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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

'Twas The Night Before Christmas ...

Twas the night before Christmas, all the shopping was done.
My insides were stirring, I needed a run.
My Skechers were placed by the front door with care,
In hopes that I’d take them out in the night air.

The children were nestled, tucked in for the night,
So I laced up my shoes both the left and the right.
I put on my mittens, and put on my cap,
I settled my brain for a long 10K lap.

I got my foam roller, the stretch felt so good.
I sprang from the door and run as fast as I could.
Away from my house I flew like a flash,
And tore up the street like I was running a dash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Lit up my path showing the way I should go.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a dude with a beard, dressed in red running gear.

He wasn’t too chubby, rather lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles he flew to my side,
And ran right next to me matching my stride!

“I’ll race you! I’ll pace you! But just let me run!
I’m all done with work and it’s time for some fun!
To the top of that hill, until we hit the wall!
We’ll just keep on running and give it our all!”

Without another word we ran through the streets.
The only sounds those of our breath and heart beats.
He had a runner’s build but still a round belly,
That shook when he ran, like a bowlful of jelly!

We finished the loop ending back at in my yard,
I’d never ran so fast. I’d never breathed so hard!
He gave me a wink and a nod of his head,
We were bonded as runners with nothing more said.

From walkers and joggers to runners and racers,
From marathon finishers to age-group placers!
We all know the joy and the pain of a run,
and that wonderful feeling you get when your done!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Thanks for the run, it was indeed a good-night!”

P.S - I didn't write this, I stole it from the internet. Credit goes to the actual author.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Energy Efficiency Run 2013, The Season Ender

The Energy Efficiency Run 2013 this morning officially marks the last race event for me this year. And what better way to end the race season for me than take part in a 'free' running event. You don't see many of these nowadays. In fact you don't see any free events at all.

Signing up for this was a last minute spur of the moment thing. It was in fact with the urging of one of my clients, the FTAAA, that I signed up for this as a show of support to them. I don't really run 5k races, not worth my money if you ask me, what with the exorbitant race fees these days but the Energy Efficiency Run happened to be a totally free event with no sign up fees.

First time ever standing in the front row at the start ....
I was kinda surprised that there actually was someone organizing a race with no race fees. And I was even more surprised to find out that they were giving away a race tee (Brooks), a finisher medal (a little of an overkill for a 7k/5k event, but a very nice touch) and a goody bag.

With the 7k open category all filled up, I was left with only the 5k veteran category to sign up for. I wasn't thrilled to be waking up so early and driving all the way to Putrajaya (the race location) just for a 5k race but heck, it was free anyway.

The wife (my very own personal cheer squad of one) and me headed to Putrajaya kinda late, with only 20 minutes or so to spare for race start. This being a very small scale event (personal estimate of 600 or so runners), I decided to stay under the radar and dress as inconspicuously as I could to remain incognito. It kinda worked cos no one recognized me with my cap on and a plain white regular round neck tee :D

Trying to blend in ... maybe green would have blended better with the surrounding grass ...
I was also expecting not to see many regulars there but to my utter surprise, the who's who in speed running, the likes of Sheela Samivellu, Moey, Murali, Yuan Yu Fang to name a few, were present. In fact, the runners in the veteran category were all the regular fast crowd of people that I knew I was going to be smelling their smoke and probably end up last.

The race started on time with the 7k flag off followed by the 5k category 15 minutes later. I had no plans or strategies. It was just step on it and hope for the best. Ok, I did secretly want to break my best 5k time of 24 minutes and the route look nicely set up for such a feat.

Moey, as speedy as always ... God, I love the color of his Skechers GOrun Speed!
The gun went off and off I went. This was where I screwed things up. I ran off like a jackrabbit on steroids, hitting a pace of 3:30, yes, 3:30 in that first 1k that I was puffing and panting like a beached whale (do whales even puff and pant?). That ruined everything.

Note to self: 'You are not an elite runner, Nick and you never will be, so try not to act like one and start slower in future!'

I had to slow down considerably by the second kilometer and bring my pace down to something more realistic. But by then, I already had the wind taken out of me and suffice to say, no records were broken today. I even walked for a bit at one point (in a 5k race, Nick?!!). Aside from that, the run from that point on was just routine. I crossed the line a little disappointed with a time of 25:20.

Almost there ....
Pic courtesy of Lina
The wife was waiting for me at the finish to greet me with the words, 'what took you so long?' ... LOL! Headed off to pick up the goody bag and tee and then headed back home right away. Didn't stay around to mingle with anyone.

But overall, for a race that had no race fees, it was pretty well organized with a nice, big and heavy finisher medal, a dry-fit (or whatever they call it) Brooks tee and a bag full of goodies that include a RM120 Brooks voucher at that. For a free run, I'd say they're VERY generous. Good job and congrats to Suruhanjaya Tenaga for organizing this and hopefully we'll see a repeat of this next year. A thank you also goes out to the volunteers and the FTAAA for their part in making this a pretty enjoyable run.

My loot ...

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Skechers Warehouse Sale

It's back. Don't miss out on your chance to get a pair of Skechers shoes at the Skechers Warehouse Sale this weekend.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Putrajaya 50K: Run Report

The moment I got out of the car at the Taman Seri Empangan for the Putrajaya 50K, I had an inkling it was bound to be a hot day. The skies were brutally clear even for that early in the morning. Just how hot it was going to be was something I wasn't expecting.

