Monday, May 26, 2014

The Road Trip

The postponement of the Starlight Ultra was a blessing for me. At least one problem about how to adjust my training plan between GCAM and Starlight was taken out of the equation. But that left me wondering about the flight tickets and accommodations that were already booked and non-refundable. I certainly didn't want to waste precious money.



The wife told me that I should just go ahead and make the trip anyway. So when Jamie suggested we go ahead with the trip and use it as a chance for an LSD as well as a sight seeing and food binge fest, I was all up for it. Running and eating, what better combination is there? So there I was over the weekend with three other fellow runners, Jamie, Choon Yuen and Foo to own the streets of Penang, well kinda anyway.


The weekend started real early for me with a 5am run along with CY and Kew before heading home to catch an hour's nap and assembling at CY's house. His dad so kindly offered to drive us all to the airport and after a rather queasy flight (for me anyway), we were in Penang just around lunch time. Flying on an empty stomach just didn't cut it for me. 

The drive to the Red Inn Court, our choice of accommodations for the weekend in a 'teksi sapu' hell bent of breaking the land speed record didn't help my stomach one bit, what with sitting at the back and being bounced up and down for close to half an hour.

The famous Mee Goreng/Rebus sotong ...
Once we checked in, Foo and me to a room, Jamie and CY to the other, we headed out to start our 'ultra' makan fest. With my feet finally on firm ground, the stomach eased up on its queasiness. Penang was exceptionally hot, weather wise and that brought up concerns for the later stage of the Starlight Ultra in August. Pushing those thoughts aside, we headed to our first 'check point', the famous Mee goreng/rebus sotong, at the Esplanade.

True to form, it was simply delicious, especially for one who was famished. Wolfed it down in record time and our next stop would be to pick up Jamie's race kit. After a couple of minutes in deep discussion about how to get there, we opted to walk instead of taking a bus or cab. It was hot, but we weren't the least bit fazed by it, It would after all count as acclimatization training for the race. Of course the various food stops along the way also motivated us quite a bit ... LOL!


So, off we went from check point to check point, sampling chendol, ice-kacang, and Foo's now infamous order of Pasembor. Hot as it was, it was basically fun, with lots of ribbing, joking and gossiping as we made our way to the race kit collection centre some many hundreds of kilometers away, that's how long it felt in the blazing heat anyway. 

It was close to early evening by the time we picked up the race kit, walked another kilometer or two to get some of Penang's famous biscuits for the wife and waited to meet up with Razif who was zooming around the island on one of his numerous run sessions. Done with our running chit chat, it was time for the long trek back to our hotel. With tired feet we trudged back, grabbed some dinner, bumped into Khairy along way and finally made it back to the hotel to call it a night. It was a long day for all of us and a 30K beckoned the next morning.

Pic courtesy of Jamie Pang 
The next morning was a frantic one for me. For the first time in my life, I actually overslept and had to be woken up by Foo to get ready for our morning run. Both of us were really late. With the run slated to start at 4.30am, it was close to 4.20am when Foo woke me up. With heavy sleep cobwebs still shrouding my consciousness, I jumped out of bed, a quick brush of my teeth, got dressed and rushed down to meet up with the guys. It took me a whole 8 minutes to get ready, including slipping on compression sleeves on my calves, easily one of the fastest I've ever got ready for a run!

You can't stop this two from fooling around ...
Everyone (Khairy and his friend also joined us) was ready and waiting for me and we immediately headed off. I was worried for two reasons. One was cos I had a slight headache from jolting myself out of bed, which I was hoping the fresh air would clear up and two was the fact that I didn't have time to sit on the 'throne'. The route was new to me and according to the brief from Jamie the day before, toilets would be extremely few to none along the way. I was afraid I'd get hit by a bad stomachache and that would have been pure crap (pun intended)

So with those thoughts at the back of my mind, the six of us started our run from the Esplanade area and followed Jamie, the only one who knew the entire route. The initial route took us around the town area, which was quite peaceful at this time of the day. This also marked the first time we've had 'supporters' for our training run along the way in the form of some transgenders who were cheering for us as we ran by. We had a good laugh at that. 

