretty warm after a while but you'll forget about it once you're into your run. Nevertheless, the mesh upper proved to be an effective leech shield as I spotted a leech trying to penetrate through my shoe and thank goodness it didn't succeed!

NP: Since I've never run trails before I have no benchmark for comparison but as a trail layperson, I would say it offered just the right amount of cushioning and support though breathability was an issue a little. In terms of weight, I thought it was pretty light weight for a trail shoe seeing as how I hardly felt the shoe on my feet, well except when I was squelching around through the mud. The grip though was phenomenal with hardly any slippage even on the rocks.

J: My rarely used Cascadia is a block of brick compared to the GOtrail. Although well built and provide good protection, the Brooks' stack height is rather high resulting in not-so-nimble kind of ride. The GOtrail is way lighter, lower to the ground retaining the 4mm drop while still having enough comfort for FRIM and I believe Kiara type of trails. Built this light and low, I managed to stay agile, hopping over the roots in the local trails. The shoe retains the flexibility of the series and on the breathability it wasn't too bad even though I was a little apprehensive of the GOdri upper which kept out the mud and water. It's still too early to tell how the outsole holds up. From a once over, the shoe should be more than enough for dirt and leafy paths with the ruggedized outsole feeling more durable that the pure foam of the other GO series. The traction is pretty impressive on pebbles and smooth rocks. I think it should be fine short of taking them to the sharp and vicious rocks like those we see in Mandai, Singapore.

PM: Do you think the GOtrail will be suitable for a race like TMBT (The Most Beautiful Thing)? 

YT: Er, it really depends on the distance, 25km, 50km or 100km? I'm confident that the GOtrail has really good traction with deep lugs to grip the trail and avoid slipping. In fact, I was surprised to find myself running downhill quite fast just now. But I might have to test them further during a longer run and in wet conditions to see just how water resistant they are.

NP: Don't look at me, this is my first ever trail session.

J: For that you'll have to ask The Woman *points at Yvonne* as I've not run TMBT.

PM: The GOtrail has a protection plate built into the midsole. Could you feel that? As you can imagine, my customized GOruns are kept as simple as possible allowing me to run as fast as possible *winks*.

YT: Nope, I didn't feel a thing! Maybe because the shoe is comfortably flexible and light.

NP: I poked, I prodded, I pulled, I twisted, short of dissecting the shoe, for the life me I couldn't feel it which is an advantage for a trail shoe, not making it stiff.

J: Lucky you for having customized shoes, Possibly Meb! In the case of the GOtrail, I didn't particularly feel the plate. If I hadn't read the sticker on the box lid, I wouldn't have realize the presence of anything else in the midsole. But since it's there, power to the runner! 

PM: Is the shoe suitable for road running?

YT: During a short run on the road before entering and exiting the trails, the GOtrail felt pretty OK. Usually with a stiffer outer sole, you'd find your feet pretty sore running on the road in your trail shoes. Be that as it may, I don't think you should be road running in your trail shoes. Got to keep the tread patterns intact as much as possible. 

NP: I would have to say yes (within limits) since I took it for a short 5k run prior to this. The lightness and flexibility of the shoe makes it feels somewhat like a more toughened GOrun. Though you can run roads with it, I wouldn't really recommend it. Oh and it gets really hot when road running with it.  

J: On the short stretch of road before entering the trail, the shoe felt OK. But since I've plenty of road shoes, I won't be wearing the GOtrail on the road. However, you shouldn't have any problems in taking it to a mixed i.e. trail-road course. With the low volume of trail running I typically do, and having found a less bulky ride in the GOtrail, I can now donate my little used Cascadia! 

PM: Did Skechers Malaysia tell you when the GOtrail will be on the store shelves there? 

J: The GOtrail are already in-stores and retails for RM399 and RM369 for the men and women’s models respectively. And by the way, could you also ask Skechers when we "normal" runners can get a version of your racing shoes *raised eyebrow*?

