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Monday, November 30, 2015

Putrajaya 100 Miles: 52K Category Race Report

After the suffering and pain I went through last year with Jamie, I swore I would never sign up for something as crazy as this ever again but there I was on a warm hot humid Saturday night along with hundreds of others about to get ready for another 52km run around the hard, painful and humid streets of Putrajaya once again. The wife actually rolled her eyes and said she doesn't believe me when I said that I would never sign up for stuff like this again. I guess she was right. Intelligence was also never one of my stronger traits.

Signing up for the Putrajaya 100 Miles 52km category didn't come easy. I was toying with the idea of signing up for quite a while. Jamie wasn't too keen to sign up again, smart fellow, and I didn't want to run it alone yet I wanted to run this for the memory of a good friend/avid ultra runner, the late Zg Zackaria. Then Foo said he wanted to sign up and now I had company so I signed up for it before I changed my mind and that was it.

My ever loyal medal model ...

Little did I know that Jeanie also quietly signed up for this on the sly. It was to be her first attempt at taking on an ultra marathon and when I accidentally found out about it, I offered to pace her through her attempt. Putrajaya can be a daunting place to run an ultra marathon on your own, especially one that flags off at 10.15pm and runs through the wee hours of the morning. And besides, now we had three GCAMers running the race.

I didn't really have much training nor enough mileage leading up to the race. I've just dived into marathon training and this race falls right smack at the start of my training plan and there I was going to be putting high mileage in only my third week of marathon training. But the company was good so I was sort of looking forward to it.

The wife was there last year to show support for me and stayed at the race location the entire 8 hours I was out running. She wanted to do the same this year but with the race starting at night, I didn't want her waiting around all night on her own. So I checked her in at the Everly and told her at least I know she'll be nearby and safe, that was good enough for me.

Jeanie and Foo came over to Alamanda and I joined them for dinner before we all headed to the race location for them to pick up their bibs. I had picked up mine much earlier after the strict scrutinizing of the mandatory items.

For the entire week before the race, there has been thunderstorms practically every evening. Chances of a thunderstorm on race day was very high. Unfortunately that was a totally wrong assumption. When we got to the race location, the weather was hot and extremely humid and I was sweating profusely just standing there. This wasn't going to bode well for the race.

Gear wise I went extremely light and minimal just skirting the legal limits of the mandatory item list. I had my custom GC tee and UA shorts, keeping things loose and comfortable. My shoe of choice was the Skechers GOrun Ultra Road, which was the most cushioned shoe I had. For hydration, I had a hand held bottle. No hydration vest cos I hate the darn things and a Puma waist pouch that I somehow squeezed all my mandatory items in!

Foo, Jeanie and me just before race start.

After getting all our gear in order and doing the usual 'picture taking before race' thing, Jeanie, Foo and me got ready for the start. The start was in waves of 20 and Jeanie was in the first wave, We told her we'd catch up since we were in the second wave. Both Foo and me ambled along at an easy 7:30 pace looking out ahead for Jeanie. It was to be a long night and we were not going to be sucked up by the crowd and speed along with them. With the speed some of them were doing, I was sure I'd be seeing them again.

After a kilometer we still couldn't find Jeanie. So we upped the pace a little cos we were sure she was on a faster pace. We finally caught up to her and pulled her pace back down. We needed to keep things easy if we were going to get through this with the least possible pain. I was looking forward to hitting the Palace of Justice area cos I knew some of the team would be there to run along with us for a bit. True enough, I saw them there waiting just as we got to POJ.

As always is the case with them, the fun started from there. Soon enough Jeanie pulled away again on her own. I raced off to the front to peg her pace back down and this time I made sure I stayed with her. Just as we reached the Mosque u-turn we saw Frank who was running the 100km on his final 5km stretch. We all stopped to chat and it was unanimously agreed that the team pace along with him back to the finish. He could do with their support more than the three of us at that point.

Race start. Pic courtesy of 99c ...

So, the team went along with him but not before assuring us they'll see us down the road again later. The pace from that point was nice and easy. I made sure Jeanie was keeping stride with me and Foo leading up the rear. We were both determined to make sure she gets through this just fine. After all, this was really all about her.

