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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Saucony Peregrine 7: Initial Review

While I do run the occasional trail, I'm really not a trail person. My running is mostly rooted firmly to the roads but there are rare occasions, and I mean VERY rare, that I do hit the trails or even race in one. Which is why it's been kinda difficult for me to write a review on the Saucony Peregrine 7. I haven't really put much miles in them to write a decent review and after the PSP King of Forest trail two weeks back, I don't think I'll be putting much more miles in them anytime soon.

But I do have some personal views on Peregrine 7 (P7) based on the very few times I've used them and thought I might as well get the review out. My experience with the Peregrine series started with the Peregrine 6 (P6). Even then, the mileage I put on that pair is pretty embarrassing. Worse yet, I carelessly left that pair in Seoul during the Seoul International Marathon back in March.

With the wife wanting to run some trails and with me signed up for the recently concluded trail race, I requested a pair from Saucony Malaysia and put it to the test and I must say I came away impressed and might even make me take the Peregrine 7 out for more trail excursions!

The Peregrine 7 is the shoes seventh iteration and weighs in at 9.4 oz for the men's size 9, which is the size I use. The past few models didn't really stray much in terms of design from one another but Saucony have refined the past two models with a lot more updated material. The Peregrine 7 could be considered a completely different model if not for the same 4mm drop (21.5mm heel/17.5mm forefoot) and identical outsole of the Peregrine 6.

The most discerning and noticeable change to the Peregrine 7 is in the upper of the shoe. The upper of the P6 had FlexFilm overlays somewhat similar to its road cousins but the P7 now sports a TPU Exo-Skeleton that frames the foot even more for optimal support and enhanced protection. I found the fit of the P7 to be a lot more roomier and less stiffer than the P6 which I didn't really like all that much. The toe bumper which now wraps around the entire forefoot offers some toe stubbing protection and is flexible and light.

The other not so noticeable update is found in the midsole of the shoe. While the EVA midsole is essentially the same, the P7 now comes with a full length Everun topsole unlike the Everun heel insert of the previous version. Saucony refers to Everun as continuous cushioning and claims that this provides an 83% return of energy which is all just facts to me cos I really can't tell if it does with the measly mileage I put in trail running. Though the P7 is firm there is still some ground feel but you have just enough cushioning underneath that it doesn't feel jarring. 

The outsole remains the same with the same PWRTRAC outsole material coupled with the EBO rockplate to protect the foot from rocks, stones and other debris, that actually worked really well. The directional lugs are aggressive and able to handle just about anything the terrain throws at you. I had first hand experience of how phenomenal the grip was in the recent trail race I took part in. The trail was wet, muddy and terribly slippery from the rains the night before but the P7 kept its grip so well that I had so much confidence running down those slippery trail with reckless abandon and not once did I lose my footing! I can't attest to the durability of the outsole since I don't have the miles in them to compare but from what I've read from shoe reviewers like Sam Winebaum, durability is excellent!

The rear of the shoe features a sturdier heel counter that has some good support. The height of the heel cup seems to have been lowered somewhat with additional padding giving it a little more flexibility than the previous version. The padded gusseted tongue was pretty comfortable and Saucony has removed the metal gaiter ring from this iteration of the shoe which doesn't really make any difference to me. 

Is the Saucony Peregrine 7 as good as it's made out to be? Well, for a trail noob like me, I'd say it definitely is! The P7 is a fast, light and extremely nimble trail shoe that can take on a variety of terrains. The grip quality of the P7's aggressive outsole is superb and really shines in the trails as I found out during my race two weeks ago. The response is excellent and you'll be filled with confidence as you zoom down those slippery and muddy trails. Whether you're planning for a speedy trail session or just a simple hike up the mountains, the Saucony Peregrine 7 will satisfy a wide variety of runners. 

Overall, I feel the P7 is a great upgrade to the P6 which I found to be a little stiff on the upper. The Peregrine 7's new exo-skeleton is a much more secure fit and feels a lot more breathable too with a lot more room in the toebox. The Saucony Peregrine 7 is available in stores nationwide and is retailing for RM429.00 for both the men's and women's models.