I don't even want to know what these two were up to ...
The route being unfamiliar kept me running conservatively. It's not easy running an unknown route cos you don't really know how to pace yourself. I mirrored what Jamie was doing, increased my pace when he did and slowed down when he did. He did a good job of calling out what was ahead which was a great help. At least there was some references of what to expect. 

The six of us were quite spread out by the time we hit the Youth Park. While waiting for the rest to arrive, Jamie and me were welcomed by the Waterfall Warriors, a running group getting ready for their ultra training. They invited us to join them but we politely declined since we had our plans laid out already. Took a group pic with them and waited for the rest to catch up and headed out again.

With Mr. Ultra Razif.
Pic courtesy of Jamie Pang
The route was pretty nice, flat most times and with a running summary about this building and that house from Jamie, the miles just slipped by effortlessly the first half of the run. Soon enough we were at the Botanical Gardens that would serve as our halfway mark after doing a couple of loops around the extremely dark park. A nice park with inclines and declines, perfect for hill repeats but unfortunately I hate doing loops in parks and suffered throughout the 4-5 loops we did here. Ended up walking/running it. Give me an open road anytime.

With Doc Francis.
Pic courtesy of Jamie Pang
Once the group all gathered again after our respective loops, we headed out for the second half of the run. Passed the Starlight Trail event start location, said our hello's and goodbye's and continued on. This section of the run would be a lot more difficult. The sun was fast peeking out and the heat was consistently rising. Along this stretch, Jamie and me also learned two things. 

One is that Foo was hoodwinking us all along with his injury cos from the numerous times he was leading us, it sure didn't look like he was struggling with an injury. I'll probably be served a summons to attend court proceedings by him once he gets wind of this post ... LOL! And the second thing we discovered is that Choon Yuen can hammer the pace when he wants too, judging by the fact he left both Jamie and me eating his dust at times!

Larry, Curly and Moe?
Aside from that, the rest of the run was getting to be tougher on all of us. The sun was out in all its glory and the temps were fast rising. If this was any indication of what to expect during the 7am to 1pm stretch of the Starlight Ultra, we're all in big trouble. Hydration at this point will be very important and also what you wear will factor in strongly during the morning to noon session.

Somewhere along the Straits Quay (I think), I bumped into Francis who was done with his running for the day. It was nice to finally meet up with him in person after only knowing him through FB all these while. We chatted for a bit and went along our way. There were loads of runners along the route and one thing I have to say about the runners in Penang is that they're all simply fast! They were doing tempo runs with such ease that it makes my tempo runs back home look like kids play. At this point I asked Jamie to remind me to never sign up for races in Penang ever again. I'd be put to shame with the quality of runners here. 

Jamie crying cos we didn't let him up the fence :D
Pic courtesy of Jamie Pang
The final leg of the journey back was difficult to say the least. We'd stopped to keep the group together a little too long at times and trying to get back up to speed again was painful. The legs were stiff but we were determined to go the distance. The sun was energy sapping. The only consolation was the slight breeze that accompanied us at times. The last 5k or so seemed never ending. Eventually we reached our finish point back at the Esplanade where we started. Though exhausted, beat up and hungry, we were happy campers with the mileage we made.

Four soleful people ...
Pic courtesy of Jamie Pang
Made our way back to the hotel to shower, rest a little and then head out to fill our growling tummies to justify our torture earlier. We still had a long ways to wait after checking out so we ended up roaming the streets and taking pictures to wile the hours away. Unable to stand the heat any longer we searched for an air-conditioned place, ordered up some nice cool and refreshing drinks while waiting to head to the airport for home. 

Totally out of it ...
Pic courtesy of Choon Yuen.
At around 4.30pm, we were picked up by the same 'teksi-sapu' fellow which we made prior arrangements the day before to pick us up again. After another round of trying to beat the land speed record with him, we finally made it to the airport, caught up with Razif again before finally boarding the plane for home. 