PM: That information is classified!

With that, a big thank you to Jamie and Yvonne for introducing me to the word of trail running. Do take a peek at their blogs for their version of this run.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Back in the older days of running, a runner mostly relied on water or some sports drinks as their primary carbohydrate supplement for their half marathon or marathons. These days, with a better understanding of sports nutrition especially in relation to how glycogen is used during a marathon, we now have a plethora of products from which to choose from, designed to speed glycogen to our working muscles.

Among the many types of products available out there, I for one rely on consuming my fair share of energy gels at specific intervals during a long distanced race. It works for me and does give me that little extra push I need at the right time, well most of the time anyway.

I belong to the older batch of runners who ran races with just water and whatever sports drinks were offered at the water stations. Back then, gels were something you used for your hair and not to consume. It's only very recently, close to three years ago, when I picked up the running bug again that I started using gels in my longer runs and races. Ever since then, I don't leave home without them on race days.

I currently and as far back as I can remember, take the GU brand of energy gels. I've never really tried anything else, well save for the Power Bar brand which I found to be a little too sweet for my liking. The GU brand has worked for me since day one and I didn't see any reason to try out the rest of the brands out there. Who knows though, I could have been missing out on the benefits of some of the other brands but I was content to live with my good old GU energy gel.

I've experimented with seven of the flavours and so far found my favourite ones in the Lemon Sublime, a non caffeinated flavor and the Tri-berry, a caffeinated flavor for days when I need that extra push. The only peeve (which I could live with) was that the GU brand was a little too thick and I had to really time it well to coincide with water stations during a race or risk have a very sticky and dry mouth.

But during the Standard Chartered KL Marathon, somewhere around the 30km mark, they were handing out an energy gel called Maxi Fuel, which of course I didn't know back then cos I was in too much pain from dealing with cramping to even remember what my name was let alone an energy gel.

What I remembered out this particular gel was that it was nice and watery making it easy to consume. I didn't even need a drink to wash it completely down my throat. The taste was not too bad either, with a lemony tinge to it. Though I really couldn't gauge how beneficial it was to me cos with the excruciating pain I was in, even if God himself came down and offered me some miracle gel concoction, it still wouldn't have benefited me in any way.

But I made a mental note to find out what brand it was they were handing out and to get more of it to try out since I liked the more liquid feel it had. After some inquiries on Facebook, Eugene informed me it was called Maxi Fuel and they were selling it at Athletes Circle. Unfortunately I procrastinated for months on end in getting myself some. I was also a little worried about breaking the balance I had with the GU's. Yes, I'm superstitious that way. I find it hard to change my habits and afraid that incorporating something new to my regular stuff would somehow ruin my running mojo ... hahaha!

But the perfect opportunity came with the recently concluded Putrajaya 12 hour walk. I reckoned since it's a walk, trying out a different gel or routine wouldn't count to messing with my running mojo and purchased 4 sachets of Maxi Fuel, 2 caffeinated and 2 non-caffeinated flavors. They weren't cheap (at least for me), mind you. They cost RM9.50 a pack and I take an average of 5, maybe 6 GU's for a full marathon distance. Good thing it was on promotion and I got a nice 10% discount.

Come race day, I was all eager to try them out since they did make an impression on me during the StandChart Marathon even with the pain I was in. Since it was a walk and I wouldn't need them so early in the game, I decided to keep them in my pouch till somewhere around 2 plus hours into the walk when I ripped a sachet open and poured one into my mouth.

Expecting to experience what I savored during the StandChart marathon, I was mildly surprised and disappointed that it somehow tasted different, not at all to what I experienced. Okay, maybe it was a different flavor. I'll wait till the next two plus hours and take the Citrus Burst flavor instead. That was the flavor they were handing out during the marathon so it can't be all that different.