The first 9.7km or so was pretty okay though the night was stuffy and humid. Just as we reached CP1, we saw the team there waiting for us and our spirits were lifted. I had already informed both Jeanie and Foo we'd take 5 minutes at the CP and head out again. I wanted us moving as fast as we could on fresh legs before the fatigue of the second half of the race would start slowing us down.

I asked the volunteers where do I check in and they said no need, just keep on running. I was a little surprised cos last year we had to log in our bib numbers manually on paper and though this year we had timing chips but I didn't see a timing mat. The volunteer told me the next u-turn would have one. I took his word for it and we headed out in 5 minutes on the dot, this time with the team tagging along with us. The company and support was totally welcomed as we ran along the second stage of the route along the Putrajaya lake. This wasn't a stretch I was looking forward to cos of the hard concrete surface.

About 3km before our u-turn point, the team bid us luck and headed off back to their cars. We were sad to see them go but was thankful for the short time with them. The three of us got back to focusing on the race and made our way along slowly. We finally got to the u-turn point and once again I was asking where the timing mat was and was told to just make the u-turn and head back to CP1, which doubled up as CP2.

Pic courtesy of Rany Tan.

Alarm bells started ringing in my head. With no record keeping of checking into the CP's, the opportunity to cheat or take short cuts were aplenty. Nevertheless, we kept on moving. With the time slowly ticking to midnight, my eyes were getting heavy. I hardly had enough rest prior to the race and it was beginning to show. Foo was also looking sleepy. Jeanie was the only one amongst us that was all wide eyed and awake. She kept talking to keep me awake and it helped.

We finally made CP2 and I decided to fill my handheld with coke. I really needed the caffeine and sugar it provided. Again I said we'd stay at the CP for 5 minutes before heading out. After gulping a few cups of ice cold coke, swallowing a sandwich or two, we were off again. Slightly longer than the planned 5 minutes but no big deal.

The next stage was my favorite cos it was a short 6km out and back stage. Again we made our way along the opposite side of the lake. This was where I had to shout at many runners who were lost or going the wrong way or just didn't know how to get to the next CP. This was also where I was confused last year so I know how they felt. I wasn't going to be like some people last year who just kept quiet knowing that Jamie and me were going the wrong way.

I told Foo and Jeanie to wait up a bit and take a breather while I go tell the confused fellow runners how to get to the next CP or to just follow us there. Most were grateful for the guidance and we all made our way towards CP3. Foo decided to 'wake up' at this point and was a chatter box again much to Jeanie and my relief. He started 'recruiting' fellow runners to run along with us and was a source of encouragement to everyone, urging everyone along.

Pic courtesy of Rany Tan.

We had quite a posse running with us by the time we got to CP3 which we all agreed we would take 10-15 minutes of rest before heading out. The journey thus far had been tiring but well on track. After the extended break, it was time to head out again. But our spirits were much better cos now we were on the way back. Half the journey was done.

Jeanie was holding up pretty well. She hardly looked tired and gamely ran with not an ounce of complain. We ran when we could and walked when we had to. Foo was again falling into his zombie mode (his own description) and Jeanie and me were left to keep ourselves entertained. We ran/walked back to CP4 and I was dreading the next stretch.

At CP4 we made a decision for a 15 minutes rest again as Foo needed to take a power nap. Jeanie said she'll start off first with a few other runners, I told her to go ahead and I'll catch up while I waited for Foo to top up his bottle. Suddenly the tummy started acting up and I told Foo we needed to head out cos I know there was a toilet about 1km down the road.

We caught up with Jeanie and I left Foo with her while I ran ahead to the loo. I told them not to wait for me and just keep going. After sorting my tummy issues, I ran off after them. It gave me an opportunity to run at my marathon pace to play catch up and just as I was 400 metres out I realized I left my handheld in the toilet! Damn, I had to double back and had to really up the pace to catch up with the two of them since they had quite a sizeable head start.

I was surprised but happy that I could still pull off a 5:00 minute pace with bloody tired legs to play catch up. It's good to know that I could call on some speed even when fatigued. Storing that in mind for later analysis, I caught up with Jeanie and Foo who decided to wait for me further down the road. This next stretch was torturous. It was never ending and the u-turn could not come fast enough. My legs were tired, absolutely tired from the hard torturous pavement. Foo went on ahead to find the u-turn mark and wait for us.