We were all totally exhausted battling lack of sleep but we did have a great time. At least the flight and accommodations weren't wasted. The trip also did provide a glimpse of what to expect for the Starlight Ultra in August and it's not a very pretty sight. Lots of preps and strategy will need to be laid out to tackle the grueling 84 kilometers that await us.

Pic courtesy of  Foo Weng Kiat
It takes a certain level of insanity to actually want to do this of your own free will. It's going to be physically as well as mentally challenging and I can only hope that I have what it takes to make it through to the finish. That said, anyone want to buy my bib ... hahaha!

Monday, May 19, 2014

BSN Putrajaya Night Marathon 2014 Official Launch

Nulli Secundus (ˈnʊliː səˈkʊndʊs), otherwise known in English as 'Second to None' marks the tagline for the 5th edition of the BSN Putrajaya Night Marathon 2014.


The BSN Putrajaya Night Marathon 2014 was officially launched today at the Royal Chulan Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. Organised by Twenty First Century Sports (M) Sdn Bhd along with Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN) as the title sponsors, this marks the 5th year the event will grace the streets of Putrajaya. Slated for the 11th of October 2014, the event promises to light up the night again.

Official launch of the BSN Putrajaya Night Marathon and Medal Design
This year's edition will see the race unveiling a new route for the 42k and 21k categories throwing away all familiarity runners had with the route of the previous years and making the challenge of conquering the night a fresh new one again. The 21K route which I've had the liberty of  running with a group of friends certainly poses a tough challenge for the seasoned runner as well as the newbies. But what's a race without a little challenge, right?

The sample finisher medal design that awaits you ...
With a target participation cap of 10,000 runners, the event has already garnered 7,000 confirmed runners for Malaysia's most sought after night run. 'I am deeply encouraged by this year's early registration for BSN Putrajaya Night Marathon' said Race Director V. Nithiaseelan during the press conference this afternoon.


Aside from the race route change, this year also sees the runners being insured by Gibraltar BSN, right from the starting line to the very moment they cross the finish, giving extra peace of mind throughout the run. In addition to this, BSN's Deputy Chief Executive, Ahmad Latfan Mohd Amran also announced the new beneficiary for the 10km Corporate CSR run category for this year, Persatuan Disleksia Malaysia, an NGO that helps develop the ability of Dyslexic children to learn.

'We raised RM100,000 for our beneficiary last year and we hope the enthusiasm to participate in the 10km Corporate CSR run category will continue to grow for 2014,' continues Latfan. Can we see RM200,000 this year?

As the signature of all Twenty First Century Sports (M) Sdn Bhd organised events, runners can expect a host of surprises and entertainment greeting them along the route. Another added bonus waiting at the finish for the full and half marathoners will be in the shape of a finisher cap in addition to the finisher tee.


Those interested to participate can visit www.bsnpnm.com or www.hooha.asia for more details on registration and payment methods.

Date: 
11th October 2014

Venue:
Dataran Putrajaya, Precinct 3, Putrajaya

Starting time: 
Marathon 8.00pm
Half Marathon 8.20pm 
10 km 8.40pm
5km Fun Run 9.00pm


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Skechers GOmeb KRS™ Review

My first reaction to seeing the Skechers GOmeb KRS was that it looked like football boots. In fact it didn't look like any of the usual Skechers GOseries shoes that I'm all too familiar with. I was a little apprehensive, to be honest. None of the sleek designs that I'm familiar with, none of the bright colorway that adorns most of the Skechers GOseries. None of the flexible mesh that runs along the upper. What I held in my hands felt almost plastic like.


Still, it was a Skechers shoe and also one that Meb himself used to train in so it can't be all bad and I should not let looks alone influence my fondness for a particular shoe. After all, I need to put it on and see how it actually performs before passing judgement. I've put some miles in them and well, they do have some good and bad points.

