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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Larian MPSJ 10K: Race Report

The Larian MPSJ 10K was a race I signed up for prior to the Gold Coast Airport Marathon and was looking forward to it for a few reasons. One was because it's considered a home ground race for me what with my house just a few stones throw away. Secondly, I was in need of a new 10k PR and this race seemed ripe for a new one.

Here we go again ...

All that changed with the stress fracture I picked and I wasn't even sure I'd recover in time for the race. Thankfully, I managed to recover pretty well but all hopes of a new 10k PR was out of the question. The race would now be used to gauge my fitness level after the 8 weeks layoff.

The wife, my younger boy (who was running the 7k category) and me met up with Jamie, Choon Yuen, Zijill and Choo at the pre-arranged spot. But it wasn't without drama though. Just as we were about to leave Choon Yuen called and said he forgot his shoes and whether I had any shoes to lend him. Shoes, I had plenty but I'm a size smaller than him. I grabbed two pairs that I hoped would fit him or else we'd be seeing him bare-footing today. Thank god one of the pair fit him.

Hoping the one in pink will be clicking the #GCAM16 sign up button ...

We all made our way to the MPSJ track where the main activity was. The start would be just outside the track. The flag-off was slated to start at 7.30am and most of us weren't really too happy with it cos that would mean we'd be running back in the blazing morning sun. I personally would have preferred a 6.30am start or even at the latest 7.00am. I run around these parts daily for my training runs and I know how hot it can get if I were to start a training run late.

Is the race even going to start?!

But late start or not, the show had to go on. I was prepared for it and had my shades on cos we'd be running back facing the sun. The flag off was right on time and the plan was for a conservative run. At least that was the plan. The route was familiar to all of us and wasn't demanding at all, pretty flat save for a few short climbs.

We all managed to keep to a pretty decent pace. I managed to keep up with the rest though my calves were still as stiff as steel! Overall, the pace was pretty manageable and though my lungs were struggling to keep up, things were generally fine. No signs of the SF injury were apparent which was a positive sign.

The 7km start ...

Just before the 5km u-turn, we started counting the women runners on the way back. There were just 10 women front-runners after the u-turn. Jamie then decided that we could slowly pull Zijill along faster and get her into a top 10 finish. Of course, we didn't let her know. We just surrounded her discreetly and started dragging her along at a little faster pace. Soon we got her past 2-3 more women runners. Jamie and Choon Yuen were on fire. I was having a hard time keeping up. A little way ahead, I saw my younger boy just making the 3.5km u-turn for his category. I slowed and tried to drag him along but he gave up and I took off again after the trio in front.

They were too far gone. I was totally not fit enough to play catch up and just decided to make it to the finish as best as I could. The sun was already blazing in full glory and the faster I got back, the faster I could get under some shade. The last 1 plus kilometer was a little hectic with some bad traffic management and cars were honking and trying to drive through the runners. I was more worried for the little kids running along than anything else. Most of these drivers were an impatient lot!

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I reached the track and sprinted the final 200m to the finish. The wife was our photographer for the day and was happily snapping away. Collected my medal, a goodie bag, grabbed some fruits and drinks and made my way to some shade. Joined up with the gang and we all traded race stories before heading back home.

Overall, it was a decently organized race, save for the later start and traffic management at some points. The route was nice and familiar and I enjoyed the run with some great company. But most importantly, I now know where I stand in the fitness department and have some doing to get back to where I was before. The pace is still there, the legs still remember how to run but the stamina is what is solely missing at the moment.

Our very own running Member of Parliament, YB Ong Kian Ming

But I'm not rushing into getting back in shape. I don't have any major races coming up, save for a 52k end November, so I can concentrate on slowly building up the endurance again with no pressure. I'm a little more wary about injury these days and have stopped being so gungho in the way I train and run. Injuries suck and no running sucks even worse.

I'm not exactly sure of the younger boy's timing but am glad he signed up to run the race anyway. I'm hoping he keeps on running after this and signs up for more races. He has potential but can be lazy to put in the training. If I can't qualify for Boston one of these days, maybe he can do it for me!