When Jeanie and me finally got to the u-turn, I was surprised that there was no one at the u-turn save for a small almost obscure sign. If Foo hadn't already spotted the U-turn I would have just dragged Jeanie along even further. I had memorized some landmarks when we first hit this u-turn hours ago but my mind was already zoning out and trying to remember where the landmark was, was a point of futility.

Now it was back towards the last CP and then we could finally make the journey back to the finish. This last 6km was really pushing my pain tolerance level to the max. Even with the GRUR, my most cushioned shoe, the legs were absolutely fatigued. I'm not used to heavier and thicker shoes for long distances at the pace we were doing. We were all tired and sleepy (except Jeanie who was like a night owl!) and more walking was done than running.

Pic courtesy of Rany Tan

About 3km before we reached CP5, I told Jeanie and Foo that I really needed to start running to get the pain off my feet and said I would meet them at CP5 for the final trek back together. They urged me on and I took off. At times like these, running faster was a lot easier on the legs than having to walk. I made it to CP5 and topped off my bottle, munched on some sandwiches and waited for the two of them. It wasn't long before they turned up. I waited for them to get ample rest and we were finally off for the last leg of the journey, the final 9km or so.

Before making our way out of the final CP, I messaged the wife to update her on my status. I told her earlier that I may not be able to update her much cos my reading vision is horrible without glasses, especially at night. I knew she would be worried nonetheless. I was not surprised to receive a reply text from her at that hour of the morning as I knew she was a light sleeper and would have been up or at least half asleep waiting for some news from me. Once I got her reply to keep fighting, I got off my butt and steeled myself for the next leg.

This last 9km was where Jeanie excelled the most, Foo and me were already on our last ebbs of energy. We were all dead tired and yet she didn't let that get to her. We were shuffling along at a turtles pace and in fact slowing Jeanie down more than we were helping her. She strategized that we should run 4 lamp posts and walk 4 lamp posts. Without waiting for agreement from us, she started off on the first of her 4 lamp posts run. She was on to something with the strategy and her enthusiasm got me going again.

I pushed whatever fatigued I had to the back of my mind and strutted off along with her. Foo said he'll back us up from behind. With the 4 lamp post run / 4 lamp post walk strategy, I was starting to feel alive again. My feet started to wake up and I was back in it. We slowly started overtaking those in front of us again, one by one. Foo would constantly chase us down and keep our rear safe. We were set to make her an ultra marathoner by the end of this run.

By the last 5km, I could tell that Jeanie was beginning to feel fatigued even more. But she gamely pushed on. No letting up whatsoever, she was determined to finish this! We modified the 4 run / 4 walk strategy to a 4 run / 6 walk one, giving her more time to recover before the running. She kept telling me to go ahead since I was back up to speed and not let her slow me down. Nothing doing, I told her. I promised to start and finish the race with her and that's what I would do even if we had to crawl to the finish.

Just at the last 1.5km mark, the smiles started appearing on all our faces again. The finish was in sight. Just a couple of minutes more and the pain and suffering would end. Oh and Jeanie's lamp post strategy saw us overtaking 11 runners (by my count) as we made our way to the finish!

We were finally down to the last 200m or so of the finish. The relief was so apparent on our faces as the three of us crossed the finish together, stride for stride after more than 9 long hours slogging it out there. Jeanie was now an official and bonafide ultra marathoner! A huge congratulations goes out to her for the determination and success! Well done, Jeanie, now we can prepare you for the 78km one next year ... LOL!

As for me, I was a happy man. I signed up for this race to improve on last year's outcome and though I never achieved that, I am more than happy to have helped a fellow team mate and  good friend to her finish. That's good enough for me anytime. Personally for me, I take a lot of positives out of this in preparation for my upcoming marathon early next year.

I started this race without any special needs or gels whatsoever. I practically had no food or supplements in my pouch. Hydration was in just the form of plain water and coke and whatever food I had was obtained at the CP's. In all I think I had 9 small sandwiches, a couple of watermelons and that was it. I experienced no cramps or any other race crippling discomforts save for the achy legs that are common with long distance running.

Overall, the race was pretty good. The Pacat team did a good job as always in making this a memorable race for the three of us. But that said aside, I have a few observations and suggestions that I'd like to add here that may help make the next edition better.