The Putrajaya 50K, organized by the PACAT Adventure Team is a very small, niche event that's not a race but mainly an LSD around Putrajaya. Only a limited number of participants were allowed for control and safety reason. It was more of a fun gathering of people who enjoy running long distances.

The run was to be flagged off at 7am, something that I was grateful for cos that meant I didn't have to wake up at an ungodly hour. The run location was just a half hour drive away from my place. I had my gear and fueling all sorted out only the night before. Reached the run gathering point around 6.30am and the crowd slowly started coming in.

The staging point
The who's who of ultra running in Malaysia were present, the likes of Shine Teh, Jeff Ooi, Razif, Yimster, well just about everyone except me. I was the official noob among them. Upon checking in I inquired with Zinov on whether it was advisable to bring my rain jacket and he said it probably won't rain so I chucked the jacket bag in the car freeing up a lot of space in my hydration vest which was already full with loads of stuff. While the run would have support in terms of water, food and stuff, I was planning to be totally self sustainable, just in case, hence the packed vest.

The run was flagged off by Arman sharp on the dot and off we went. Seeing as how this was my first 50k attempt, I didn't really have a plan or strategy. We all need to start a benchmark somewhere, right? The start required us to head up a long flight of stairs and I knew this was going to be a problem during the finish. Started off at a reasonable pace. The first part of the run was on familiar ground so nothing much untoward to report.

Before the flag off.
Pic courtesy of Marlina
Was a little concerned though just after the PICC junction cos I wasn't running as efficiently. Something just wasn't clicking. Kept on going and came to the first water station, manned by Arman. Even though it was only around 8 plus in the morning, the sun was already posing a problem. Filled up my bottle and headed off towards the second part of the run (I broke the run into 5 parts). Like I said, the sun even at 8am in the morning was already blistering.

It was around the 13k point when I decided to stop and whip out my arm sleeves, shades and 'kamikaze' cap to get ready for the onslaught of the sun. It was just after this when I hit the motorcycle lane part of the run, one which was simply grueling (for me anyway) and one that almost had me calling it quits! This part was boring, shadeless, hot and absolutely mental.

Just before the first water station.
Pic courtesy of Marlina
For practically the entire race I was running on my own, no one in front of me and no one behind me save for the times when the front runners did their u-turns at the 25km mark and were heading back. Not a good sight to see people heading back while you still had a ways to go before even hitting the u-turn. This was really a mental torture for me. The sun was out in all its blazing glory. I could feel the burn even through my arm sleeves.

This was when I really missed the company I always have during my runs. With Jamie still recovering from illness and Kew opting out, I was basically all on my own and it really made a difference, in a bad way. The only company I had urging me on was the wife's constant text messages telling me to keep going and that she had faith I could pull this off. If it wasn't for her, I would really have just DNF'ed the run, especially around the 25k mark when the cramps hit me like a sledgehammer on my right leg.

The only fans I had cheering me on ...
The cramps were a surprise cos I was hydrating and fueling right on schedule. I had on me Anti-Fatigue Caps, Endurance Aminos, Endurolytes, Perpetuem, gels and isotonics in my bottle with a 1.5L bladder full of water. I was taking them as planned but the cramps still hit. Somewhere through the pain it dawned on me that though I had planned my hydration and fueling needs accordingly, I hadn't planned on the sun sapping my energy at a much faster rate than my fueling could handle. I need to re-evaluate all my hydration and fueling for running under the blistering sun after this.

As I said, the cramps hit me bad. I was reduced to a crawl after the 25k water station. It was so bad that I asked Zul who was manning the 25k station to give me a lift back to the start. He told me to hang on as he had to head back to the 20k, (now 30k after the u-turn) water station and would be back to pick me up but not before spraying my leg with a healthy dose of Salonpas spray. The spray helped heaps cos by the time he came back I was up and running, albeit slowly, again. Told him I'm going to carry on with the run.

The long and devoid of shade motorcycle lane stretch.
Made my way slowly towards the 30k station and took a 10 minute breather there. Gobbled down a couple of watermelons, bananas, sandwiches and topped up my fluids but not before getting a nice ice-cool hose down by Zinov. The sun was blistering by then as it was fast approaching noon. I wasn't looking forward to the trek back on the same reverse leg of the boring, shadeless motorcycle lane again.

My mind was weighing heavily to just call it quits, after all, there wasn't any shame in quitting, right? I think the wife could sense my desperation cos just then, I received a text from her telling me in no uncertain terms was I to take the easy way out. She was rooting for me. That got me going again at a snails pace. The sun and loneliness was getting to me and I was talking to myself to keep me going.

The harsh shadow cast by the unrelenting sun ...
By the time I passed the chicken exit, which was damn tempting mind you, I was resorting to more walking than running. The cramps were coming on and off again and I was sipping water at a more regular interval now. Reached the last water station just before PICC which was unmanned but still had loads of ice cold drinks available. Topped up my fluids, sponged myself down and braced myself to face the final onslaught of the busy prescint 2 and final section.

At this point, every single muscle in my legs were twitching like crazy and the possibilities of totally cramping on both legs were very real. I was walking at 9 minute pace at this point but had to switch to a 12-13 minutes walk pace to nurse the legs back to the finish. Now, those stairs that we had to negotiate at the start was going to be a killer to walk down with legs like these. I reached the stairs, looked at the skies, prayed and crab walked down those stairs one at a time. It took ages and then it was just a 200m to the finish and the end of this misery.