A pic with our very own YB Hannah Yeoh is a must but Foo will tell you I just like taking pictures with women ...

Sunday, September 6, 2015

PJ Half Marathon 2015: Race Report

I've been taking part in the PJ Half Marathon as far back as 1989. Back then there wasn't as many road races like what you have these days so if you wanted to race, you couldn't be too picky with races. Being Petaling Jaya bred, this would be considered sort of my home ground race.

I skipped a few of the series cos I didn't like the route and start location they chose but was intrigued by it again this year when they announced a new route and moved the start location back almost near the location of '89. I didn't hesitate to sign up. Of course, the actual route map wasn't out yet but I was still keen to give it a shot. Petaling Jaya is a beautiful place to run and can throw up quite a challenge.

Unfortunately I sustained a stress fracture prior to GCAM15 and knew I wasn't going to be fit in time for the 21km distance and decided to downgrade my entry. I wrote to the organizers asking for a downgrade but was told that I need to produce a medical certificate with an official letter from the doc. I wasn't too happy with that. Here I am asking to downgrade at least a month in advance and wasn't allowed. True, it was in their terms and conditions that they don't allow a change of category but heck, the bibs weren't printed which I know for a fact since I print bibs too so I didn't see the logic.

The first incline  ...

I decided to downgrade myself to the 10km category and still run the race. The wife was doing the 10km category and I wanted to pace her to the finish. I've never run with her in a race together and this would be a great opportunity to do so. Wait, I can hear some of you saying that it's illegal and all that but heck, I was still using my own bib (albeit a 21km one) and still had my emergency details and contact numbers on it. And it was not like I was going to podium the 10km. I had already decided not to cross the finish and not to take a finisher medal and tee.

While there were cones, it was still scary with cars driving in the middle of runners ...

The wife and me met up with Jamie, Zijill and Frank at a pre-arranged spot before heading to the start location. I was a little envious of them running the 21km. The route was tough and deep inside, I was longing for the challenge but knew I wasn't fit enough just yet to give it a shot and I promised the wife I would pace her and wouldn't renegade on it.

My photo-taking skills while running needs some working on ...

The race started right on time for the 21km runners and 30 minutes later the 10km was flagged off. I got the wife into a nice easy pace and being raised up around the area, I knew the route and kept her up to date on what to expect ahead. The good thing about an early race start was that traffic would be manageable since we had some intersections to cross. I wasn't very confident with the organizers and traffic management but was proven wrong. They did an incredible job in the handling of traffic!

No supporters to take selfies with, this signage will have to do ...

The first 5km of the route brought us past the Jalan Gasing section which housed some of the older bungalows. A beautiful area that still has large shady trees unlike the newer residential areas these day. The pace was easy. I was on 'tourist mode' and kept taking pictures along the way. This was when I missed GC and the supporters that were out in full force. The entire race was devoid of any supporters save for the hardworking volunteers and marshals along the way. That's the thing about races here, most of the residents along the route find us more bothersome than anything else and if they did come out of their homes, it'd probably be to throw old shoes at us for disrupting their peace.

A little peeved at being stopped to let the cars through ...

Though traffic was handled well, I was still worried at certain stretches, especially along the NPE stretch as we were running in the middle of the road with cars zooming by on the left and right of us. The area was coned off on both sides but they are plenty of clubbers returning home at that time of the morning and all it took was one drunk driver to veer off and that was it. Thank god we got through it without incident. I was happy to get off the NPE and head back in the older part of PJ aptly named PJ Old Town.

The only supporter along the way ... yay to the doggie!

The wife was doing really well and I slowed the pace a little cos I wanted to conserve her energy for the final incline before the finish just after the Assunta Hospital. Passing the Old Town market area brought back happy memories of my childhood and primary school days. As we turned right at the market traffic lights towards PJ New Town, I told the wife we had just a little way to go. The second water stop was coming up and I stopped to fill the water bottle I carried for her. While I wasn't in need of much water, I thought the stations were a little too far apart with only 2 for the 10km runners spaced out at 4km distances. I passed some pretty parched runners who were desperately looking for the water stations.