No such luck, it was just as bad tasting as the previous one (no offense intended to Maxi Fuel themselves). Even though it was way more liquid like than the GU's, I was having trouble trying to take it all in. Maybe this being a walk event I wasn't as tired as I was during the marathon and was more aware of things unlike the marathon where if you had offered me horse pee, I would have said it tasted great ... LOL!

But that said and done, I'm still going to give this a second chance cos I like how liquid it is and still have two more sachets which I will take during the Newton 25K Challenge at the end of the month. On the positive side, it didn't give me any stomach upset and maybe the taste just needs to be acquired.

So, what's your favorite gel or are you one of those who just run on water?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

3rd Putrajaya International 12 Hour Walk : Race Review

Before I start this review of the 12 hour Putrajaya walk proper, if anyone tells me that walking is an easy sport, please give me your address so I can come there and smack you silly on the head! Walking in a shopping mall is easy. Walking with a thousand (at least I think it was) other people at speeds that are nowhere near your regular shopping mall pace is outright painful!

I got wind of this walk months ago and wanted to give it a go. How challenging can walking be or so I thought back then la. But always willing to give everything a try at least once, I gamely signed up for the walk.

No medal picture cos my dog was trying to eat the medal this time round!
I didn't really give much thought about the event until a few days prior to race day. I decided to poke around Jamie and Frank's previous postings about their foray into their previous years participation in the event which in hindsight was a good move. What I read had me worried about the walk. All my previous thoughts of how easy a walk event was going to be was a myth! Well, at least I wasn't going in blind anymore.

Armed with their insights of the race, it was time for me to try this walking thing out. The wife and me drove to the location around 6pm and got a nice choice parking spot just facing the walk route. It would make things easy if I needed to grab anything from the car. I was armed with an extra pair of tee, socks and even another pair of shoes in the car, just in case it rained and my socks and shoes got soaked. I wasn't going to walk in soaking wet shoes if it did rain.

The compulsory cam-whoring sessions!
After picking up the race kit and bib, we headed to the car and had our packed McDonalds dinner. I had no qualms about the McD's dinner cos it was going to be completely burnt off anyway. Made our way to the start/finish to await the gun or whatever they were going to use as the start cue. Did a couple of short run warm up sessions, yes squeezing in a run even though as a warm up in a walk event is a must ... LOL!

The wife happily flaunting her Skechers GOrun 2 and legs ... LOL!
The gun went off without warning (as usual) and we were off. I took heed of Jamie's advice and started off with a shopping mall pace. Just about 300 metres or so into the start, loud cheers were given to the elites who were already on the other side of the road. To say they were fast is an understatement! The shopping mall pace was kept for about 3 loops before I started to up the pace a little.

My plan for the night was to push through without stopping and get in the 34km mileage under my belt, which was the qualifying mark to earn a medal, and then get a nice long rest and see if I was up for the entire 12 hour duration. But it wasn't easy going. Walking tends to have a lot more contact with the road than running and my calves and thighs were beginning to feel the strains of the the increased pace I was doing which was in the ranges of 9.00 - 10.00 minutes.

I managed to complete 5k in 50 minutes, 10 minutes faster than my expected time and did it again for the next 5k. It wasn't really a very smart move cos by the 10k, I was already feeling the strains of the increased pace. Instead of slowing down, I decided to be an idiot and try to follow the pace of two elites who lapped me and increased my pace to 7.00 minutes and kept with them for about 200 meters ... hahaha ...

That was when my legs started protesting and reminding me what an idiot I am. Not to be dissuaded, I kept that pace for at least 2 more kilometers and simply had to slow down considerably after that cos my calves were screaming for mercy!

4am and most of the participants walking around in their zombie impersonations ...
By the twentieth kilometer or so, my feet and hands were swelling up from the pooling of blood. Nothing much I could do about the feet but I kept shaking and swinging my arms to clear up the swelling which helped a little. The feet though were getting too snug in the shoes from the swelling and I started worrying about blistering.