My 'finisher tee' ...
I did it. I suffered practically half the way but I didn't quit. I take away a lot from this experience. Running longer distances is not easy. It's a progressive thing. A lot of training is needed. I'm far from ready to run a real ultra and I recognize my shortcomings. I'm re-evaluating a lot of things concerning longer distances from now on. A lot of factors need to be looked into. I take this as an invaluable experience and will work on this and improve myself for my next challenge. I'm nowhere near being in an ultra class category but with lots of hard work and loads and loads of training, maybe one day I will be.

Before I end, a big congrats goes out to the PACAT Adventure Team for setting up this very well organized no frills event. Everyone was simply supportive and the camaraderie is something that cannot be put into words. Good job guys and I'm already looking forward to your 12 hour challenge next year. Yes Kew, I'm unremorseful ... LOL!

Footnote: I wore the Skechers GOrun 3 as my choice of shoe and it came away just fine handling the distance with no blisters nor hotspots. A highly recommended shoe for long distance running.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fifty Under The Sun

The weather this morning was simply beautiful for running. The rains the past couple of days shrouded the place (well, my place anyway) with a layer of mist and running whilst shrouded by mist all around you simply puts you in a dreamlike state. Which probably explains why I wanted to pull the covers over my head and sleep the cool and cozy morning away.

It does't help when the wife is tucked dreamily under the sheets sleeping and my dog jumps on the bed and plants herself between the wife and me under the sheets and continues snoozing away. That's when all my lazy genes in me just cries out 'to hell with your run, just sleep in la!'. But it's a good thing the wife woke up and kicked my lazy butt out of bed cos otherwise I would have really missed the beautiful running weather outside.

In about 3 days time I'll be attempting the Putrajaya 50km (P50K), an unofficial, small scale run. Organized by the Pacat Adventure Team, a bunch of hardcore ultra fellows to give ultra wannabe pretenders like me a chance to feel the torture of a 50k run around the very hot, humid and almost devoid of shade Putrajaya area. Which is why I'm praying for weather like this morning.

The run starts at 7am and ends at 4pm and the temperatures would start soaring way before noon. I'll probably finish the run looking darker than a golliwog! While this run isn't really a race, it's more of a self-sustaining LSD, albeit with water and aid stations, there still is a cutoff time of 9 hours attached to it. If you're not back by then, you'll be shamefully picked up and dumped back at the finish and made to squat in an open field and have insults and rotten eggs hurled at you by these hardcore ultra fellows and then made to sweep a one kilometer stretch of Putrajaya on your own.

Okay, maybe I made that last part up but the 9 hour cutoff time is true. My training hasn't really stopped since the Standard Chartered KL Marathon, in fact I've upped the weekly mileage quite a bit but even then I'm not really too sure if I have what it takes for the P50K. I'm going to be doing this on my own without the company of two people I look up to and it's going to be a mental thing all through the 50K, that is if I don't take the chicken exit, catered for ... urmmm ... chickens who can't hack it. Yes, they really do have a 'chicken exit' along the route.

A lot of preparation need to be done for the P50K and I haven't even got down to doing anything yet. I've yet to study the route, in fact I have no idea what the route is like save for a few sections. I don't know where we'll be running and it's important to actually be familiar with the route cos the number of people running this is very low, this being a limited number of participants event and there'll probably be times when I'm unable to follow these runners and be on my own. Not knowing the route is not an option. I don't want to end up in Sabak Bernam or something.

My gear, hydration and fueling needs still need to be looked into as I'm using this event to gauge what I would need for next's years TITI 50K road race, yes I've signed up for another equally grueling 50k next year. That's probably even worse but we'll leave that for another blog post. Maybe I should just stick to 10k races, so much less things to prepare.

Next year's race calendar has more or less been planned, the main ones anyway. I don't intend to take part in many races next year cos the ones I'm targeting are already going to cost a lot just to take part in. I can't afford to be running every single race that crops up. A lot more emphasis will be put on training and really, really long runs on both the roads and trails. I'm just hoping no downtime (or at least not too much anyway) from injuries or sickness will arise to ruin my plans.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Skechers GOrun 3: Initial Review

I first got wind of the Skechers GOrun 3 was while surfing and came across a tweet from Madi Serpico (a Canadian Skechers sponsored triathlete) and her pair of Skechers GOrun 3. That got me excited, then again, just about anything running related gets me excited! From the look of the shoe, which was in vibrant pink, it looked pretty interesting. A few quick text exchanges with Skechers Malaysia and I found out that it'll only arrive on our shores late December/Early January.

The Skechers GOrun was what got me started with the Skechers brand of running shoes. So, a third edition of the shoe really excited me but the thought of having to wait till year end before I could get a feel of it dulled the excitement quite a bit. Which was why I was as giddy as a school boy out on date when I got a text from Skechers Malaysia saying that they've got a pair waiting at their office for me to wear-test. I wasn't expecting to test the shoe that early but I wasn't complaining and headed right over to pick up the shoe.

The Skechers GOrun 3
The original Skechers GOrun was launched here way back in March of 2012. The GOrun has gone through two iterations with this being the third in the series. The GOrun 3 (GR3) is the next generation of running shoes from Skechers and is made in the same mould as the previous two in a sense that it is designed for speed and still promotes the midfoot strike technology.

