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Sunday, May 31, 2015

TM Fan Run 2105: Race Review

With a little more than a month to go for GCAM15, the TM Fan Run (TMFR) was meant to gauge my training. A nice little 15k race in the tough but familiar Putrajaya roads, what could go wrong? At least that was what I thought.

The TMFR was also the younger boy's first race experience. While he's into sports and all that and is even in the school volleyball team, running has never piqued his interest all that much. So the wife and me decided to sign him up for the 5k fun run category to let him taste a little of what we go through during race day. 

My ever faithful medal model

He was pretty enthusiastic about it and was up at 4am to get ready. We reached the race location around 5.30am and I met up with Jamie at our pre-arranged spot to go for a short 4k before the race before meeting up with Choon Yuen and Jeanie to wait for race start.

Was a little worried initially that it would be a late start cos we had to wait for the Youth and Sports Minister to arrive to flag us off and you know how 'punctual' our ministers are. But credit goes out to him for being right on time and we were flagged off 7am sharp. 

My entire plan was to simulate race start conditions (minus the cold) in GCAM, which was to go for a conservative start. Took off nice and easy at a 6 minute pace along with Choon Yuen and Jeanie. All systems felt fine and I slowly but steadily picked up the pace. It wasn't a race for time or anything today so the pressure was off. By the third kilometer, I was down to 4:47 pace and was feeling on fire. The legs were nicely warmed up and I was ready to take on the initial 5-6km of rolling inclines.

Slowly caught up with the earlier runners with the pace averaging a comfortable 5:00. It's not always I can say 5 minutes is a comfortable pace but today was one of those days. By the time I reached the 8km mark was when things started to fall apart. 

Where the hell is that finish line?

Just ahead of the highway exit at KM7, I saw a bunch of runners coming down the ramp from the opposite side joining up with us. Don't tell me those are the 10k participants. I didn't expect them to converge with the 15k runners, I thought they would make a U-turn a little further behind before joining up with the 15k runners. 

Without much more thought, I continued running and just as I turned the corner, I was in for a huge shock! There ahead of me, spanning the entire width of the highway was practically the entire horde of 10k runners. I was dumbfounded. I let out a huge, loud 'OH MY GOD!' that was echoed by a few 15k runners besides me.

The Youth and Sports Minister cruising in to a sub 30 minute 5km! 

How in heavens name was I going to run through them without some heavy duty weaving? Things weren't looking good, not good at all. Nevertheless, I had to go on. The other option was pulling off my bib and walking back the opposite way to the finish.

So weaving left and right, in and out it was. It wasn't pleasant, I elbowed and knocked into so many people that by kilometer 9 when we had to climb up a narrow 2 lane ramp that was chock-a-block with runners was when I officially decided that enough was enough. No way was I going to fight my way through all those people up an incline. It was virtually impossible to get a proper race experience anymore. 

So I walked up along with the crowd, shoulder to shoulder, cursing at the person who thought that merging 7000 plus runners at the halfway mark was a great idea! I've no qualms with the participants, it's not their fault and I know in every race there are people who will walk, take selfies, hold hands and think every race is a fun run but heck, I was pissed with the organizers. 

I'm not sure why they plotted the route the way it was, there could be solid genuine reasons but as far as I'm concerned, it was ill thought off. With the 10k participants being released just 15 minutes after the 15k runners, there was sure to be a huge convergence with the 15k runners coming back from the u-turn. I was already doing 5:00 pace and yet got caught up with them, imagine the others behind me. I think the elites themselves just barely got pass.

Hoping some Boston magic will rub off from Edan!

I caught up with Jamie and we both complained and walked for quite a stretch, disappointed with the outcome. Just as we reached PICC, I decided to head off and salvage whatever I could of the race since the roads opened up a little. But by then, the fire was completely doused. I just wanted to get back to the finish and be done with it. The sun was already blazing as it is.

Strangely enough I still managed to better my one and only previous 15k race years ago with a 1:22 and came in for a 16k finish at 1:26, yes the race was over distanced by 1 kilometer. No complains about that though, value for money :D Got news from the wife that the younger fellow did 34 minutes for his inaugural 5km, pretty impressive timing without training. Now he's totally bushed and gone to bed ... hahaha!

At least the medal looks much better than the previous years ...

Water stations were slightly further off than what I'm used to in a Hooha organized event and the crew and volunteers were having a hard time catering to huge crowds from the 8 kilometer onward. I wanted to skip the stations but with the sun up, I was parched and had to push my way through to get some hydration. The volunteers and crew though were top notch as always. Kudos go out to them cos I know just how long they've had to wait and set up their stations just to keep the runners going. 

