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Monday, May 20, 2013

Skechers GOrun Speed: The Initial Review

I've been waiting for the Skechers GOrun Speed to come to our shores for quite a while now. I've been trial testing various other Skechers shoes but have always somehow been intrigued by the GOrun Speed since I first laid eyes on an image of it. Of course the fact that Meb, one of my favourite marathoners endorses and runs in the shoe is a big plus point.

So, you can imagine my utter delight when Skechers Malaysia told me the shoe was ready for pick up. I immediately made plans to head over and collect the shoes. Jamie had the same thoughts too cos he was there and already trying out shoe sizes when I arrived. The first thing that caught my eye was the bright bold colors of the shoe. The words,'speed, fast, light' were instantly shouting out to me.

Officially named the Skechers GOrun Speed but is also referred to as the GOmeb or the GOrace is the official shoe for Meb Keflezighi, a 2004 Olympic Silver medalist and 4th placed finisher in the 2012 London Olympics. Meb himself worked closely with the Skechers design team to make a shoe that fit his exact preferences to run a marathon in. In fact, the Skechers GOrun Speed (which I shall call the GRS from now) is the exact same shoe that Meb ran in during the London Olympics.

The Skechers GOrun Speed in all its bright and bold beauty ...
Of course, I couldn't wait to run in them and though it was my rest day and I came home really late from work of an extremely busy work day, I took them out for a short late night test run immediately. I honestly didn't know what to expect from the shoe. I knew from some online research that the shoe was more of a traditional racing flat and that it was touted to be built firmer than the usual Skechers offerings.

I must say I came away very impressed with the shoe after that first run. If you've run in a GOrun before then let me say that this shoe is an entirely different build and class from the GOrun or even the GOrun 2 (GR2). True to what I've read, the GRS has a firmer and stiffer sole. The first run in them saw me doing a blistering (by my lowly standards anyway) pace that left my lungs way behind!

With its low and narrow profile, the shoe fits snugly to the foot. At first I thought the narrower fit was going to be a problem but after two runs in them so far (a 4k and a 20k), I like how it latches on to the feet nicely with hardly any slippage though those with wider feet might find it a little too snug. I did have to size it up by half a size from my normal size 8 though.

The upper consists of a nearly weightless synthetic fabric mesh which is different compared to the GR2's and it a lot more breathable. The holes in the mesh fabric seems a lot bigger than the GR2. It's easily the most breathable shoe of the entire Skechers GOseries of shoes. No hotspots or blistering were evident during my 20k run with them.

A very breathable upper ...
The interior is lined with a microfiber lining to give it a comfortable fit and feel though I can't verify that cos I don't run sockless. The laces are of the flat ribbon like kind. Maybe it was the way I tied the laces but they did come undone twice during my run. Looks like I'm going to have to double knot them from now on. The insole is glued on and non-removable which will probably solve the issue of it slipping that was evident in some of the GR2's that I've read in some reviews.

The non-removable insoles ...
What I really like about the upper is the firm and snug heel area. It has just the right amount of hold that you won't find your heel trying to sneak its way out of the shoe. In fact, with the narrow cut and snug sock like fit of the shoe along with the heel, I hardly felt the shoe on my feet during my run except at times when I slowed down in them. I'll get to that in the next paragraph.

The heel of the GRS ...
The midsole of the GRS is where this shoe differs from the rest of the GOrun family. The GRS features a carbon fibre stability plate in the midfoot area that promotes a more supportive feel. That's where the huge difference lies. The GRS has a midsole that is a lot firmer and stiffer (yet responsive) than the GOrun 2. The firmness of the sole while great when you're running at an increased pace is not so good when you're running slower. It can be kinda uncomfortable and that's when you'll start 'feeling' the shoe. The shoe is built for racing anyway so I guess it's designed to run fast in.

The firmness of the shoe does have its benefits. I thought my feet felt a lot less tired especialy in the arch area as the miles kept going up. I'll see if that observation continues in the next couple of long runs I do in the coming weeks. I also thought the heel of the GOrun Speed felt a lot firmer than the other range of GOseries. Another  difference of the GRS is the lack of the midfoot bump that was very pronounced in the original and still plays a small part in the GR2.

I love the 'Meb' branding on the shoe ... :D
The slight rocker feel of the shoe still exists seeing as how the midfoot is 1.5mm thicker than the heel, with the dimensions ranging from 14mm in the forefoot, 19.5mm in the midfoot and 18mm for the heel, giving it a 4mm heel to toe offset. The rocker feel is really negligible and imperceptible to the eye though. The shoe feels more flat than anything else. The shoe weighs in at 7.5 oz. based on the men's size 9. For a narrow shoe, the toe box was surprisingly wide enough for me. But those with wider feet might find it a tad too uncomfortable.