The shoe I have for wear testing came in the blue/green color scheme and while it looks a little bulky outright, it's still surprisingly light though a little heavier than the GOrun 2 weighing in at 7 oz for the men's size 9 compared to the GR2's 6.6 oz. The flexibility of the shoe still remains and you can squish, twist, pull, bend or squeeze it any which way with ease.

Still as flexible ...
Now, I'm not too sure as there is really very limited literature for the shoe, both online and on hardcopy but the stack height of the shoe looks to be a little higher than the GR2. The GOrun 3 comes stock standard without the insole (the insole comes separate as a custom fit 2-in-1 option) and actually caused some confusion for me.

The shoe is promoted as a 4mm drop shoe and I reckoned that was without the insole cos upon slotting the insole in, the GR3 seems higher as if it had a 6mm drop. But I was still not happy with  that assumption. I felt something was not right. I shot Skechers USA an email (which was also confirmed by Skechers Malaysia) about the specifications of the shoe. The reply was kinda surprising cos the shoe is a 4mm drop WITH the insole and without the insole, you get a slightly lower drop shoe, not zero drop, just lower.

Note the slightly taller look ...
Ok, that put my mind to ease, well kinda anyway. So, the shoe is a 4mm drop minimalist shoe with the insole on, which by the way is pretty cushy. In fact I felt it was way cushier than the GR2. Taking the insole out gave it more ground feel and if you're like me, who loves more ground feel, then I'm betting you'll be running without the insole most of the time. Even without the cushy insole, there was still just enough protection for your feet that you could take it for a long run with no issues.

The Skechers GOrun 3 retains the same proprietary lightweight Resalyte™ injection molded midsole with memory retention that assists with impact absorption, albeit with some 'splashed dots' (for want of a better word) pattern imprinted upon it. Nice touch if you ask me. The independent circular GOimpulse sensors offer the same flexibility and feedback for a more responsive running experience as before with no changes at all to the position or number of pods. Not a lot has changed construction wise for the outsole, after all, why change a good thing, right?

The same circular pods is retained ... dog in background not included with shoe.
The upper on the other hand has been worked on and improved from the previous edition of the shoe. What we have now is an even more breathable upper with an extremely flexible Power-prene mesh for forefoot support and toe splaying. I found the previous GOrun 2 to be a narrow shoe but this time around, the GOrun3 seems to offer a wider fit. It feels much roomier upfront, giving your toes a lot of extra space to spread, grip and toe off.

The nice flexible toebox ...
The breathability of the upper was simply awesome with improved air-circulation and I hardly felt any hotspots at all during the two short and two long runs I did in it. The Power-prene mesh is so flexible and non-restrictive that you could wiggle your toes with ease, which is something that I like a lot seeing as how the Nite Owl™ seem to be a little restrictive on my toes during the longer distanced runs.

This time around, the heel counter has been given some tweaking making it a little more sturdier than the previous version. The added material with the Skechers logo that has been stitched on the heel cup seems to hold the heel in place nicely though it's still 'soft' in terms of flexibility. On a personal level though I still prefer the soft heel counter of the original Skechers GOrun.

The stiffer heel counter ...
Another change to the GR3 I found very welcomed was on the tongue of the shoe. The two previous editions of the GOrun sported thicker tongues but this time around, the tongue is way thinner ala the GObionic which helps to keep the shoe light weight. In addition to that, the thinner tongue helps keep the shoe cooler and retains practically no water or sweat and for someone like me who sweats buckets, that's a good thing. The tongue is also stitched on to the shoe to keep it from moving around as you run and helps keep annoying pebbles from sneaking in your shoe. The lacing is the same ribbon type as the GR2.

The thinner tongue and I have no idea what that dog is doing in the background ...
The flatlock stitching gives the interior of the shoe a smooth seamless feel, making it sockless running capable or at least I think so cos I don't run sockless. I'm sure those of you that run sockless might appreciate the smooth inner fabric feel of the shoe.

As mentioned earlier, the shoe can be worn either with or without the insoles. The custom fit insole comes packed separately and feels a little thicker than the GR2's insole. Removing the insole definitely gives the shoe a lower drop with a lot more ground feel and makes the GR3 a lot more roomier too. Four reflective markings, two on the front and two on the back completes the shoe.

The 'splashed dots' pattern ...
I've currently ran in the shoe for over 50k both with and without the insole and both options didn't pose any problems in my run. Personally I prefer ground feel so my preferred option would be without the insole. The GR3 were extremely light weight (despite looking rather thick) with adequate protection and is just perfect as a transitional shoe to foster a barefoot running experience.

The separate insole ...
The most important thing that I noticed about the shoe during all my runs was that I didn't even notice it on my feet. I thought the GR2 was a big improvement from the original GOrun, this one simply hammers both of them flat. I'm simply loving the shoe and will use it to serve as my training shoe for longer runs cos it's so easy and forgiving on the feet. I'm going to give it its baptism of fire during next week's Putrajaya 50K ultra and I'm sure it'll come through just fine though I can't say the same for its owner!

One negative aspect of the shoe I noticed is that it tends to discolor and stain my socks around the top of the foot. I've experienced this discoloration issue with the GObionic as well and suspect it has something to do with the construction and dyeing of the thinner tongue. I sweat a heck of a lot on my longer runs and most times my shoes get the brunt of the dripping sweat and once I remove them, the socks are totally stained. The picture below shows what the GR3 did to my white socks after a 20k run in it.