Disclaimer - The Saucony Peregrine 7 review above is from my own personal experience and time spent running in them. This review is in no way whatsoever influenced by Saucony Malaysia.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Saucony Ride 10: Initial Review

I've had the Saucony Ride 10 for quite sometime now and this review is long overdue. A lot has been happening and this review was put on the back burner for way too long. It's going to be a busy week for me and before it does, I'd better get this review out right now. The model I'm reviewing is the Heathered Chroma Pack edition.

The Ride series is now into its tenth iteration and prior to this I've only run in the Saucony Ride 9. Just like its older sibling, the Ride 10 falls into the neutral daily trainer category as an all round shoe for everyday running. While that might be true for some, it wasn't entirely true for me. I felt the Ride 9 was a little on the narrower side of things but the Saucony Ride 10 does feel a lot wider this time around and doesn't feel as plush.

But that said, the Ride 10 remains a relatively comfortable and lightweight neutral running shoe bringing with it some new innovations like a brand new upper and external design changes which gives the Ride 10 a totally different fit quality over its elder sibling.

The upper on the Ride 10 features a new and fully engineered mesh that sports large venting holes, using a combination of vented and closed sections over a single component, from the front of the shoe towards the midfoot area which is a departure from the regular spacer mesh that was part of the upper for the Ride 9 which makes the Ride 10 extremely breathable and very accommodating providing support when needed. I liked this upgrade a lot as it made the Ride 10's upper feel a lot 'softer' than the previous iteration.

The FlexFilm overlays are this time more concentrated around the midfoot rather than the forefoot sections with emphasis on the medial side. the toebox is now a lot roomier than before and would fit a wide variety of different feet. While there's quite a few sizeable updates, you'll still see lots of familiar features from the Ride 9, for instance the molded toe bumper while a little shorter is a carry over from the previous model.

The heel counter comes with a collar lining made out of two pieces of Saucony's RunDry material and is a little firm but provides just enough support for the heel. The other bits that you'll find familiar from the Ride 9 are the tongue lining which is as padded as before (too much padding for me) and the flat, semi-elastic laces.

The midsole of the Ride 10 now uses a single piece, single density EVA material which Saucony calls Power Foam and is said to retain 50% cushioning over the prior SSL EVA with a consistent cushioning over the lifespan of the shoe. On the insides you'll find a removeable EVA foam insole and an Everun topsole over the primary midsole. The topsole of the Ride 10 is thin layer of the Saucony Everun material serving as an additional layer of protection and is very different than how the Everun material is used on the Freedom ISO in which the entire midsole is made of Everun. The bottom line though is this gives the Ride 10 a much softer and more cushioned ride than the previous model.

The outsole of the Ride 10 is based on Saucony's newer Triflex geometry with the much firmer long wearing XT900 rubber offering some very good transitional support. With the SRC Crash pad removed, the rear of the outsole is glued straight to the foam midsole with an exposed area in the midsole just under the heel which is found in most Saucony running shoes. Overall, the Ride 10 has a solid build with a strong upper and plenty of outsole rubber for a longer lasting wear.

My previous experience with the Ride 9 gave the shoe a pretty narrow and shallow fit but the Ride 10 eases things up a lot. There's a lot more room in the forefoot and a lot better ventilation than the Ride 9 which is mostly because of the mesh forefoot material. With the FlexFilm now concentrated around the midfoot, the fit is nice and snug! The Ride 10 runs true to size for my feet which are US9's.

The Ride 10 has an 8mm offset and weighs in at 9.5oz for my US9. It's not exactly a lightweight shoe in my opinion since I'm used to much lighter shoes but Ride 10 does provide a very cushioned and consistent ride for those days when you need to go long. I've put some miles in them though not as much as I'd love to but from what I've gathered so far, the Ride 10 feels a little less snappy and a tad less responsive than the Ride 9. If I had to make a comparison, I'd have to say the cushioning characteristic are closer to the Kinvara 8 than the Ride 9 which isn't all that surprising since both the R10 and K8 uses an injection molded foam midsole with the Everun Topsole. 