The outsole maintains the traditional pattern of rubber lugs or to be technically correct, the GOimpulse sensors found on all the GOrun series. The circular pods this time around are spaced out much further apart keeping pebbles and debris from getting stuck between them which is something I really appreciate. Finding a small pebble stuck between the lugs while running can be pretty annoying. I can't vouch for the durability of the propriety Resalyte outsole with its memory retention compound yet until I put in a lot more mileage but based on the previous models, I'd say they're good for at least a minimum of 400-500k based on my usage. If you only use it specifically for races, it might last even longer but don't hold me to that.

The familiar GOimpulse sensors ... note the carbon fibre plate at the arch section.
In terms of shoe performance and in the short time I've spent running in them I'd say they do what a race shoe would do. I was pleasantly surprised with the lack of leg fatigue after increasing the pace way above my planned marathon pace during the second half of the GCAM training session on Saturday which I hope wasn't just a flash in the pan thing. What really struck me about the shoe was that I hardly took notice of it and that to me is the sign of a good race shoe, except of course when the laces came undone.

Like I said earlier, the shoe is simply fast and clearly built for speed. This isn't an everyday shoe you would use for training though and it also isn't really a shoe everyone could just easily jump into and be right at home with. I'd recommend using them more for races, even then, try them out before taking my word for it. I'm not so sure how they'll hold out for a long drawn out marathon cos I don't think I could sustain a pace that requires the speed these shoes work best at but for shorter, fast races, these would be the ideal to get some PB's in.

A sleek, mean, running machine ...
That said and done though, I'm loving the shoe and it would make an excellent choice of shoe if you're looking for a traditional styled racing flat with a firm yet extremely responsive ride. The only predicament I have now is having to choose the GOrun Speed over the GObionic as my SCKLM marathon race shoe. I initially planed to go with the GObionic but now I'm not so sure. I'll give it until the next 30k LSD in June before I make a firm decision on my race shoe for the SCKLM.

The GOrun Speed will be launched in selected stores this Wednesday. The pair of Skechers GOrun Speed above was kindly provided by Skechers Malaysia for wear testing. This review is of my own personal experience with the shoe and is in no way influenced by Skechers Malaysia whatsoever.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

KL Tower International Sunrise Towerthon Challenge 2013: Spectator Review

The wife first caught glimpse of this event on TV during the news many years ago, so when the KL Tower International Sunrise Towerthon Challenge was opened for registration she thought of signing up. I told her to go ahead and leave me out of it. Stairs, especially 2,058 of them and me don't get along too well. Give me a good old road surface to suffer on for 5 hours and I'd gladly do it rather than have to climb some vertical route one step at a time.

The daunting tower ...
She said it would be a good experience and signed up for it with me officially being her driver and cheerleader for the event. I think she's insane but heck, each to their own ... LOL! This would also be the first time I would spectate while she ran. Since I don't have a race report to write, I thought I'd write a spectator review (if there is such a thing) for her.

The wife is a very low key and shy person unlike her vain pot husband ... hahaha ... so don't expect to see pictures of her here. She wants to remain very much under the radar so much so that of all my running buddies, I think only Jamie, Frank, Neoh and Kah Yen has met her before.

The woman of mystery with her GOrun 2 she chose for the race ...
Anyways, back to my report. We picked up the race kit a day earlier at the Telekom Museum. The race kit collection was so well organised that we were in and out in 5 minutes flat. We took a drive to KL Tower after that to give the wife a feel of the first 800m incline before hitting the stairs and upon seeing the start incline I was laughing my head off at the wife completely not sympathizing with the torture she was going to go through on race day. I'm evil that way :D

The smooth flowing race kit collection ...
We got to the race location around 6am cos the wife wave was set to be flagged off at 7.30am. Parking was easily found at one of the office buildings nearby. Most people just parked by the road side but I wasn't risking a summons or my car being towed away.

Runners warming up ...
The place was already full of people, runners and spectators alike seeing as how the men's open were flagged off in waves around 5am (I think) and decided to find a place to sit and wait her flag off. It started to rain and I started cursing, not because it was raining but because whenever I join races it never rains. Here I am being a spectator and now it rains. Life isn't fair sometimes.

The men's open flag off ...
The wife headed to the start pen somewhere around 7.15am and I waited to see her flag off. Caught up with Kew who had already done his insane run up those crazy stairs. My respects go out to him for taking on the challenge. Then the horn blared for the first wave of the women's flag off.

Some really 'late' starters ...
I wonder if they (save for the elites) knew that the incline for the first 800m had a gradient of 8.5 degrees cos they all took off like it was a nice flat downhill stretch. I knew they were going to pay for that. My observations were true cos by the first 200 metres, loads of them very already huffing and puffing. Evil me was sniggering inside. At least the wife heeded my earlier advice and took a nice, slow, easy jog up.