Notice the square like stains and blueish patches of the discoloration on my socks ...
I don't know if it's just my pair or if it happens across the board but like I said above, it probably has something to do with the thinner tongue fabric. It doesn't affect my performance in any way but it doesn't help with my white socks though. The wife always gives me the eye and asks me if I've been playing in dirt with my socks on every time she does the laundry ... LOL! Well, at least now I've got a reason to go sock hunting.

The three generations of Skechers GOrun ...
The Skechers GOrun 3 comes in 3 color schemes at the moment, the NYC Marathon edition, blue/green and black/red. It's currently not available in these parts of the woods just yet and will see it launched somewhere around December. The Skechers GOrun 3 will be priced at RM399 for the men's and RM369 for the women's version.

Note: The pair of Skechers GOrun 3 used for this review were kindly provided by Skechers Malaysia for wear testing purposes. This review is based on my own personal experience with the shoe and is in no way influenced by Skechers Malaysia whatsoever.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Salomon X-Trail Run 2013: Race Report

It was perfect weather this morning with the stage being set up for a nice, wet, muddy and dirty Salomon X-trail race in the trails of MAEPS (Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang). And it would have been a nice run too if not for the totally under-distanced race.

The skies opened up around 4.30am with strong winds and heavy raindrops pelting our roof. The wife and me were contemplating whether to go or not but we both agreed that it was still two hours to race start and it would stop by then. I instantly checked the weather updates from the rest of the gang who were reporting the same rains in their area. We're much better than AccuWeather, mind you ... LOL!

This run was a stress free run for me. I didn't have the usual competitive must-run-fast-like-a-jungle-man thoughts this time around. I was just coming back from illness and wasn't at my best yet. My plan was to just take it as a training run. I was more excited for the wife, who was running her first trail race.

We reached the race location slightly over 6am and saw Jamie walking to the start location. The rains had already stopped by then with a very light diminishing drizzle. Got race prepped and headed to the start area to meet up with Jamie and the rest of the gang. The crowd were slowly filtering in one by one but I think a lot didn't turn up or headed over the many numerous other races in town. It was said that entry was capped at 2,500 slots that were all taken up but judging from what I saw, it didn't reach anywhere near that amount. I could be wrong though.

The men were to be flagged off first. Jamie and me made our way to the back of the start area with the rest of the GC guys abandoning us and heading straight to the front. Obviously their strategy was based on a speed run. I wasn't sure what Jamie's plan was but mine was to go easy. I had on my Skechers GObionic Trail, giving it its first taste of an actual trail race.

The horn blared indicating flag off and off we went, at a snails pace for the first kilometer anyway. The route was a little narrow and since we were way behind, there was a horde of runners to start overtaking. No rush, since it was a 10k trail (or so I thought at that time), conserve the energy and pace for the later stages.

The road stage was short and we hit the trails and the first incline which was pretty steep. Kept to smaller and constant strides and managed to easily tackle that first incline. It was long, steep but doable. The Skechers GObionic Trail worked really well, gripping the terrain with hardly any slippage safe for a loose rock or two. It gave added confidence for me to bolt down the downhill stretches.

The pace increased on the flat sections and by the time I hit the second incline, the recent bout of illness was beginning to hamper my performance. Stopped at the second water station, took two cups of water, decided to run/walk that section of the incline. Jamie pulled off ahead, still running strong. I knew I wouldn't be able to keep pace with him anymore and decided to just keep him in my sights as an indicator for me to keep going.

By this time, the first male runner was looping back to the finish with breakneck speed down the slopes ahead. That section of the race was tough for me. I couldn't walk too much cos then I would lose sight of Jamie but the inclines were also pretty steep. Heard my name being called out and saw that it was Eugene. Chatted for a bit and got down to the business at hand which was trudging up the blasted hill.

Caught up with Andrew at the top summit and both of us ran down the rest of the way. At the junction of the incline, the women who were flagged off 15 minutes later were already making their way up and my strategy changed to 'make sure no woman overtakes you' mode ... hahaha! By then it was around the 5k or 6k mark and I was getting into a more comfortable pace to face the rest of the 4k left.

Boy, was I in for a surprise. By then we hit the road and I was a little puzzled cos from a route recce report I read a week or so back, by the time you hit the final tarmac section, it was close to the finish line. I upped the pace and tried to reel in Jamie who was a distance away but still in sight. Sorry Jamie, I used you as bait in the second half of the race today ... LOL!

Then when I heard music blaring and a volunteer told me the finish was just down the road, I thought my Garmin was going bonkers cos it was only showing 7km and the Start/Finish gantry was already in sight. What happened to the 3k? I crossed the line and clocked in at 45 minutes, not great but decent enough for me considering the illness.

Picked up my medal and true enough, after checking with the guys, we all showed similar distances and it was only then I found out that they changed the route at the last minute cos of the rain. I guess I never heard the announcement prior to race start. The reason was for safety cos the route was slippery or something along those lines but personally I would have preferred if they stuck to the actual route, slippery or not cos it would have given me more opportunity to blood the GObionic Trail but I guess safety above all else.

Picked up my goody bag and medal and caught up with the rest of the gang while waiting for the wife. The gang went off in search of breakfast somewhere while I waited for the wife who came in shortly. For her first trail race, I must say she did extremely well considering the terrain she had to go through. Good on you, babe!

Overall, I'm a little disappointed for the under-distanced race though I know it was done for safety concerns. It was such a beautiful morning to be outdoors and 7k simply doesn't do justice to the weather. Looks like I"ll have to squeeze in another run this evening just to get in the mileage I missed cos of my illness this week.