The signages along the route were a tad too small. Yes, I know that we're supposed to know the route but I saw a lot of runners being totally lost about where to turn at certain points especially towards CP3. I stopped to direct as many as I could on the proper path for as long as I could but slightly bigger signages would have helped a lot more. I memorized the route and also knew the route from last year's experience but a lot didn't bother to memorize or study the route and bigger signages would have been a little bit more helpful.

The check point signing in also was solely lacking. None of the check points required any of the runners to log themselves in unlike last year. I'm not sure about the other categories but the 52km had only one timing mat at CP3 and that opened up a lot of room for cheating or short cuts along the rest of the route.

Aside from that it was basically a good race. You guys did a superb job in organizing an event for newbies to get a feel of what it's like to run an ultra marathon in as safe an environment as possible. A good job also to all the finishers and fellow runners who urged the three of us to keep moving when we were crawling along. And most importantly, kudos to the volunteers for a job well done in tending to our needs!

Will I sign up again? I said no way when I crossed the finish but ask me again when the pain ebbs away in a few days time!

MPI Generali Run 2016 Update

MPI Generali Run is a community run that precedes the My First Run Clinic (MFRC), a two month programme leading up to the actual race day. The MFRC is a programme that's ideal for the general public to learn some more about running in general.

MFRC has seen five sessions already and has had some very informative talks from fitness and running experts such as Dr. Effareza Abdul Rahman, a cardiology specialist, Mark Williams, head coach of this year's Standard Chartered KL Marathon, Oon Kian Khong, Clark Hatch Fitness Centre coach and Jamie Pang, marathoner and shoe expert.

Dr. Effareza Abdul Rahman

Oon Kian Khong

The programme will continue on a weekly basis till the 12th December 2015 at the large playground located just a short walk away from the Petronas station along Jalan Desa Sri Hartamas 1 (GPS 3.155964, 101.647603) and starts with a short run at 7.30am folowed by the talks from the Guest speaker of the week. Do turn up for some great tips on running.

Mark Williams

Jamie Pang

And lastly, don't miss out on the last clinic on the 12th December 2015 as there will be a Fellowship Run followed by a pot luck breakfast. Do come and join in the party cos running is also meant to be fun!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Salming Race R21: Initial Review

Salming is not a running shoe brand many of you would be familiar with in Malaysia. In fact as of May this year, the shoe wasn't even available in Malaysia. I came to know about the Salming brand when Stefan Albinsson, one of the ambassadors of Salming Running started writing reviews of the shoe on his blog, The Running Swede. Being a shoe geek, that piqued my interest and I was hoping to get my hands on a pair of Salming to try on.

It wasn't until this year that I finally got my hands on a pair of Salming running shoes. After a quick round of messaging with the local Malaysian distributors, I purchased the Salming Race R21 model from them. I love trying out new shoe brands and I was pretty excited to finally get my hands on a pair, especially one that falls into the racing flats territory.

When I first picked up the shoe, what caught my attention, aside from the color was how light it was. From the pictures I've seen of them, I'd have expected them to weigh much heavier than what I had in my hands. I was impressed. I've always loved light weight shoes. The US8.5 (which I sized up from my regular size 8) I had in my hands weighed a paltry 6.5 oz! It felt almost as light as the 5.2 oz Saucony Type A6 that I had! In fact, the Race R21 was almost similar to the Type A6 in many ways but with cushioning. The Saucony Type A6 can be tough on the feet but the Salming Race R21 is a much more forgiving shoe.

The upper of the Race R21 features a 2 layer construction which adds durability while keeping the weight at a minimum. A breathable mesh is overlaid by something Salming calls an Exo-Skeleton that hugs the foot, adding some extra stability and support. I don't really like too many overlays on a running shoe cos it'll just make the shoe less breathable but the Race R21 welded Exo-Skeleton construction didn't pose any breathability issues, in fact, it was decently airy during all my runs in them. I also like how it locks your foot in place nicely enabling a quick and responsive running experience.