The long and winding climb, 200m into the start ...
With time on my hands, I headed up to the tower lobby, which was also quite an effort to reach at a leisurely walk pace let alone run. Lots of the earlier finishers were lingering around taking in whatever drinks were available. 100 plus and Dutch Lady were on hand and I was rueing the fact that they should have had these ice cold drinks at the Deuter finish last week!

While waiting, I caught up with Ivan and Adeline of Skechers Malaysia who were there for one of the Skechers sponsored runners. After seeing to their runner who had left by then, they decided to wait with me for the wife to finish her run which I thought was nice of them.

Just before the start entrance to the stairs ...
The wife was ecstatic to finally reach up the top of the tower. Her account of it was that it was so darned stuffy, crowded, wet and slippery on some stretches, loads of vomit here and there which made it an obstacle course to avoid them and some idiot decided to add to all that by farting in the stairwell ...hahaha!

According to her, those overly enthusiastic at the start of the climb were later overtaken by her when she found them slumped in exhaustion along the way. Her entire strategy which was planned the night before was to take it slow and easy and don't rush up those stairs, after all, it wasn't like a podium finish was on the line or anything. The idea was to complete it with the least possible pain and I must say she did so much better than I expected. Kudos to her!

The start to the stairs ...
Overall I would have to say the event was nicely organized. Water stations were plentiful with one just at the top of the 800m stretch and according to the wife, about 4 more in the tower itself on specified levels. The stations were mixed with water and isotonics, which future race organisers should take note of, especially the isotonics part.

Traffic could have been handled a little better though cos cars were still being allowed through the road up which the runners use and also past the start point of the main lobby stair section. A little bit of carelessness from a driver and things could have gotten ugly. I would have just sealed off the road, save for medical vehicles but then, what do I know.

The barren looking stairwell ... pic courtesy of the wife.
It is a nice experience for her and she was pretty happy with her performance so much so that when she reached home, she said she wasn't even tired! The show off ... LOL! I think I was more tired being a spectator than she was running the event. She received a nice, albeit slightly big, finisher medal which she can lay claim to that I don't have. The worst thing is, she's ready for another round next year!

The long wait for the lifts ... pic courtesy of the wife.
The wife told me the top three men's open winners were all Kenyan's, now why am I not at all surprised :D Would I join this next year? Not in a million years, even if you paid me a millions bucks and threw in Jennifer Lopez along with it! Well ... urrmmmm .. maybe the Jennifer Lopez part might change my mind la ... hahaha!

Her slightly big finisher medal ...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Deuter Trail Run 2013: Race Review

Road running and trail running are two entirely different disciplines altogether. Today marked the day I ran my first ever trail run race, the Deuter Trail Fun Run 2013 and though the event stated it was basically a fun run, there was nothing fun about it when you had to traverse one steep zigzag like incline after another along a narrow trail route. But I did enjoy the immense experience I managed to accumulate out of that short, tough 6.2km under-distanced route.

I almost had to give this event a miss initially since it fell on the 5th of May, the GE-13 date but the organizers decided to postpone the event to a week later which was good cos I was kinda looking forward to running this. I've been running a couple of trail sessions with the GCAM group led by Yvonne and have been taking a little bit more interest in trail running so when the chance to sign up for a trail race came along, I didn't hesitate. This would be a good chance to see if those training sessions bore fruit.

Both Choon Yuen and Yvonne also signed up for the run and we met up bright and early around 7am at the Putrajaya Challenge Park, the location of the event. After passing them their race kits, I was moaning about having to wake up so early just to run a 7km race, you know la, the usual must have complaints before a race ... LOL!

The place was already packed with runners. This was my first trail race and even though it was still a run event, the atmosphere somehow felt different to me. I felt intimidated by all the other runners. They all looked like (and they actually were) professional trail runners which had me questioning my decision to participate.

The warm up session that I always never participate in ..
We had about an hour to spare before race start so we wandered around for a bit. The three of us initially planned to start the run together but that plan was scuttled when they decided to stagger the start into two waves, the men's would be flagged off first, followed by the women's and junior categories.

Flower power with CY ... (pix courtesy of Yvonne)
Come to think of it, it was a blessing of sorts cos Yvonne would have just left both Choon Yuen and me to eat trail dust if we had all started together ... hahaha! At least this way, we could try to keep in front of her and pretend we were faster, at least until she zoomed past us.

We were ushered into the start pen about 20 minutes prior to race start and given a girly, Hawaiian like flower for our wrist as a marker of some sorts that we had to wear throughout the run. There went whatever 'machoness' I tried to portray ... LOL!

Me and my flower, there went any plans of trying to look macho ... hahaha!
 (pix courtesy of Choon Yuen)
At sharp 8am, the gun went off and we were off and running. The start was a short downhill stretch and then it was basically an incline all the way. The first 1.5km or so was on the roads before we hit the actual trails. I was too cooled down by then and had some difficulty adjusting to the initial start. The uphill stretch didn't help either. The only positive point was we were running on the roads and I took every bit of opportunity to get some good splits cos I knew the trails proper would see much slower split times.