But as mentioned earlier, the bottom line is the Ride 10 provides a much more cushier and balanced ride which in turn makes this shoe a decent daily trainer that works well for a wide range of workouts. I've used the shoe in various sessions taking it out from slower sessions to speed and tempo work and while I did have to initially break in the shoe a little (which is rare for me), I eventually got used to it. For me a shoe that works well is one that you totally forget that it's on your feet the moment you put them on but the Ride 10 took some getting used to to eventually not 'feel' it on my feet.

But I think Saucony has done a great job with the update this time round with the appeal of their middle range neutral trainers. If you're looking for a mid range neutral and moderately cushioned shoe, then the Saucony Ride 10 should be right up your alley.

The Saucony Ride 10 is currently not available in Malaysia just yet but I will update this review when it's launched here in the very near future.

Disclaimer - The Saucony Ride 10 review above is from my own personal experience and time spent running in them. This review is in no way whatsoever influenced by Saucony Malaysia.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2017: Race Review

This year marked the fourth time I ran the Gold Coast Airport Marathon. I remember the first time I stepped foot in the Gold Coast and fell in love with the place that it's become sort of a second home to me.

The past three years saw me running the full marathon event with mixed results but this year saw me taking on the half marathon instead. Choosing to run the half marathon was not an easy decision but one that I'm glad to have made and which turned out to be the right one.

Hot on the heels of the disastrous Seoul Marathon and being as prepared and confident as I was, things just went horribly south for me. It's something I can't explain even until now. I was disappointed and depressed with the results and GCAM 17 was also not a confirmed thing at that time.

I went into a state of depression, something that if I didn't put a stop to quickly would have had dire consequences. I got back into training, albeit one with a simplified plan just in case I decided to run GCAM17. But then I got a text from a friend, a Bostoner who offered to draw up a plan for me to take on the Gold Coast Airport Marathon. I was honoured that he had that much faith that I could do this, even though I was doubting myself.

I agreed to give it a shot and a plan was drawn up. It wasn't a tough plan. In fact, it was something that was absolutely doable, granted it was a different approach to what I would normally do if I followed the Hansons plan, but still something I could work on.

My hopes were up again, someone actually believed in me. I was on fire and dove straight into the plan. My wife was skeptical. Now, she might not be a certified coach but she knows what I am capable of. The initial weeks of the plan went well, I was able to follow the plan to a tee. But as the weeks went by, I was feeling very tired, not just physically but mentally and spiritually as well.

Doubts begin to creep back into me. I went through the motions of the training, still able to keep doing what it dished out but my mood was beginning to affect the people around me and the one to bear the brunt of it was my wife. There were many heated words between us as I struggled with myself to keep with the plan. Whatever that plan was I had no idea.

After week 6 or 7 I decided that I just couldn't do this. I was tired physically, mentally and spiritually from one disappointment after another. I sat down and thought about things and realized that I was struggling simply because I had been training for the past two years since GCAM15 where I ran it with a stress fracture and had to start all over again and then getting struck with a meniscus tear just before Kyoto which effectively ruined that race as well.

All these start, stop and coming back took a huge toll on my body and mind. I'm not young, mind you. It takes a lot longer for me to get back to shape and I realized I was pushing things too much and too soon. I needed a break, a reboot of the system before I could really embark on my actual marathon goals but with all my training buddies improving by leaps and bounds, I just didn't want to be left behind and kept pushing myself only to get one injury after another.

I decided there and then that my wife was right and I was just too tired from over training. I switched my plans for GCAM17 to run the half marathon instead for a complete overhaul of my system. The huge relief I felt by this decision couldn't be described. It felt like a huge weight just lifted off my shoulders. I text my friend who drew up the plan, hoping he would understand my decision. And he did understand, in fact he told me he was going through something along the same lines as what I was going through, OTS (OverTraining Syndrome). I was glad that he understood but told me to keep the plan and give it another shot when I'm ready and I definitely intend to give the training another shot soon.

