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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.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Back 2 Endurance Ultra 2013: Race Report

Back when I first signed up for this event I simply had no idea what I was doing. It sounded like a good thing to try out, what with my shift towards the ultra level of running. Mind you, I wasn't about to jump into any ultra event unprepared.

The Back 2 Endurance Ultra with a very 'safe' route, looping around the 2.33km of the Lake Gardens within a 12 hour time frame was the perfect platform to get a little feel for what running an ultra would involve. I could use it as a yardstick to gauge what I would need to do and how I would need to train to really attempt one of the more hardcore events.

What? No medal?
Going into this blind, I was pretty worried. I didn't know how to prepare for my fueling and hydration needs, what gear I would need and how much my body and legs could take. About 10 days prior to the race, Jamie kindly emailed me his fueling strategy and gave me an idea on what I would need. Still unsure what was right or wrong for me, I basically cloned his list with some tweaks to suit me and that was it. That was all the preparation I had or did for the event, safe for my usual morning and weekend runs.

Come race day I was there bright and early to get the best parking spot and make my car my staging area to store all my gear and stuff. And a huge amount of gear I had with me too. Not knowing what to bring, I brought almost my entire running closet ... hahaha! Better to have redundancies than not enough gear. You could really tell I was noob!

Is that the finish?
Pic courtesy of Hong Lan Tan
The car park was already abuzz with runners getting ready. Decided to keep to gear simple, round necked tee, one of my looser running shorts and armed with the new Skechers Nite Owl GOrun Ride 2 shoes (shoe review to follow soon), I was as prepared as I could be. I had already put in close to 20k plus with the shoe, found it to be nice, plush and comfy and thought it would be just the right shoe to run in though I did have my extremely reliable Skechers GObionic Ride in the car as an alternate shoe should the need arise.

There was a little over a hundred or so runners taking part. Some I knew, some I didn't and some I would get to know during the course of the race. The race started off at 6.30am sharp and off we went. I've run the Lake Gardens loop before and knew the surface was going to be a huge problem. The plan was to keep to the grass sections as much as possible to save the legs from the very brutal hammering of the concrete and brick sections of the lake.

Thumbs up to the volunteers.
Pic courtesy of Running Malaysia Magazine
Ran along with Jamie and we kept to a nice easy pace. The weather was incredibly nice and a cool breeze was always prevalent around the entire Lake Gardens which was gratefully welcomed during the later noon stages of the run. The first 10k was pretty decent. The legs were fine and the Nite Owl was soaking up the pounding pretty well. I hardly felt the jarring impact of the concrete and bricks.

We gave the official staging area drinks station a miss the first couple of loops and stopped around the 8k mark to wash down some Anti-fatigue and Endurance Amino tablets and chew on those incredibly huge Perpetuem solids. It was my first time trying them out and was hoping they wouldn't give me stomach issues.

Where's the girl?
Pic courtesy of Moving on AC
As expected, the hard surface started taking its toll on the legs after the 25km or so and the run/walk sessions started. The jarring impact was being felt a lot more and I was wondering just how I was going to last the distance. Even the highly cushioned Skechers Nite Owl was having a hard time coping with the impact. But we gamely soldiered on. Both our aims were to get to that silver medal cutoff and see how things go. But boy, it seemed like an eternity just to reach marathon distance and even then it wasn't the silver medal qualification yet.

The good thing about this being a loop though was that we could stop at every 2.33km at the staging area to refresh and re-hydrate ourselves, catch up on things and then head off. It was also a bad thing at times cos the lure of ice cool Coke on a hot afternoon was just too impossible to resist. Then there as also the friendly and supportive volunteers and spectators there to chitchat with as you arrived at the staging area sometimes causing me to linger on a little too long.

Still going strong.
Pic courtesy of Azlan Aiman
Most of my race was run/walked alongside Jamie and we only parted ways when we needed to grab things from our cars and then met up somewhere along the loop. I was glad for the company cos otherwise it would have been more mentally challenging.

The Skechers Nite Owl was beginning to get a tad too tight from my feet expansion somewhere around the 27km mark and was pressing my already inflamed toes which prompted me to head back to the car for a change of shoes. My ever reliable Skechers GObionic Ride, with a much wider fit was an instant relief for my sore feet. Even though the shoe had a lot more ground feel, I was more at home with it.

We are not going to jump, ok!
Pic courtesy of Kahwai Low
Some of the GCAM gang turned up to cheer us on after their earlier morning LSD nearby. It really was a welcome relief to see the faces of Choon Yuen, Foo, Keng Piew and YeeHoo at the staging area. Kew came along a little later in the day with an unexpected ice cold home-made smoothie that was not only a hit with Jamie and me but to the volunteers as well. It was a nice gesture by him.

The rest of the run was basically mind over matter with the noon sun coming out a little later than normal. The caps and the arm sleeves came on with more walking than running at this point. It's a good thing there was a lot more shady sections than wide open areas cos the sun was pretty excruciating on the open stretches.

Pretending to look cool for the camera ... LOL!
Pic courtesy of Hong Lan Tan
I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing but I hardly ate much during the entire 12 hours of the event. I only stopped at my car once to grab a peanut butter sandwich prepared by the wife and swallowed down a hard boiled egg. Other than the few bananas I picked up at the staging area, nothing else solid was consumed. I was beginning to feel hunger pangs around 3pm or so but somehow ended up gulping more drinks than food. Need to re-look this point cos I'm sure eating is a prerequisite to running an ultra.