The Skechers GObionic though, worked way better than its owner simply proving itself in wet trail racing conditions. The grip was exceptional on the slopes and downward stretches. Like I mentioned earlier, hardly any slippage. No pebbles or debris got lodged under the soles and running through mud didn't hinder it in anyway. I'd give it six thumbs up if I had six thumbs to give.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

2XU Compression Run 2013: Race Report

I signed up for this race way back during the StandChart expo. Back then I was looking forward to running this cos I've only run one other 15k race in my entire life, yes, pathetic I know. This seemed like a good choice for a second try.

Due to the haze and postponement of the SCKLM, this race was also re-scheduled to this weekend from an earlier planned date. Back then not much info was forthcoming such as the all important route for the run. But then, how hard could a 15k be, right? Especially one starting in Padang Merbuk. Boy, how wrong I was.

The route info was only released a few days prior to the race which I thought was seriously unprofessional of them. Sounds petty I know but I like to analyze my race route and plan my strategy accordingly and please don't tell me to expect the unexpected. So with the route info only being released 3 days or so prior to the race, I decided to just treat this run as part of a training run. No expectations, no goals, no nothing.

My dog decides that a sexier pose is needed this time around ...
Arman did give a little warning a week earlier that it was going to be hell, so a day prior to race day, the wife and me took a drive along the race route and what I saw had me wanting to cry. I used to curse Ammah hill but not anymore. The incline that I was looking at around the 8k mark seemed to reach the heavens with no respite. The other inclines littering the rest of the route was no slouch either. It was going to be hell, that much was guaranteed.

Come race day, the weather was simply awesome with heavy rain just before the start which saw the start being delayed by 10 minutes. Any other day, I would have used the weather to my advantage and put pedal to the metal but not today. I was going to stick to my plan of a training run. I just didn't have the heart or energy to attack those monstrous hills awaiting me.

Started the race with the usual suspects from the GCAM Alumni, Choon Yuen, Kew, Piew, Yan Leng, Zane and YeeHoo. The guys and lone girl decided to take off on a faster paced start. I hung back and ran with Choon Yuen, who was nursing an injury. Like I said, I didn't have a target or goal. The only thing I wanted was to finish, head back home and sleep!

The scenery at the top of the second crazy incline.
Pic courtesy of the wife.
Both CY and me trotted ahead at an easy pace chit-chatting and making fun of people as we ran. Ok, ok, we were a little evil in that way but heck, I'm sure there were people making fun of us, so it's only fair, right? LOL! The weather was simply divine for running and we were pretty familiar with the first half of the route.

Skipped the first two water stations, wasn't thirsty at all cos of the cool weather. The first two inclines, the KTM station and the long stretch after that was easily tackled. Stopped at the 3rd station to get a quick sip before hitting the third incline just before the reverse double hills. Around this point, CY told me to go on ahead cos his injury was flaring up.

Was sad to lose the good company but I went ahead on my own. I upped the pace and thought of trying to catch up with the rest of the GCAM guys and gal but they were on a blistering pace today. No sign of them up ahead and I decided to tone back the speed, save the legs for the crazy inclines which were looming just a kilometer away.

I had a little spat with the guy manning the water-station just before the Jalan Duta stretch who was scolding runners and telling them not to pick up the cups of water which had me sarcastically telling him to just close shop and go home instead. A few other runners told him off too, some in not so nice words, which I thought he totally deserved.

Anyways, the crazy first incline leading to the heavens turned up and I ran up as much as I could, which was about halfway and walked the other half to the top. Then it was thankfully downhill but another incline was just around the corner. This one was manageable and I ran up all the way, which was where I met YeeHoo and then Andrew soon after.

Just at the top of this incline came a warning to lookout for steep down slope, which was actually really steep! Trudged downhill real slow cos it was wet and slippery and rolling down this hill wasn't an option. Just about 300 meters from the foot of this down slope came another killer incline with one kilometer up and another kilometer down. This was made worse cos it was a u-turn and seeing others run down while you were suffering was not a good thing. I managed to run up almost all the way but had to stop to walk up towards the top.

Pic courtesy of the wife ...
Took a sip of water at the water station there and seeing that I was surprisingly still fresh albeit a little out of breath was my cue to ramp up the pace. So it was a sprint downhill and all the way to the finish which saw me hitting a 4:30 - 4:45 pace for the final 3K. Even then, I still couldn't catch up with the GCAM fellows, so you can imagine how fast they were running today. Kudos to all of them! Everyone of them has improved tremendously.

I crossed the finish in a respectable 1:38 (to me anyway) to cap a satisfactory run for only my second ever 15K race, though no PB for it cos the first one was done a lot faster than this one. Caught up with the gang for our usual after race banter while waiting for the rest to arrive and also for the wife who was still gamely slogging it out on the route finishing her run.

Would I run this crazy route again? Nope but then, ask me again in a week or so and I just might say yes ... LOL! As much as I hate this route, I just might agree to getting Jamie to plan a training run session here again one day!

Aside from the water-station incident I thought it was a well organized event. The medal looks cool and is one of the better medals I got this year. Hope to see this around again next year cos as much as I bitched about route, I did enjoy the early morning run along with the rest of the equally insane bunch of runners who wake up at ungodly hours, look for very limited parking and run in the cold early morning rains.