Ong Kian Ming, the Serdang MP blazing the roads of Putrajaya!

This wasn't one of my best races. I seriously think the route plotting could have had more thought thrown into it to make the race experience a little better. Overall though, I was happy with the prognosis of my GCAM training. At this point of time, I've done all I can to be ready and prepared for the race. Let's just hope I can bring all the positives to GCAM and translate that into a good showing. 

That said, a good job goes out to Jamie, Choon Yuen, Jeanie and also the lil fellow considering what we all had to go through. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Salomon X-Scream 3D: Quick Take

An excerpt from the Salomon website:
'Run across a diverse urban landscape with a shoe that delivers 3D Fit, 3D Grip and 3D Ride. Built on a dynamic cushioning platform, the X-SCREAM 3D is our most agile CITYTRAIL™ running shoe.'
That basically sums up the Salomon X-Scream 3D, a shoe that takes you from your home, to the roads, trails and back, all in a single shoe. The Salomon X-Scream 3D is a completely new shoe from their previous X-Scream model, something which I've never tried. The 3D denotes Salomon's philosophy that 2D running represents flat road surfaces which is constant and the 3D denoting a varied and changing terrain, something with more substance, hence the 3D moniker.

I just love the colorway!

A few weeks back, I was fortunate enough to get an invite to the Salomon X-Scream 3D shoe launch that was officially held last Sunday at the Apartment, KLCC. To be extremely honest, while I've run trails and some minuscule number of ultras, a whole 3 to be more specific, I still felt extremely out of place at the launch among the mainly ultra athletes there.

I'm a road running marathon distanced kinda guy and these guys and girls run unfathomable distances that my road running mind simply cannot comprehend so you can imagine how I felt. But being a shoe geek, I also simply couldn't refuse trying out a new shoe. So there I was bright and early along with Jamie at the Salomon X-Scream 3D launch on Sunday.

The X-Scream 3D is in essence a running shoe that is designed to take on both the road and trails. A shoe that is supposed take on miles upon miles of the city roads and easily transitioning and adapting to off-road running should your run take you down that path. Does it work? Let's find out.

First off, the X-Scream 3D is not a light weight shoe, mind you and weighs in at 10.7 oz. I run in mostly minimalist, racers and zero drop shoes that vary in the 5-7 oz weight range, so the extra weight is very noticeable to me. The X-Scream 3D is also not a shoe that is made for speed. I did not feel particularly fast in them but then, it wasn't designed with speed in mind but it does provide a smooth and supportive ride which is what it was designed to do.

The X-Scream 3D also appears to be a little on the bulky side with the most bulk coming from both the upper and sole sections, particularly in the rear from the thick padding that cradles the upper heel and Achilles. But all the bulk aside, I was pleasantly surprised with the solid construction that offers much in the way of comfort and support.

My shoe came in a size 8 and was basically true to size. For all the initial bulk, it felt incredibly comfortable once I slipped my feet into them. Though looking slightly on the narrow side, the toebox was wide enough that it felt cavernous in there. The foot feels well cradled and is nicely supported and stays decently comfortable over extended periods of running.

Salomon built the X-Scream 3D riding on its EndoFIT platform and combined with the supportive SensiFIT technology and Quicklace sytem for comfort and stability that takes you through most surfaces and terrain without any drag. The synthetic upper and 3D mesh lining is well padded with the mesh adding to keep the shoe ventilated and wicks away moisture from your feet and keeping them dry as you chew the miles away.

I was actually expecting the well padded mesh to give me a hot ride but was pleasantly surprised that I hardly felt any 'heat' inside the shoe. That bodes well for the shoe, especially if you plan to take it out for longer distances. At present, the longest I've taken them out are up to a distance of 13km so I'll reserve my final judgement on breathability when I take them for a much longer ride.

The branding & tech terminology screams all round the shoe.

A little background on the tech and terminology used taken from Salomon themselves:

EndoFIT - an internal fit sleeve designed to hug the foot in exactly the right places and improve feedback and foot wrapping.
SensiFIT - The Sensifit system works to cradle the foot providing a precise, secure fit.
Quicklace - Minimalist and strong lace for one-pull tightening. Easy-on, easy-off.

The Salomon X-Scream 3D rides on a firm 3D Profeel Film chassis, an EVA midsole and the proprietary Contagrip® outsole that uses an ideal combination of specialized rubbers for each specific use delivering optimal traction on a variety of surfaces.