The Old Town stretch that brought back happy childhood memories ...

Just as we made our way across the Assunta Hospital roundabout, the final inclined loomed. While it wasn't all that steep, it would still pose a problem to many. Lots of runners were already walking up and I slowed to a stop to walk it up with the wife. She was already feeling tired and I wanted her to reserve her energy for the final 600m push to the finish. Once we got through the incline, we headed back into a run to the finish. One last left turn with a short uphill and the finish gantry loomed.

A beautiful Hindu temple along the way ...

She cursed the final incline, sucked it up and gave it all she got to race to the finish. I quietly pulled over to the side of the road just before the finish to wait for her and the rest of the gang at the pre-arranged spot. Though there wasn't a finisher medal nor tee waiting for me and my status would be shown as a DNF, I was still happy. Getting to run with her for the first time in a race together to the finish more than made up for all that. We've run races but never together so this is a first and holds a lot of meaning for me.

What!? No Medal?

Congratulations goes out to Jamie, Frank and Zijill on their 21k finish which was easy peasy for them. I spared a thought for you guys knowing you had two or three tough inclines to tackle. Better you than me ... hahaha! A huge kudos goes out to the organizers and volunteers on a race well run. I'm still pissed at the organizers for not letting me downgrade but credit where credit is due. It was a good and well handled race!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

MPI Generali Run 2016 Official Hotel Special Promo Rates

Here's another piece of good news for MPI Generali Run 2016 participants from out of town. Finding an affordable hotel can take some doing. But fret not, the Official Hotel Partner for MPI Generali Run 2016, the Pacific Regency Group is offering a A Special Promotion Rate at both the Pacific Regency Hotel Suites and the Pacific Express Hotel from RM250 onwards and RM135 onwards respectively.

Both hotels are situated exclusively in the heart of Kuala Lumpur where you can enjoy the sights, sounds and mouth watering food the city has to offer before or after your run. Be sure to check out the promotions rates offered and grab your room. Reservation and contact details can be found below:

Pacific Regency Hotel Suites
Reservation Department:
Address: KH Tower, Jalan Punchak, 
Off Jalan P. Ramlee, 50250 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603-23327777 Ext 6108
Fax: +603-20314715

Pacific Express Hotel
Reservation Department: 
Address: Jalan Hang Kasturi, 50050 Kuala Lumpur. 
Tel: +603-20226888 Fax: +603-20226866 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Skechers GOrun Ultra Road: Initial Review

My first impression of the Skechers GOrun Ultra Road (GRUR) was that it was a 'big' shoe. I wasn't really expecting to get a feel for it so soon but when Skechers Malaysia dropped a pair on me, I was as excited as I always am when I get to try out a new pair of shoes.

The GRUR was developed from the basis of the original GOrun Ultra, a decently flexible, light (for all its bulk) and well cushioned hybrid of a shoe that could take on both the trails (less technical ones) and road. But with more runners taking them out on the roads rather than the trails, the outsole wore down pretty fast.

After the second iteration of the GRU, which maintained the same outsole and also wore down pretty fast on the roads, the Skechers GOrun Ultra Road was conceived by adding strategically placed rubber pods in key strike zones for more durability and abrasion resistance. The GRUR is specifically aimed at total road running and with the added extreme cushioning (I'll come to that later) would perform well in long hot weather races such as 100 milers with ease. That's just my observation cos I have no intention of taking them out for 100 milers!

The Skechers GOrun Ultra Road in my opinion is a special beast of a shoe. Though in theory a 4 mm drop shoe but with a stack height of 26 mm forefoot and 30mm heel, this is one extremely cushioned shoe. Weighing in at 10.4 oz. for a men's size 9, it's not too bad for a shoe of its category though I found it to be a little too heavy for me.