Don't they look like football boots from this view?
The Skechers GOmeb KRS running shoe, which I shall refer to as the KRS, is touted as the shoe that Meb used to train in. The KRS main feature is the Kinetic Return System (hence the abbreviation) that supposedly delivers more energy with every stride you take, sort of like a spring. The Kinetic Return System is made of highly resilient and durable Dupont Hytrel® that's catered for a higher energy return.


The upper has moved away from the usual Skechers GOseries shoes in a sense that the upper of the KRS is made of a lightweight 3D printed material with a mesh underlay so much so that it gives the shoe a plastic look and feel. You'd be forgiven to think that shoe was hot and non breathable. In fact it was precisely the opposite. The KRS was surprisingly breathable and I didn't encounter any heat discomfort throughout my run (a 10K the first time). Granted it was an early morning run but my second run in the shoe was in the late evening and it still felt cool throughout the run. So, it gets a thumbs up for that.


The fit was surprisingly true to size. I was toying with the idea of up-sizing it from my normal size 8 to a 9 cos the material of the upper didn't look like it would flex enough with feet expansion. I decided in sticking to my normal sizing and see how it went. Thankfully, it was a good decision. The shoe fit pretty well, nice and snug, no slippage which would have happened if I had sized up. The tongue was sewn on giving a sock like fit to the feet.

The midsole is made up of the propriety Resalyte shock absorbing material that is found on most of the Skechers GOseries and a flexible forefoot Resagrip outsole for durable traction. The circular GOimpulse pods looks similar to the GOseries minus the added lugs at key areas. The outsole did a pretty decent job of absorbing the impact of the road, maybe a little too much cos I kept bouncing much more than I normally do during my runs in them.


For a bulky looking shoe, the Skechers GOmeb KRS was decently lightweight, weighing in at 8.3 oz. for a men's size 9. I would have thought it would be a heavy shoe to run in but they didn't pose much of a weight issue when I ran in them. With a heel drop height of 4mm, the shoe would have shown some potential as a training and recovery shoe if not for a few factors that I found unsettling.


The first factor that was the most obvious to me was the lack of 'give' in the shoe. The upper being made of a 3D printed material totally lacked the excellent flexibility and 'stretchiness' that is apparent in all the other Skechers GOseries. I couldn't wiggle my toes or toe off like I normally do cos the KRS just wasn't capable of doing that.

Another thing that I found unnerving was the first time I put on the shoe, it clamped on to my forefoot uncomfortably. Again I put that down to the 3D printed upper. Like I said above, there just isn't enough 'give' in the upper. That 'clamping' feel wasn't really too bothersome but it was enough to distract me throughout the run. I'm so used to putting on a regular Skechers GOseries shoe and not feeling it on my feet at all.


The Kinetic Return System just didn't work for me. I experienced too much bounce with every step and found myself having to actually use more energy trying to correct it. I'm not saying the KRS system is not good, just that it doesn't work for me. I'm so used to keeping my vertical oscillation much lower that the KRS system made me feel like I was about to take off uncontrollably! Like I said, it's just me and the way I run. Perhaps it works better for others. In fact, I had an ache around the hip area after my run. I'm not sure if it's directly connected to the shoe or I'm just getting old :D


One very good plus point about the KRS is that it's very waterproof. One of my runs in the KRS was done in the rain and my socks were totally dry when I reached home unlike in any other Skechers GOseries. The 3D upper did an excellent job in keeping my feet dry. You don't get that soggy, squishy feel like you normally do when running in rainy weather.


Overall I'd say it's a decent shoe, maybe for an easy recovery run, nothing too strenuous, something to use after a very long and hard LSD or race. The opinions above are just my own personal ones. While the Skechers GOmeb KRS didn't exactly work for me, it might work for you. We all have different feet and very different running characteristics. So, don't take my word for it and do give it a try when it's launched sometime this month.


The pair of Skechers GOmeb KRS 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.