The rubber lugs are cut deep, multi directional and provide an excellent grip on almost all the surfaces I ran on ranging from track, asphalt, concrete, loose gravel, sand, grass to muddy surfaces. I was not once worried about slipping and falling flat on my face. For a shoe that is broadly defined as urban, the grip is exceptionally good. The lugs also look sturdy and durable enough to last for quite a while.

The ProFeel Film chassis that forms an integral part of the support

The Profeel Film chassis also gave extra support and 'moved' along with my foot seamlessly and provide good stability on the varied surfaces I came into contact with. A molded EVA sockliner also provided good heel support and extra cushioning. Salomon shoes are generally built with strong support and stability for trail running and the X-Scream 3D brings that same strong supportive stability to the roads.

I did find the outsole to be a little too hard for me that no matter how soft I tried to land, especially on pavements, asphalt and concrete surfaces there was always this 'slapping' sound that irked me. But the firmness of the outsole worked really well when you hit the softer trails. I guess a compromise had to be made to keep the shoe firm enough for the road yet easily adaptable once you hit the trails. Either that or I'm just too heavy ... hahaha!

The removeable insole ...

The Salomon X-Scream 3D is a 10mm drop shoe with a forefoot of 23mm and a heel of 13mm. A little too much drop in a shoe for me but works well for what it was designed to do. I'm a little confused with the drop specs though cos Runners World seems to say the drop is 12.3mm. I got my specs from the Salomon website so I guess that should be the correct drop?

Though the X-Scream 3D has plenty of responsiveness with a decent toe-off and plenty of bounce with every stride, I just couldn't feel the ground, something which I'm very used to in my other road shoes. But that's being an unfair comparison on my part cos the X-Scream 3D is a total different beast of a shoe.

... Though I'm not too sure you'd be able to run sockless in them.

There are two things that I found to be a nice touch on the X-Scream 3D which was the cool lace pocket that provide easy storage to hide away the access quick lacing system. You could also probably tuck a few bucks in there to buy drinks though I'm not sure if they'll actually stay in there by the end of your run :D The other touch that I liked is the reflective Salomon logo on the back of the heel. A lot of shoes tend to lack some form of reflective elements on the back of the shoe.

I love this lace pocket feature

The colorway of the X-Scream 3D is something I loved. My close personal friends know of my liking for the colors in the yellow/lime-green/green hues and these pair simply made me drool! Salomon shoes are generally quite striking and this one doesn't buck that trend in any way. Simply striking and beautiful, look-wise! The Salomon X-Scream 3D comes in 5 different colorways to suit your personalized needs.

Though I haven't taken them on an actual trail, I've done quite a few training runs already in the shoe on different surfaces such as asphalt, gravel, grass, sand and even on the track and found that they work as advertised, that is a road to light-trail shoe. I was fortunate enough to get a chance to try them out in after rain conditions (of course running in the rain would have been better) and the grip was simply exceptional, no slipping or slides even on the smooth tiled pavement, wet roads or slippery grassy surface.

While I did mention earlier that they're not primarily a shoe that was built for speed but it's still capable of hitting some pretty decent splits based on a few tempo and fast paced runs I've done in them though I had to work extra hard to hit my usual tempo/speed splits in them.

They might not be the shoe you'd want to take on a very technical trail but for your everyday running in the urban jungle that we live in that sometimes takes us down a path with a variety of surfaces just to break the same routine of running, then these are the shoes for you.

My heart lies with the more minimalist shoes but for days when I run long, seek an adventure and don't need the speed, these would be my go to shoes. It's still 'too much' shoe for me and a little heavy for an outright road shoe but the ruggedness and comfort of the X-Scream 3D will provide miles upon miles of making every run an adventure with the knowledge that trails are not beyond its capabilities. A two in one shoe, so to speak.

The Salomon X-Scream 3D can be found at Salomon Pavillion, World of Sports and World of Outdoors outlets retailing at RM489.00. Check it out, you'd be surprised at what it can do!

The pair of Salomon X-Scream 3D shoe used for the review above was provided by World of Sports and the review is of my own personal opinion and is in no way influenced by World of Sports or Salomon Malaysia in any way.

Friday, May 15, 2015

T Minus 50 Days

There's only about 50 days to go before the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM) comes along. While it might look like there's still lots of time but at the speed the days move these days, it won't be long before I find myself boarding the plane to the beautiful Gold Coast of Australia again.