The race itself was pretty boring, going round in endless loops with hardly any entertainment expect for Ray who was there to support the walkers and kept on cheering me on every time I passed him. Thanks Ray, your cheering did wonders cos every time I passed you I picked up my pace cos malu la to be seen crawling in front of an ultra-marathoner ... LOL!

5am and even more zombies ...
Along the way, met up with the likes of both Jason Tan and Jason Thai, Redzuan, Manson and Yum Kin Kok who were looking as fresh as ever unlike me. The likes of Yim and Uncle Oliver were lapping me left, right and centre! Made me look like a turtle on walking sticks, especially Uncle Oliver who was blazing the roads like a speed demon. If there was an AES camera there, he'd probably have tons of tickets by now ... hahaha ... ok, lame joke, I know but heck, it's a Sunday and my body is still in pain, so give me a break!

At the 36km, I caught up with the wife who wanted to head to the car to change her shoe from the GOrun 2 to the Skechers Shape-ups cos her feet were swelled up as well and her other pair of shoe was slightly bigger. We decided to take a half hour break at this point and headed to the car to freshen up and rest for a bit. I took this opportunity to get out of my shoes, lie down and prop up my feet which felt so damn good.

After the rest, we headed back to the race and though the rest was welcomed it didn't do too good for my form. It was so difficult to get to back into a proper walking pace cos the legs were beginning to lock up from the rest. My pace at this point was practically a crawl. That was when I decided I'll just do a full marathon distance and call it quits. After all, why torture myself and get unnecessary injuries and not be able to run. My running plans were more important to me.

So I dragged my tired feet and kept on moving like a zombie for the next 7 kilometers until I hit 42.195km in a time of 7 hours and 18 minutes. That was it for me. I just plopped myself on an empty chair I found and kicked off my shoes and congratulated myself on even coming so far. Waited for the wife who still wanted to do a couple more loops and she stopped just in time for the 5am medal pick up time. We picked up our medals and headed home immediately after that.

My totally beat up feet ...
Even though I've driven home from Putrajaya countless times before, this time it felt like we were driving back from Penang to USJ! It took forever to reach home. I don't remember what I did when I reached home except take my bath and plonk out on bed and dropping into a deep sleep right away. Strangely enough, the body and legs, though with slight usual post race aches seem fine, thank god!

Did I enjoy myself? Not really. I wouldn't call walking in an endless loop enjoyable. But since I already paid good money for the event, I wasn't about to let it go to waste. The food served during the scheduled eating times could have been better in my humble opinion though I still wolfed them down. The wife decided to not touch any of it except for the fruits. I don't know, they could have dished out a little better and healthier menu than what they had. I don't know about the last two food sessions though cos I was already home by then.

Will I do this again next year? Not even if you paid me a million bucks, well, maybe for a million bucks I would la ... hahaha! But seriously, once is enough. I'll stick to running which is something I know I can do and with so much less pain involved even!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Skechers Warehouse Sale

Skechers Malaysia is having a warehouse sale from the 13th - 16th December (10am - 7pm) located at:

10, Jalan Shamelin Niaga 2
Shamelin Heights Business Park
Taman Shamelin Perkasa
56100 Kuala Lumpur

I'm sure there's going to be loads of great deals on offer. Don't miss out on it. I know I'll be going :D

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Skechers GOtrail : The Initial Review

About a week or so ago, the wife out of the blue said to me,

'Hey, let's go trail running and hiking at Broga hill'

First of all, I'm not a trail running kinda person and definitely am not into hiking as well. Give me a nice (flat if possible) road anytime and I'll be happy to clock some miles on them. Secondly, I have no inkling in hell as to where Broga hill is located. So I gave her this not very interested look and told her I'll think about it. Besides I don't own a single pair of trail shoes.