Now to go de-stress with a nice long run along my now favourite Ammah hills this Tuesday :D

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Putrajaya Night Marathon 2013: Race Report

The running gods must have been in a good mood cos the weather for the 2013 Putrajaya Night Marathon was simply perfect for running a race in the humid night air of Putrajaya. Sorry for wishing for the rain, Nithi (Race director for PNM), I know you were  praying otherwise but heck, the race is for runners anyway ... LOL!

Unfortunately though, while the weather was just perfect for a marathon PB, it just wasn't ideal enough for me cos while I came in with a time of 4:48, shaving 24 minutes off last year's edition, it simply was nowhere close to my personal best. I have no excuses and simply blame myself for the wrong choice of race gear.

The morning of the race started off with me doing a 12km run with the GC gang and the MPIB run clinic. Then it was back home, some quick grocery shopping with the wife and a short nap before getting ready for the drive to Putrajaya.

The afternoon rain brought hope that it would be a cool night out in Putrajaya. A quick call to one of the organizing staff to check on the weather in Putrajaya just before heading out brought an even bigger smile to my face with the forecast on site being gloomy.

With Jamie and Kew before flag off ..
Arrived at the race location and took the long, dreary walk from the parking to the start line to look for the rest of the gang at the pre-planned meet point. The skies started opening up again just before the race start. Strangely enough, the number of full marathoners in the start pen didn't justify the total number of runners who supposedly signed up. It didn't look anywhere close to 800 plus runners as stated. I'm guessing the race being held at Sunway the next day was the cause of the reduced number of participants.

The race flagged off on time, and it took less than 20 seconds to cross the timing mat, confirming my theory above. Started off at an easy trot with Jamie. We were both on an earlier pre-agreed plan to complete in 4 hours and 30 minutes and the pace was spot on at the 10k and 21k marks. Everything was going pretty well up to that point.

The 'cool' looking start/finish arch ... LOL!
Then the wrong choice of shoe took its toll on my feet and I had to drop off the pace a lot. I had picked the Skechers Nite Owl as my race shoe and while it is a good and decent running shoe, I shouldn't have experimented with a new shoe for a marathon distanced race and should have just gone with my trusted Skechers GObionic as my race shoe.

Free ice-cream being served on a cool night ...
I'm just so used to running with the Skechers GObionic/GObionic Ride as my race shoes. The swelling of my feet caused my toes to press painfully against the front of the shoe and trying to keep running the pace Jamie was on was causing me to wince in pain. Slowing down the pace made the pain much more bearable but was simply not doing my quest for a 4:30 finish any good.

I may need to go a size up for future GOrun Ride's from now if I plan to use them for distances longer than 21km. But for the first half of the race, the Skechers Nite Owl GOrun Ride 2 was simply bliss to run in and performed to expectations. It was soft, cushy and comfy and no leg fatigue was evident up to that point. A good shoe for distances below 21km. Maybe with a size up, I would have been able to run the entire 42km without issues.

Almost home.
pic courtesy of Zane Rizal.
Anyways, my lousy performance was no fault of the shoe, just a bad decision in 'tyre' choice. The second half of my race was basically spent just going one kilometer at a time and trying to forget the pain I was feeling in my swollen toes. I ran as much as I could and walked to ease the pain.

It was also a mental challenges on certain stretches, especially after the 30th kilometer when the distance between the runner in front and back of you was huge and you were mostly all on your own trying to urge the legs to keep moving.

The final 8km stretch saw more walking and by the time I was at the back of the Palace of Justice, with close to 2 plus kilometers to go, the Garmin was showing 4:29 and I knew it was a lost cause. So, I decided to just take it easy for that final 2 plus kilometers and cruised to the finish, bettering my PNM record.

Full marathon medal #4
Considering the situation, I gladly accepted the results, though on a personal level I'm still berating myself over my performance. This would mark my final time running the PNM full marathon cos I don't intend to torture myself again here next year and am instead trying to convince the wife to give me back my pacing job and let me pace her for the 21km next year ... LOL!

What I'm happy about most is the fact that I suffered absolutely no cramps this time round. Not an inch of a twitch all through the 42km and I am very thankful for that. I guess the fueling I had worked pretty well. I packed up enough Anti-Fatigue Caps, Endurance Aminos and Perpetuem Solids to last me the distance and taking them as planned must have helped with keeping the dreaded cramps at bay. I only miscalculated once when I hallucinated seeing a water station and popped them into my mouth only to have to swallow them down without water! Not a very nice thing to do.

Race organization wise, it was a pretty well organized race. A huge thank you goes out to the volunteers who braved the rains and stood for hours at lonely stretches of the road to cater to the needs of all the runners. You guys did an awesome job! A thank you also goes out to Jamie, Zane and the wife (who had no choice since I was driving her home ... hahaha!) for waiting for us slow people to come in. It was nice to see friendly faces at the finish cheering you on.

I did manage to get called on stage after the run and win myself a free Nathan Quick Shot Plus drink bottle though :D Thank you Orange man for picking me, limping and hobbling, out of the crowd!

My free gift voucher ...
Now to plan for my next marathon which I have no idea where or when just yet. 'What? planning for a next marathon when you swore before crossing the finish this would be your last, Nick?' ... well, to quote a phrase from Jamie - Don't believe it when any of these folks - liar, thief, politician, marathoner - tells you "Never again!"