The wife and me decided that we'd both sign up for GCAM again immediately after last year's race. Last year was just too rushed for us. We flew in, ran the race and then flew home again. We didn't really have any time to enjoy the place, save for a one day tour after the race the next day. Hardly enough to take in the splendour of the place.

The beautiful beach along Surfers Paradise with Q1 looming in the background

So this year, the wife and me made plans to fly in a whole lot earlier to just explore the place before race day. Tickets and accommodation were booked way back in September of last year. The training plan was drawn up, tweaked and changed countless time before finally embarking on it and things seemed to be moving along nicely, that is until a dent was put into our plans.

With two months to go, Air Asia decides to cancel our original flight out to the Gold Coast for some absolutely unknown operational crap and move our flight to the next day. Now, the wife and me planned this trip to maximize our stay there and this unexpected cancellation will make us miss an entire day of the Gold Coast which had me fuming! As far as I'm concerned Air Asia are being absolutely unfair to all of us who had our flights cancelled and moved to the next day.

The view from outside the race expo

When I called to demand an explanation, I was told that it was some operational issue but they couldn't tell me why cos they're not really sure themselves. I was dumbfounded! Then they offer me options which are absolutely useless and I told them so. And when I made even more noise, they tell me that it's stated in their terms and conditions that they can reschedule and cancels flights! I had nothing more to say. How I can argue when they quote me the bloody terms and conditions.

You can be rest assured, the next time I booked a flight, I'll look at all other airlines first before taking Air Asia. While it might not be an issue to some, I'm not filthy rich or even nearing anywhere to being rich. The wife and me planned and saved for this trip so that we could make the most of our very little money, which is why we booked our flights and accommodation so early last year. Now, we're left to juggling our plans for the trip, all thanks to Air Asia.

The quaint little shops at Gallery Walk, Mount Tamborine

On a good note, I'm still looking forward to GCAM, and not only just to run it. Last year's trip there made me fall in love with the place. Makes me wish I was capable and qualified enough to pack up everything and go live there. I hear from a reliable source (no names mentioned) they even bake cookies (or was it brownies) for the garbage man :D But jokes aside, I can imagine myself settling down there. One can dream, right?

On the training side, things have moved up several notches with the plan moving into third gear. I'm blessed to have a supportive wife and an equally motivated group of people to train with. Weekdays are spent on my solo runs that include marathon specific sessions and my easy days accompanying the wife on her training with the weekend emphasis placed on longer runs with the GCAM gang. All these sessions combined actually makes the training more bearable.

I simply don't wanna leave the place!

Anyone worth his salt would know how tough a training plan can be when you have to work it on your own. Having like minded friends with a similar training plan makes things all that much less tough to go through. Which is why these days I thoroughly enjoy my easy runs with the wife and look forward to the weekend runs with the gang. At least I don't look like an idiot mumbling to myself when I run solo!

Most of you who know me knows my training plan is based on the Hansons method. I'm a firm believer of the Hansons plan. Of course I had to tweak the plan a little to fit around my schedule since I do have a life, family and career outside of running but basically it still follows the original as close as possible with the key being consistency in my runs. Consistency was the key in my previous plan in Chiang Mai where I got my marathon PR and hopefully it'll see me with a good finish in GCAM too. Fingers crossed.

This time though, I placed a little more importance in the weekday intervals, tempo and strength aspect of the training, something which I neglected in the previous plan. It has not been easy. Forcing myself to wake up every morning before work just to make sure I get in the desired mileage and training. I'm not a morning person, mind you and having to force myself out of bed is herculean effort. But every time I feel like sleeping in I remember this video clip the wife shared with me: Rise & Shine!

My entire premise for GCAM is to just go out there, run my best and hopefully pull off a good showing. I have a personal goal but nothing lofty. I don't have a habit of making unrealistic goals. I've got to be honest with myself, I am after all an aging 48 year old who pretends to think he's still in his 30's. The body isn't what it used to be but by god, I'll definitely give it all I've got in GCAM!

This time though, aside from the usual suspects, Jamie and Choon Yuen, we have a bigger group with us running GCAM. It's definitely going to be fun and hopefully we'll be able to motivate each other all the way to the finish. Insanely, some of us have also signed up for the 10km run the day before the marathon which we aim to use as a shakedown/fun run kinda thing. After all, we can't be too serious with our respective goals, at least for me anyway.

So, with 50 days to go, I'm still finding an excuse to get out of the Q1 Skypoint climb. Any help, guys? LOL!

Even the cows look contented