But as fate would have it, Skechers Malaysia decided to launch their GO series range of trail shoes, the Skechers GOtrail Minimal. Dropped a note to Adeline to inquire when exactly the shoes would hit the stores and she said there would be launched the very next day and told me to come by to pick up a pair if I'm interested in trying them out.

How could I say no :D Went over the next day, picked up a pair both for me and the wife and guess we were going trail running after all since I was eager to try the shoes out. Now, let me get one thing clear, I have absolutely no experience in trail running and neither know head or tail about trail shoes. This review will be based purely on my first ever totally layman's view of a trail shoe.

Maybe I'm just ignorant but my impression of trails shoes are that they're heavy, thick and hard. So when I first picked up the Skechers GOtrail, I was impressed by its weight. But then, this is from the GO series range of shoes, so the lightness was to be expected.

Weighing in at 8.4 oz for the men's size 9 and with a 4mm drop, the Skechers GOtrail is categorized as a minimalist trail shoe. It's still as flexible as the rest of the shoes from the GOseries range, easily passing the 'bend the shoe in half flexibility' test which was a little surprising seeing as how the outsole, called Resagrip, a similar outsole to the Resalyte sole for the GOrun series of shoe but much more durable, looks pretty tough and rigid.

According to Skechers Performance, there is a thin rock diffusion plate embedded in the outsole to disperse the pressure provide lightweight protection for your feet from the uneven and rugged trail terrains. I guess it offers protection from rocks or sharp objects but for the life of me, I seriously couldn't feel any 'plate' in the outsole so matter how I twisted, prodded and pulled the shoe. They did say thin, Nick!

But I guess whatever thin diffusion plate they had in there served its purpose well cos I hardly felt any prodding or pokes under my feet throughout the run and climb. In fact, it rained the night before and the route was pretty slick but I was totally IMPRESSED with the grip the Resagrip outsole provided me and the wife all the way to the summit of Broga. There was hardly any slippage no matter how slick and slippery the route was which gave me a lot more confidence to go up and down much faster without the worry of slipping and falling off the hill!

The outsole is fitted with the same GOimpulse sensors found in all the GOseries range of shoes though it doesn't have any specific pods at strategic points like the rest but like I said above, the traction and grip is still simply phenomenal!

The upper fabric is made of synthetic and uses the Skechers GOdri hydrophobic mesh technology to keep your feet well shielded from the harsh elements of trail running. I was a little worried that it was going to be a little hot during the run, since this is basically the same material found on the wife's GOrun all weather shoe and that shoe got a little hot during runs so I was pleasantly surprised that it was the exact opposite. I didn't even feel or notice any heat build up during the hike up Broga hill. It did a good job of keeping the feet dry, at least on the insides anyway.

The upper is also a little stretchy and provides a very supportive sock like fit eliminating the need for socks. But I wasn't about to test that theory out and I'm prone to blisters when running sockless so I had on a very thin pair of Adidas Climacool sock to mimic running sockless :D But I doubt I would have developed blisters though cos the insides were totally seamless and really felt like a sock. For those who like running trails sockless, this would be ideal for you.

The heel sports a supportive brace acting as a heel stabilizer yet is flexible enough for the foot to move as naturally as possible. Even though it feels a little stiff when you touch it but once it's on your feet and your're running, you don't feel them at all. The Skechers GOtrail is a shoe designed to promote midfoot strike and you'd be hard pressed to actually heel strike in them, unless of course you really do enjoy pain.

The Heel Stabilizer 
The lacing is something Skechers calls the Quick Lacing System though in my humble opinion, it wasn't as quick as I thought it would be though it's a non issue. The laces were not the rounded kind like the GObionic and not flat like the GOrun series, they were somewhere in between. They stayed put nicely through the run and I didn't even double knot them so that's a pretty good plus point.