Choon Yuen was doing pretty well and was leading me on during the first half of the trail section. The trails were pretty narrow and most times we had to run along single file, making increases in speed a little too difficult. But there were opportunities to overtake and I took them as much as I could. The rest of the times saw me constantly repeating the words, 'coming through, thank you' over and over again.

Yvonne and Choon Yuen before race start
The trails were really undulating with steep up and down stretches that had me really being cautious with my footing, after all I am in the midst of marathon training and wasn't looking to twist or injure my feet unnecessarily. Trail running really isn't easy, especially when it's a race. I was gasping for breath and eventually just resorted to walking up the really steep sections and running on the flats and downhills.

Now, on roads I really welcome the downhill stretches but on trails with very steep downhill stretches and going down at full speed can be utterly painful on the ankles and knees. Every time we came to a steep downhill (and there were lots of them too), I was wincing in pain from the shock of the landing to a point where I decided enough was enough and just slowed down considerably on the downhill stretches and kept whatever speed I could muster for the flatter sections.

We came to the one and only water station right where they said it would be, at the 3.5km mark and grabbed a bottle and took it  along with me. Not that I had a choice cos they were only giving out bottles which was a waste really cos lots of people just took a sip or two and threw the balance away. Isotonics would have been good too but sadly there was none.

Around the 4km mark, I was shoved aside by two of the junior runners going at blistering speeds. I was a little annoyed by the shove and push they gave me as they came through. I know you guys are fighting for the podium but a little warning about coming through would have sufficed cos I would definitely have moved out of your way if I knew you were coming through.

The rest of the run was pretty much standard with the route mostly flattening out and going downhill till the finish. Just as I reach the end of the trail section around the 6k mark and saw the final downhill stretch to the finish I was ecstatic but my elation turned to horror when the marshals diverted me to the final 'obstacle' course of six (I think) man-made almost vertical humps that we had to traverse before the home stretch.

The loud 'OH MY GOD!' shout had the three marshals there bursting out in laughter, probably sadistically happy that I was going to have to suffer a little while longer before finishing. I was glad to see the last hump and sprinted all the way back to the finish which was about 200 meters or so away. Crossed the finish in a time of 45 minutes for my first ever trail race.

The 'obstacle' course. Trust me, it looks tougher than it is
(pix courtesy of Deuter Trail Run Facebook page)
Picked up my medal and waited at the finish to get shots of Choon Yuen and Yvonne crossing the finish. Though I managed to get shots of Yvonne, strangely enough the shot of Choon Yuen crossing the finish somehow disappeared from my phone. The second time something like this happened with the first being the missing image of me and Kathrine Switzer that the wife took during the MWM. Sorry CY, I know you posed a great finish shot.

A little while later, Yvonne came cruising in to a 3rd place podium finish. We all headed back to the car park area to freshen up, changed and then headed back to the start for Yvonne to collect her prize and also the lucky draw thingy before finally heading home for the day.

The speed demon receiving her 3rd placing prize
Overall I was pretty satisfied with the entire run. Though a short trail event, I gained a lot out of it. The experienced gained will be of good use for any future trail runs I decide to participate in. A lot more 'learning' is needed but at least now I know what it feels like to run at race pace (for me anyway) during a trail event and I guess things can only improve from this point on.

The event proper was pretty decently organized though a little more sponsored drinks, like Milo or 100 plus after the race end would have been nice. I'm not being ungrateful, the water was alright but something really cool and chilly would have been awesome. Other than, it was nicely organized for a small trail event though the 'obstacle' course was a little suspect to me. I hope they have another edition next year cos I'll be the first to sign up :D

We made it in one piece with the stiff cutoff times imposed upon us by Yvonne ...
(pix courtesy of Yvonne)
Before I end, I must squeeze in a word or two about the Skechers GOtrail shoe that I used for the race. I've used the GOtrail quite a lot already for all those FRIM sessions but this was the first time I actually used it for a race. I must say the shoe performed really well at the increased speeds with grip that was simply phenomenal even on the sometimes loose surface of sand and stones. Never for once was I worried that I would lose my footing even on the downhill sections.

It dug in really well for the climbs and though I sometimes felt the rocks and stones under my feet, the protection it offered was adequate. The only thing the shoe couldn't help was the jarring impact of my foot landing. By lacing the shoe tighter this time round, I managed to keep the sand and stones out of my shoe. We all know how annoying that one tiny pebble inside the shoe can be. Right now, aside from waiting for the Skechers GOrun Speed, I can hardly wait till the Skechers GObionic Trail hits our shores so I can do more trail running.

But for now it's back to my marathon training plans again.