The 2 Layer upper construction

The fit of the shoe was another surprise. It looks a little narrow but once you slip your feet in them, they don't feel as narrow as they look. But that said, they're not also the widest shoe on the block. I know I'm contradicting myself but it's a little hard to describe, they're somewhere in between, though it fits my feet real well. Then again, I'm blessed to have feet that fit into almost any kind of running shoes.

The upper of the Race R21 sits atop the proprietary RunLite™ midsole that features a special high abrasion injection EVA that's designed to flexibly respond to the road surface in order to get a race like feel. Built into the midsole is something called the Torsion Efficient Unit™, a lightweight carbon fibre plate similar to the ones found in the Skechers GOspeed series. The TEU adds some sturdiness to the shoe giving it a bit of a snap on takeoff.

The Salming Race R21 is a 5mm drop shoe but feels a lot closer to the road than the drop would indicate. This is due to the extremely low stack height of the shoe. I can't find any info on the measurements of the stack height though I can attest that it rides lower to the ground. Like I mentioned earlier, it feels like a Type A6 and you can feel the road but has that added bit of cushioning for protection and comfort.

The outer sole is made up of an improved lightweight rubber compound material that provides remarkable grip even on wet slippery surfaces. All my runs the past week have been on wet after rain road conditions and not once did the Race R21 lose traction even when I ran on slippery pavement.

The outsole flexibility like all racers are a little on the firmer side so you can toe off much faster during your runs. Just above the TEU, you'll notice the numbers 62/75°. This represents the distance from the heel to the ball of the foot which Salming puts at 62% of the shoe is designed for extra stability and ends at the so called 'ballet' flex line, at a 75° angle. From this flex line, Salming has equipped the shoe with greater flexibility, assuring that the 62/75° feature bends in exactly the right places to simulate the foot's natural forward and lateral movements.

TGS 62/75° 

The heel cup has a nice snug fit. The collar and tongue provide just the right amount of cushioning that it doesn't 'squeeze' on your foot. The laces are the rounded kind and I always have this fear that rounded laces tend to come undone easily but in all my runs, the laces stayed knotted. You can slide the laces through the band on the outer top of the tongue with the Salming logo which keeps the tongue in place securely.

I've so far used them covering a distance of close to 80km and have come to love the shoe. The Salming Race R21 is in my humble opinion an excellent racer, built low to the ground but with ample cushioning to protect your feet as you speed along the roads. I would normally not recommend a racer for long distance races but with the Salming Race R21, I'd say it could easily take on a half marathon (and a full marathon if you've strong legs) without too much trouble. But for the shorter and faster runs, the Race R21 simply excels! It's also ideal for tempo and interval sessions on the track and will now play a huge part in my rotation of racing shoes.

I can't attest to its durability cos I've so far only used them for slightly more than a week but based on what I see, I'd say they're a pretty durable pair of shoes. Even after more than week with them, the outsole still looks pretty new, unlike a few other brands that I know. But with the mileage I'm doing these days, let's really see how durable they really are after a few weeks.

The Salming Race R21 is clearly a well thought out shoe. It's comfortable right out of the box and takes very little getting used to. It's lightweight with just the right amount of targeted support for your feet. If you're looking for something different in a racer, I'd say give the Salming Race R21 a shot. But, as with all minimalist and racers, some conditioning of the feet is needed to be comfortable in them so as to avoid any injuries down the road.

So far, I can't find anything negative to say about the shoe cos it simply works, for me at least. The only negative thing I can really say about the shoe is that I had to buy it myself ... Hahahahaha!

At present, Salming running shoes can only be purchased online through the official Salming distributors here at Salming MY-KL. Drop them an email at for more information on their range of running shoes and apparels. If you're in the Klang Valley, you can make arrangements with them to view and get your right size for the shoe cos I suspect you might have to size up from your current regular shoe sizes.

There is currently a promotion going on for a few specific models (Speed/Xplore/Race), so hurry on over and check them out. My pair of Salming Race R21 was purchased at a promo price of RM280.00 from the original price of RM350.00, a pretty good deal if you ask me and with a free pair of socks thrown in! Now I've got my eye set on the Salming Distance/Distance A3 and Speed models as next in line.

Disclaimer: This pair of Salming Race R21 was purchased personally by myself for this review.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

MPI Generali Run 2016 Updates

The MPI Generali run (It was known as MPIB back then) has always been one of my first race events that I take part in for the year. I've ran it twice and volunteered for it three times including the 2016 coming edition. I've always loved the race both as a runner and a volunteer.