Is this a good trail shoe? As a layman who's never done any trails or hiking, I would say, yes. I came away impressed though I don't have a bench mark to compare this shoe with. From the moment I put it on, it felt comfortable and took away my totally skewered impression that all trails shoes were bulky, thick and stiff! The Skechers GOtrail was as light on my feet as the GObionic or even the GOrun Ride and yet, it was tough and durable enough to protect my feet from the harsh (at least I though it was) elements of Broga hill. I would definitely recommend this shoe as THE trail shoe that you must buy if you're into trail running and that sort of thing.

His & Hers ...
Speaking of Broga hill, I must say that my first foray into trail and hiking has left me wanting to experience more. I never thought it could be such fun and having fun is really the most important aspect in whatever we do, right?

The sun was rising but the moon was still evident ...
After downloading the directions to Broga in my cell the night before, we woke up bright and early and took the nearly one hour drive to the hill. The drive was uneventful, with the GPS doing its job well and except for one small missed turn on my part, we arrived there while it was still dark, which was what we planned for.

The place was already full with cars parked at the entrance of the estate called 'Ladang Broga' which was the start of the trek up. We started our journey slowly as we were unfamiliar with  the route and it was slippery as well. It was a needless worry cos the GOtrail more than lived up to its job of keeping our feet firmly planted to the muddy ground.

Let me tell you something. If you thought having to trek up 1.7km is a piece of cake, then you're absolutely wrong! The initial climb was decent enough. I was enthusiastic and excited, bounding up with the fire of a young man. Though it was steep and tough, I was feeling fine when we reach the halfway point. Then I saw the rest of the route and that was when I asked myself just what the heck was I doing here?

The sun was already peeking out and there were loads of people there heading up and down, taking pictures and whatnot's but the route ahead would see me hugging on to trees, grabbing boulders and trying to find footholds just to traverse its steep incline to the top. I'm afraid of heights so it was going to be tough, especially when you look down and see a huge, long drop below you!

Time for some Sport Beans, but heck, wash those hands first ... LOL!
The wife was much braver than me and started tackling the inclines with gusto which had me no choice but to tag along to the top. But after seeing her tackle the huge boulders like Spider Woman, my confidence improved and I happily climbed, hugged, clung to every rock and tree and after about an hour or so, we finally reached the summit which was only 400 meters high but damn, it sure felt like 4,000 meters!

Damn, what a stretch!
It was a good workout for a totally different set of muscles. The climb up was tough on the calves and the trek down was tougher on the knees which was made worse with me taking a brisk run back down when the terrain permitted, that is.

It took us exactly two hours to cover a total of 3.5km and while it might not seem like much, it was actually tough going. Overall, I enjoyed it thoroughly and am now looking forward to going for some 'real' trail runs. After all, I've already got the perfect shoes for it :D

Finally at the peak ... 
While I'm glad to know there are places like Broga hill to cater for some great outdoor activities, I wish people would take their trash along with them after they leave. The place was littered with empty drink bottles and discarded Styrofoam packing, especially at the halfway point and the summit. Even the rocks and boulders were not spared with graffiti adorning its surface ... siggghhh ...

The wall of graffiti, even way up here ... siggghhh ...

And then there are those who go up and once they're there, they light up their cigarettes and pollute the beautiful fresh air. Seriously people, we're out there for some fresh air and not inhale your second hand cancer causing smoke! Other than that, I enjoyed myself thoroughly and even made a friend with this dog I dubbed 'Broggy' who scaled all the way up to the summit with everyone else. I hope he got home safely though.

The tough and cute little Broggy ..
Note: The pair of Skechers GOtrail shoes the wife and me used is courtesy of Skechers Malaysia. This post is my personal views and is in no way influenced whatsoever by Skechers Malaysia.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wising Up

I know it's a little too early to look back on the year what with there being still close to one and a half months to the year end and all that but since I'm in a writing mood and nothing better came to mind, just indulge me, ok :D

Looking back I've done close to 15 or so races with two more to come before year end. This was also the year I took the first steps into running a full marathon, something I never thought I would ever attempt and lived to run another day. Running wise, it's been a pretty good year. I achieved all the goals that I set out to accomplish.