The GRUR is a complete revamp of the original GOrun Ultra. The upper of the Skechers GOrun Ultra Road is designed with the Skechers Performance FITKNIT® technology providing a breathable and comfortable fit. A completely knitted upper without any overlays and seams, save for the bonded logo on the lateral side. It's completely runable sockless though I won't vouch for it cos I don't run sockless. Four reflective elements adorn the back of the shoe with two on the front.

While the FITKNIT® upper did all it claimed to do, I found the fabric to be pretty stiff unlike the more stretchy FITKNIT® upper of the Skechers GOrun Bolt, which I simply love by the way. The upper was roomy enough for my toes to splay and had plenty of overhead toe room so the stiffness wasn't too much of a bother but I'd have preferred it to be more stretchy like the GOrun Bolt.

While the knit was a lot more 'closer' in the support area of the GRUR, a much 'looser' knit was apparent in areas where breathability and draining is required. The variable density of the knitting served different purposes of maximizing the airflow over the foot yet providing the necessary structure to keep the foot well supported during your run.

I did have two little issue with the shoe on my first run where I developed a blister on the top of my right small toe and felt the right heel collar rubbing against the back of my ankle. I very rarely get blisters and this was a concern for me. I first put it down to maybe a defect or loose piece of knit around that section but later discovered it was my old, stiff socks that was the culprit for both the issues. A change into a much newer pair of socks quickly cleared up both issues though I thought the heel collar was a tad too high for my liking.

The midsole of the Skechers GOrun Ultra Road is what makes it a lot more different that its older hybrid sibling. The GRUR is made up of two layers, a relatively soft underfoot foam with a thinner layer of the proprietary Resalyte® foam. The dual density Resalyte® provides maximum cushioning for the feet. Too much cushioning for me that it looks almost as thick as the Hoka's out there.

Two drain holes are noticeable on both the lateral and medial sides slightly towards the back of the shoe for unrestricted draining of water should you submerge your feet in a huge deep puddle of water while running. Perforation on the insole also helps with the outflow of water to these drain holes. Aside from draining water out from the shoe they do assist somewhat in providing unrestricted airflow through the shoe.

The outsole of the shoe is a completely different build up from its predecessor. This time around, the outsole looks more in line with the rest of the GOrun series in a sense that it has the firmer and more resilient GOimpulse sensors placed strategically around the outsole for added durability. I've always said the durability of the Skechers GOrun series was a little lacking especially around the lateral side of the shoes but the wear this time around seems to be way better.

The GRUR felt firm underfoot. It wasn't as flexible as the usual Skechers fare but it was as flexible as it could be for a shoe with such thick cushioning. Road feel though was completely non existent as to be expected with the amount of cushion you had on. For someone with a small Asian build and skinny feet like me, the shoe looked humongous on me. They actually weighed heavily on me as I ran in them. I guess I'm so used to running in the much more minimalist shoes. Personally I feel the Skechers GOrun Ultra Road would be perfectly ideal for someone with higher volume feet.

I've done a few runs in them and came away with mixed feelings. Like I said earlier, I'm more accustomed to the more minimalist or racing flats that anything with a higher stack height and tons of cushioning simply don't work all that well for me. I found it clunky, heavy and being a lot 'taller' than my usual lower drop fare, I had to be a lot more careful when I had to make sudden turns during my runs for fear of twisting my ankles. My feet also tired out a lot faster due to the weight.

That said, it's a not a bad shoe really. Someone with a different build from me will be able to carry the shoe just fine. And with the extreme breathability of its knitted upper, running a long hot or wet weather run or even an ultra distance race at a slower pace would be perfectly ideal for the GRUR. For me, they're good as a recovery shoe or on days when I just want to go really slow and easy.

The Skechers GOrun Ultra Road is currently not available locally yet but when it does, it'll be retailing in at RM539.00 for the men's and RM529.00 for the women's. Once I get wind of the release dates, I'll add it to this post.

NOTE: The Skechers GOrun Ultra Road retail price has be revised to RM499.00 for the men and RM 469.00 for the women and will be out in stores nationwide this week. Good news, if you ask me :D

The pair of Skechers GOrun Ultra Road 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.