That said, please take note that the registration for MPI Generali Run 2016 edition will be closing on the 30th of November 2015, so please hurry up and sign up cos you really don't want to miss all the fun.

For those who have already signed up, kindly take note that the REPC dates have been changed and moved closer to race day. The new dates are as follows:

Thursday, 7th January 2016 - 12.00pm to 8.00pm
Friday, 8th January 2016 - 12.00pm to 8.00 pm
Saturday, 9th January 2016 - 10am to 6.00pm
Location: Sports Hub (or Arena), 3rd Floor Lot 10 Shopping Mall.

There will be NO REPC collections at Padang Merbuk, so please take note, ya.

Another bit of news that you need to be aware of is that the My First Run Clinics (MFRC) has now been moved to a new location since Padang Merbuk is filled with events almost every week. The new location is at the Large Playground along Sri Hartamas 1, just a short walk from the Petronas Station. (GPS Coordinates 3.155964, 101.647603)

This will also be the location for this weekends MFRC which will see guest speaker Mr. Oon Kian Khong sharing his knowledge on strength training and the importance of building core muscles in running. He will also be demonstrating some exercises to improve core muscles and touch on the importance of stretching. So please remember to bring a MAT along for the exercises, unless of course you like lying on the roads :D

The clinic starts at 7.30 am with a short and easy 3km run around the large playground before the talk so please do turn up cos you'd come away with a lot more knowledge and tips on running.

And finally before I sign off, running doesn't always have to be so serious. There will be fun, food, games and lots of laughter awaiting you at the fifth session so do turn up and join in the fun too. In fact, tell all your friends and family about it, the more the merrier!

Be part of the excitement – register fast at before the 30 November 2015 closing date!

Don't say I never tell you guys things :D

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Long Road

The recent bad hazy spell that has been enveloping the country has really scuttled my comeback training plans quiet considerably. Runs have been very sporadic to say the least. I may be passionate about running but I also take my health very seriously and will not step foot out there to inhale anymore of that bad smoky haze than I have too.

These are times when I wish I had access to a gym but I'm not willing to pay the exorbitant gym fees and ridiculous contracts that come attached with it. Lots of races with some high profiled ones, have either been cancelled or postponed with many disgruntled runners screaming bloody murder at the organizers for making the decisions to cancel these races. Some of the rants are justified and some are just plain stupid but everyone has a right to say what they want I guess.

Personally, the cancellations hasn't affected me race wise, save for one cos I hardly sign up for races these days. With two confirmed marathons lined up three months apart the first half of next year, I'm putting more effort into the training that's required for it.

The evening heavy rains the past couple of days has been very welcomed. It has at least cleared a huge chunk of the haze and made the mornings absolutely beautiful to run. I've been getting some very consistent mileage again since the rains started and I'm hoping that the haze has finally gone away for good so I can really get down to a proper training plan which I need to draw up real soon.

Fitness wise, with the sporadic training I've been having before the rains, I'm far from where I was prior to my stress fracture injury. While the legs have not forgotten how to run and I'm still able to kick up a decent speed for the shorter runs, the endurance and stamina has taken a considerable beating but with the current consistent running I'm doing, my endurance and stamina seems to be improving steadily. A lot of work still needs to be done but I'm quietly confident that I'll get up to speed in time.

That said and done, I still have three races that need to be fulfilled for the year, the Mizuno Wave run which has been postponed because of the haze, the Amnig 'I am Warrior' run and the Putrajaya 52K. The first two events mentioned are no biggies but the P52K on the other hand is another matter entirely. I'm definitely under trained for it and only signed up cos of a certain 'chef' who wanted company to run, though if you asked him, he'll tell you otherwise. The GC group will see three runners including myself running the event. I'll won't name them in respect for their privacy but at least I'll have company throughout the night.

But in all honesty, I'm doing the P52K in honour of a running friend who recently passed away, Zack Zakaria. A nice fellow with a friendly disposition who shall be sorely missed. I'm not holding out much hope for my performance during the P52K. I'm just planning to have fun with my two partners in crime and hopefully that 'chef' fellow will be able to keep us awake through the night with his stories :D