The past month or so has been a very hectic time for me. It's been one race after another starting with the PNM. To say I wasn't burnt out by the end of it all is an understatement. Physically and mentally, I was tired, really, really tired. That had me seriously thinking about things. 

Am I taking part in just too many races? Admittedly yes. The moment I see a race event being promoted online, I'm immediately clicking on the link and signing up for it. It doesn't matter if it's a 5K race, a 7K race or even a half marathon, I'm game to take part. 

Nothing really wrong with it. It's mostly fun, you get to meet lots of friends and make new ones but I asked myself what my goal was in wanting to run every single race organized in the Klang Valley. I couldn't come up with an answer. But the truth of the matter was, I didn't have a real goal in mind.

Granted, I had dreams of running a full and I achieved it. Even though it was mostly suffering for the entire 42K, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The joy of crossing the finish was something I can never truly describe. Joy? Happiness? Bliss? Contentment? All of those. That was when I decided I want more of these 42k like suffering. I want to better myself with each marathon I do, if possible.

Which is why I'm taking a totally different approach to running next year. I have a goal, a real one this time. I plan to excel (in my own personal capacity, that is) in the SCKLM next year. I'm planning to put in a lot more training and effort to achieve it. No longer will I be signing up for just about every single run out there. The plan calls for specific races, races that will benefit me in terms of training to achieve my goal. 

I've come to realize that taking part in too many races tends to leave me with no time for a proper training plan. I give my all during races (who doesn't), sometimes just a bit too much and sometimes end up paying for it in the form of injuries. I'm injury prone especially at my age.

I've got two more races for this year and after that I'm taking a step back to fully concentrate on my training for my third marathon at the SCKLM 2013. It's going to be a lot more training than racing. I'm putting a plan together, after taking what I've learned from the two that I've done, that hopefully will see me doing much better this time around for my third attempt.

My motto for next year is 'more quality than quantity' and it's something that I intend to see through. Of course, that doesn't mean I won't be taking the wife for any race that she wants to run even though I'm not running it myself. She's been there for me at races that she doesn't run and you can bet your bottom dollar I'll be there for her.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Powerman Asian Duathlon Championships 2012: Race Review

I have this saying, you need to try something at least once in your lifetime which was why I signed up for the Powerman Asian Duathlon Championships 2012. I was on the verge of signing up for the sprint event even though I would have probably had to put training wheels on my bike when my buddy Sean came to my rescue.

My ever loyal medal model ...
He suggested I take part in the relay event and managed to find a rider for me while I do both the run legs. I heaved a huge sigh of relief at the prospects of not making a fool of myself trying to cycle and falling into some 'longkang' somewhere and relished the idea of doing both the run legs.

Things were put into motion, I signed up for it and though I only met my team-mate half an hour before race start I was looking forward to the event. The wife decided to tag along and lend her support to me, which I truly appreciated cos she actually wanted to run the CICM half marathon instead. We got to the race location early, like we always do for most races to get the best parking spots.

The place was already crawling with participants pushing and setting up their bikes into the transition area. To be honest, it was a little overwhelming. I felt completely out of place. I'd normally see loads of faces I'd recognize during a typical running event but it was different here, everyone looked foreign to me. The faces were unfamiliar and they all looked like professionals, which some of them actually were. The atmosphere was totally different as well.

I was overjoyed and glad when I saw Ray, finally a friendly face. Chatted with him for a bit before heading off to the transition area to get acquainted with my team-mate. After settling in and exchanging details about how long we would take to complete our respective legs, I headed for the loo which was when I saw Jamie, another familiar face heading to the transition area. 

The front row elites at the start of the individual event ...
By the time I got back, the individual category participants were lined up and ready for their start of the run leg. Watched them flag off and got into place for the relay flag off. The weather was excellent at that time of the day and once we were flagged off, all the prior reservations evaporated. Time to dig in and concentrate on the run. 