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Skechers Nite Owl GOrun Ride 2 Initial Review

The Skechers Nite Owl™ came into my possession a little too late to be showcased during the recently concluded Shape Men's Health Night Run 2013 nevertheless I was still excited to get it for wear testing from Skechers Malaysia about a week back.

The Skechers Nite Owl™ series of running shoes comes in three different models, the GOrun Ride 2, the GOrun 2 and the GOwalk 2. The model I got from Skechers Malaysia was the GOrun Ride 2 which was exactly the model I was hoping to wear test.

Work commitments only saw me being able to test the shoe during the morning hours which does not do justice to its Photoluminescent technology. Yes, for the uninitiated, the Skechers Nite Owl™ series of shoes are a glow in the dark running shoes that's ideal for night running or low light conditions. Short exposure to most light source will make the shoe glow in the dark albeit at different intensities depending on the light source.

The Photoluminescent technology utilizes phosphorous to give it the glow you see in the dark. The technology is applied to specific sections on the upper of the Nite Owl™. These treated sections absorb whatever ambient light there is, though direct sunlight gives it the brightest glow, and releases it slowly. A short 15 minutes charge is enough to make it glow.

The Nite Owl™ shines the brightest for the first hour or so and will erode slowly over time with glow fading in intensity though there will always be some form of glow being emitted from the shoe as it's always absorbing whatever light is around.

After a charge in sunlight ...
Based on my own personal testing, a short hour of 'charge' under normal fluorescent lighting in the bedroom will keep the Nite Owl™ glowing all night till morning which was evident every time I woke up to go to the toilet. Coming back from my morning run after exposing the shoe to natural sunlight during an hour's worth of running saw the Nite Owl™ glowing like a nuclear reactor the moment I stepped into the house! It was that bright!

The intensity even in daylight looks like a nuclear reactor on over-drive!
Now, putting the 'gimmicky' glow aside, let's get to the real performance of the shoe, which in my case is based on the GOrun Ride 2 (GRR2). So far, I've managed to clock close to 57km in them, most of them morning runs save for one run at night. I liked the first edition of the GOrun Ride, a nice, light, flexible, well cushioned yet minimal enough running shoe with simply one of the smoothest uppers I've felt.

This second iteration of the shoe, weighing at 7.9 oz for the men's size 9, has an even smoother and more structured upper with a lot more overlays and a tighter mesh than its predecessor, giving your feet a much more secure cushy feel. The toebox is still wide enough for toe splaying and retains the breathable 4 way stretch mesh.

With all the overlays and tighter meshing, the GRR2 does run a little on the warmer side, especially if you're running long. I love the styling of the upper which retains the web like striping found on the GObionic Trail. The heel cup feel a little stiffer than the original but works nicely to keep your foot in place.

The slightly stiffer heel cup
The outsole looks totally identical to the first edition of the shoe but upon some research I discovered that Skechers Performance removed 2mm from the mid section to decrease the arch bump which I hardly noticed. Though the GRR2 runs closer to the ground than the original giving a much improved road feel, it's still cushy and plush enough to absorb impact which was evident during the relentless pounding of the recent Back 2 Endurance Ultra.

Looks a little bigger than the original edition of the GOrun Ride though they're the same size.
The propriety Resalyte® cushioning with memory retention sole responds really well to pace changes and is so much cushier this time around, at least that's how it felt to me. The 4mm drop keeps your foot nicely retained in a nearly neutral position. The outsole retains the same GOimpulse sensors and circular pods as the first edition and unfortunately also retains the same pebbles and debris issue getting stuck between the pods. Taking a page of the GOrun 2's outsole might address this issue nicely.

The identical sole design as its predecessor
The Nite Owl™ comes with a removeable insole giving you the option to run with a more minimal feel or just keep it on for that added protection and support. The smooth fabric shoe lining makes it easy on the feet for sockless running though I haven't and don't intend to try it out as I'm not a sockless runner. I'll wait for the wife to try this option out when she gets her trial pair :D The lacing remains the same as its predecessor though I find it a little too short to use the loop lacing lock technique which I prefer.

With or without the insole, it's still good to go ...
The Skechers Nite Owl™ GOrun Ride 2 is definitely an improvement from the first edition. I'm a GObionic person. I love the feel of the ground and have run 2 marathons in the GObionic but in the four runs I've had with the Skechers Nite Owl™ GOrun Ride 2, the longest being 27km, I've come to take a very fond liking towards the shoe. They're lightweight, yet extremely cushioned and flexible and works well for those long slow distance runs over the weekends.

I found them to be easy on the feet during my runs and it felt like I was running on sponges. It does seem a lot more 'softer' than the original and work as a good recovery shoe for me after a tough run in the Skechers GObionic.

The arrow indicates the wife's normal GObionic Ride 
I highly recommend this shoe and not because of the glow aspect of the shoe. The performance of the shoe is simply first class for a shoe of its category. The Skechers Nite Owl™ GOrun Ride 2 is expected to be launched here in about 3 weeks or so and is priced at RM429 for the men's and RM399 for the women's. Do give it a look see when it's launched and you won't be disappointed.

I'm planning to use them for the coming Putrajaya Night Marathon, giving the shoe its deserved limelight and glow like never before. So if you see this person who looks like he has fireflies on his feet, wave ya ... LOL!

The pair of Skechers Nite Owl™ GOrun Ride 2 used above was so kindly provided by Skechers Malaysia as a review unit. This review is of my own personal experience with the shoe and is in no way influenced by Skechers Malaysia whatsoever.