My second awesome support/cheer crew consisting of the wife and the two boys turned up around 4pm. It was the boys first time seeing me in 'action' and I hope they were more impressed rather than thinking how silly I was to be running for 12 hours ... LOL!

Bloody tired and not caring if I look good or not!
Pic courtesy of Hong Lan Tan
Things were beginning to move slower for me. We needed to reach 22 loops to qualify for a silver medal so off we trudged loop after painful loop. Julie joined Jamie and me on one of the loops and once Jamie qualified for the silver, he had to head home for family matters.

I contemplated calling it quits too but the wife told me to keep going the entire 12 hours. So, with Julie pacing me, we headed off for a slow, easy run (I'm surprised I could still run at this point) and did another loop. What I was really happy about was even up to this point which was close to 66km, there was no cramping evident. That was a good sign I was doing something right.

One for the album.
Pic courtesy of Tristupe
Looking at the time I still had another 30 minutes or so and after some quick mental calculations, I knew I could do another loop before the cutoff time. I told the wife I'm heading out for a final loop and off I went. Took a nice slow and easy run for the last 2.33km and crossed the finish with a total of 68.1km covering 29 loops in 11 hours 38 minutes. A HUGE sigh of relief escaped me as I crossed the finish. All that suffering and pain was finally at an end.

I thoroughly enjoyed this small, niche but fun race. It was well organized. The volunteers were simply awesome, doubling up as a cheer crew with loud claps urging you on for the next loop. Drinks and food were in abundance and the volunteers were ever-ready to hand you an ice cooled drink the moment you arrived. The organizers and volunteers were simply awesome and if you asked me, they worked as hard as we ran. Good job guys. I'm looking forward to next year already.

Yes! I feel like a champion!
Pic courtesy of Ashe Ek
I take away loads of experience from this race that will guide me towards my quest into the world of ultra-marathoning. It's not going to be easy but at least now I have a benchmark to base my capabilities on. I can now make proper training plans and work on my fueling, hydration and nutrition needs. I am now at least a little bit more prepared to know what it takes to make this quest a success but a lot of sacrifices such as juggling between family, work and personal time are going to have to be made. Nothing comes easy in life.

Am I happy with my performance? Yes, I am, ecstatic even. Can I call myself an ultra-marathoner now? No, definitely not, that would be an insult to the real ultra-marathoners. Maybe when I hit that 84km mark will I call myself one. For now though, I'll treat this as getting my kindergarten graduation certificate (though I never did attend kindergarten in my life) for ultra-marathoning :D One step at time.

Pic courtesy of Kahwai Low
Next challenge to tackle will be the Putrajaya Night Marathon next Saturday and for once I am happy to say I have NO goals whatsoever this time around. I'm just going to go and have fun, well at least as much fun as running a marathon around Putrajaya will be. See you all there.

P.S. The wife says I have too many pictures of myself in this post but heck I don't care, it's my blog ... hahaha!

Sunday, October 6, 2013


With the SCKLM over and done with, it's time to focus on something else. The past week has seen me having an absolutely lazy week, running wise. It's almost the end of the weekend and so far I've done a paltry 14km to date, a far cry from the days prior to the SCKLM.

My reason or rather excuse for this measly week's mileage has been to give myself a well earned rest. After all I've been slogging it for the past 6 months with an almost daily run. The truth is I've just been plain lazy and lack motivation.

The wife says I need to aim for something again and I think she's right. With a target to achieve,the  motivation to run comes easy. If the SCKLM didn't get postponed, I would have been targeting the PNM as my next challenge. But unfortunately, with two weeks to the PNM, it doesn't leave me much time to restart a new training programme for it. I'll just have to carry on with whatever I have left in me for now.

Aside from that, next week will see me doing the 12 hour Back 2 Endurance Ultra which in all honestly aside from being insane for signing up, is something I'm totally ill prepared for. I've hardly looked into my fueling and hydration needs, race day essentials, etc. I've been relying on the kind tips and advice from Jamie, which I hope to tweak to cater towards my needs. Hopefully it'll suffice.

I signed up for the B2E Ultra cos of my interest in tackling ultras next year. The event will be held at the Lake Gardens and seeing as how it's more of a 'controlled' ultra event, mindlessly looping the Lake Gardens like a hamster, it'll give me a glimpse of what it would take to train and prepare for an actual ultra event. I have to start somewhere and this event gives me just the right push towards an all new adventure in running.

I'm not putting much hopes for the Putrajaya Night Marathon which falls a week after this event. On top of having to run the event, the week leading up to it will see me involved with a lot of late night work for it. It's going to be a no goals, run with an open mind kinda race for me. Just go out and soak in the beautiful humid and stuffy Putrajaya night air :D

Once all this is done, I can finally gauge myself and work up a proper training programme for next year's foray into the ... urrrrmmmm ... insane. At least that will give me a purpose and some motivation to get back to a consistent training programme. As much as I lamented how I hated training for a marathon, I did secretly enjoy the training involved and I'm actually looking forward to starting a proper training plan again.

"Perhaps the genius of ultra-running is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of spaceships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense. The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being -- a call that asks who they are ..."

David Blaikie