The start of the relay category ... Pix courtesy of Cycling Malaysia
Game plan called for a tempo paced run for the first leg and managed to achieve it with a slight glitch that threw off my concentration when I discovered it was a 5k loop route. Damn it, Nick! You really need to read your instructions properly!

Aside from that, the first run leg was pretty good. The route was fairly easy with only a small 200m or so incline just before the finish. The water stations were more than adequate. I told my team-mate earlier that I'd be back in an hour and I came in exactly in one hour on the dot. Now came the hard part. The waiting game. I had approximately two hours to wait for my team-mate to get back. 

Caught up with Jamie for a bit, then headed off in search of the wife who was busy snapping pictures of everyone. I couldn't sit idly for two hours so decided to walk around the place. Met with more familiar faces like Jason, Nithi and his crew and some new ones like Yvonne and this guy I didn't get his name who was also doing the relay which I was chatting with for a bit before heading to find the wife again. She was having a blast taking pictures of all those hunky looking elites and showing them off to me ... LOL! And here I thought I was hunky! 

The wife was rooting for this hunk ... hrmmmppphhh, I thot I was hunkier ... hahaha ...
Besides that there really was not much else to do except wait. I was getting restless and the waiting was drastically cooling me down and putting me into a very relaxed state, which was not at all good. The muscles started feeling tight. Kept moving as much as I could but it wasn't helping much. Nothing I could do about it though.

With Jamie playing the waiting game after the first run leg. Pix courtesy of Yvonne.
The weather was also a concern, with signs of the sun peeking out from the clouds so when Jamie felt a drop of rain, we both had our hopes up instantly. It started to drizzle just as my team-mate zipped in on the two hour mark catching me by surprise. I was not prepared. Scrambled to exchange timing tags, grabbed my cap and bolted out of the transition area. True enough, the body was too well relaxed to actually get into proper running form. The legs and muscles were tight and it was a struggle.

Yours truly about to start the second loop of the first leg ... Pix courtesy of E.T Tey.
The drizzle got heavier which had me inwardly smiling. Now that was more like it, God really is a runner after all :D But it was not to be cos after a kilometer plus, the rain stopped and the heat that was coming off the road was horrible. The sun decided to join in and make the place even more humid and hot! My pace was instantly affected and dropped a couple of notches.

I had to stop at most of the water stations and pour cold water all over my head to keep cool. I was heating up too much and I knew from that point on the race was going to get difficult. I just grit my teeth and concentrated on just finishing the darn leg. By the time I got to the second loop of leg two, I was crawling along just waiting for the finish to show up. 

Some poor soul getting his/her car towed away for indiscriminate parking along the Start/Finish ...
Seeing the finish after struggling along in the rising heat was a joy to behold! I took my medal (all 3 of them), got my timing chip unhooked from my ankle, gladly accepted the ice cool towel and water and headed off to find my team-mate, who strangely was nowhere to be seen. Unofficially, I think we came in around 4:11 - 4:15 but will have to wait for the official results to be certain.

Took my stuff from the transition area and joined the wife, grabbed some of the free food entitled to the participants and waited for Sean and Kelvin to cross the finish. Said my goodbye's once they were in and finally headed home for a much needed sleep.

With Sean and Kelvin (the real POWERMEN) and the little pretender ...
Did I enjoy the event? Yes, I did. It was an experience to remember. Would I take part again next year? With the right rider and only doing one run leg with someone else doing the second leg, yes, I would definitely take part again. Would I ever do a full? Not in my lifetime and especially not with my child like cycling skills.

The rows and rows of really expensive bicycles
But one thing I have to say is that these guys truly deserve to be called POWERMAN cos damn, for the hell they went through with doing the run, cycle, run legs on their own, nothing else better describes them. It's a herculean feat and one I don't think I could match even on my 'bestest' of days!