With that out of the way, it was time to really look forward to GCAM17. With all the travel and accomodations all sorted out Jamie and me landed in the Gold Coast on Thursday morning. We really didn't have much time to do much things. The day was packed with a lunch stop the moment we landed, then to the expo followed by a late check in at the Mantra Legends Hotel, a quick Team Malaysia photo session before sundown and followed by dinner before calling it a night as we had a 5.7km race to run the next morning.

After the experience of running the 10km race two years ago, we both decided that running a 10km before a marathon (or half marathon) would be too counter productive and ran the 5.7km this year instead. Suffice to say it was a good decision by us. We were joined by Jeanie, Li Leen and a few other GCAM MY members. The Star Gold Coast 5.7km Challenge was just as much fun, if not more, than the 10km of two years ago. It was easily my personal worst for a 5km distance and I was proud of it. Loads of pictures and fun came out of it and I would highly recommend this before the main event on Sunday. It's a great way to just let your hair down before putting all your focus on the task ahead on Sunday!

We didn't stay long after the run as both Jamie and me had to rush back for a quick shower before heading back for the Garmin Legends Lunch. The lunch was as entertaining and fun as it was two years ago when I attended it. No matter how long you've been in the running scene, there was always lots to take away from the lunch. Before coming here, I told Jamie that by hook or by crook we'd get pictures with Desiree Linden and Sara Hall and I'm happy to say that we pulled it off though we missed (barely) of getting some shots with the like of Mungara and Kawauchi.

After the lunch we headed back to get some rest before grabbing an early dinner not too far from the hotel. We wanted to keep things easy on the stomach so we opted for some Japanese food. Even though I was running the half marathon, I had to get up way earlier than Jamie as the shuttle was leaving the hotel at 4:30am and I opted to get on it instead of the free tram service. So we called it a very early night after dinner and made our way to our respective rooms.

My gear was already laid out much earlier and after a quick final check it was lights out for me. Sleep didn't come by easily and it took me a while to doze off. Before I knew it, my cell alarm was buzzing me awake. Did my usual pre-race routine before heading down to take the shuttle to the race precinct for race start. There was a familiar face in the form of Jeanie and quite a few Malaysians on the bus along with me.

It was a cold and windy morning when we arrived and we all tried to keep ourselves as warm as possible while waiting for race start. Both Jeanie and me, with some prior experience of race mornings over here told everyone to shelter themselves on the stage or in front of the giant screen display to avoid the wind which was really the main culprit for the cold.

Soon it was time to head to the start pen. I had no goals or aims as I made my way into the start pen. I was going to go by feel and yes, the only minor goal I had was to come in under 2 hours which I thought was entirely possible. To be honest, I was feeling a tad depressed. I was running the half and I felt that with most of my other friends running the full marathon, I was running a lesser event. How wrong I was. The Asics Half Marathon is no less stellar than the full marathon as the 9000 plus participants can attest to. I personally think that the Half Marathon just isn't given enough coverage for the spectacular race that it is.

I was in pen B and made my way to the back of pen A just as the race was flagged off. I looked ahead and was shocked at the number of runners ahead of me in pen A. Damn, how was I going to make my way through that bunch! But I kept my composure and just went with the flow. The weather was still chilly but a lot more bearable now that I was on the move. I decided to keep the pace easy and increase the pace once I negotiated my way through the crowd

Strangely enough, as packed a field as it was, I didn't really have any issues having to avoid anyone cos everyone was basically on the same pace setting. The first kilometer was run in a pace of 5:50. By the second kilometer, my pace was down to 5:30 which was kinda surprising. I was feeling good and with no stress or pressure of aiming for a goal, I could really run by feel.

Now here is where I say that the half is no less stellar than the full marathon. I've run 3 full marathon's here and they were nothing but awesome. I've heard tales from some who've run the half here a few years back that the half was practically devoid of supporters and stuff like that. From what I saw, I can only say that is totally untrue. The route was littered with spectators along the entire way screaming and shouting that I thought I was on the marathon route itself. It was simply awesome. This is one reason why I love running the Gold Coast Airport Marathon!

Race wise, I was having a good time. I was feeling really good and was enjoying myself looking at the sights which was absolutely scenic by the way. The water stations were well spaced out and plentiful, maybe a little too plentiful. This time round I didn't stop at the water stations to drink but simply grabbed a cup on the run. The route was unfamiliar to me since it was my first time but I did look at the wife's Garmin data of her time running this twice before and had an inkling of what to expect.

I was still running in fine form and was actually surprised by that. My training, while it's been decent wasn't exactly up to par and falling sick 5 days before flying off didn't help matters much which was why running at 5:15 to 5:30 pace without any noticeable signs of difficulties was really surprising. I wasn't complaining but wasn't going to be over-confident too. I kept at it, keeping check of my effort making sure I don't push too hard since things were going good for me. 

Just after I made the 11km U-turn, I spotted Jeanie on the opposite side running an incredibly strong race. I called out some encouragement to her and went on my way. I was feeling so good I forgot to even take my gels until I saw one of the runners in front of me with a gel which had me frantically grabbing a gel from my pouch. In the end, it didn't really matter cos I think my body is used to running a half distance without gels since I train this distance back home without gels anyway. I didn't bother with the remaining two gels in my pouch and carried on.

The rest of the race went by without any incidences and by the time I spotted McDonalds just down the road, I knew it was going to be a sub 2 finish. Now this is the stretch that I adore the most, one is simply because the support along this stretch is second to none and two is for the fact that you know you're in the home stretch. I really didn't have to pretend to look good over along this stretch cos I was really feeling good. I manage to urge a few struggling runners along the way with shouts of encouragement and got smiles and a few thumbs up in return.

I made my way into the final 250m stretch with a huge smile on my face. I knew it was good day at the office for me and while it was way off my personal half marathon best, I crossed the line with a decent net time of 1:55! This was it. With this finish I now officially own all 4 medals (5.7, 10, 21, 42km) of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon!

I was still feeling so good that I could have run another 10k right after this only reinforced my belief that I did the right thing in choosing the half instead of the full. I had successfully done a total reboot of my flagging system! Now, with some hard work, I can look forward to better things.

I still had a lot of time to spare since I was waiting for Jamie to finish his full marathon. I promised him that I would be at the finish waiting to see him achieve his personal best which I truly believed he would. Since I had official access to the media area, I made my way to the side of the finishing stretch to wait for him. The only regret I have is my silly phone camera hanging on me as he made his way down the finish but at least I was witness to his superb finish!

Once he was done with his stuff, we made our way back to the hotel for some much needed rest and food. What I bring back from this is that sometimes we need to take a step back to get back on track. Don't be afraid to admit to yourself that you're not good enough at times and just work on getting yourself back up to speed. Hard work and perseverance always pays off. I've come out of this much stronger both physically and mentally and from this point on things can and will get better, of that I'm positive.

That aside, the Asics Half Marathon is one hell of a race. A super flat and scenic route, a much earlier race start, avoiding the much later searing sun of the marathon and is just the right distance for someone wanting to experience the hospitality and superb organization of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon but is not ready for a full marathon distance. This coupled with the 5.7km or 10km on Saturday is just the right tonic for a taste of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon!

That said, if you're looking for a scenic and incredibly well organized race to run overseas, then the Gold Coast Airport marathon is one you simply must try out. A flat, scenic route littered with awesome supporters and a nice sunny winter weather to achieve your personal best or simply just to have a good time! I've run this four times and have enjoyed every single edition. With next year being the 40th year, plans are afoot to make it even more exciting!

Before I end my post, I'd like to thank Tourism and Events Queensland and Holiday Travel and Tours for the hospitality and support provided and Air Asia X for the smooth flight into the Gold Coast and back. Without your support, this wouldn't have been possible. A big thanks also goes out to the GCAM17 Team My in training for the training support through the years and months and most importantly, my wife for tolerating the amount of times I'm out of the house training, coming back tired, being difficult, not holding up my end of the deal but yet never wavering in your support and belief in me!

And to the Gold Coast, I will be back to make my mark there again sometime soon!