Monday, 15 September 2014

Getting Into Swimming - An Idiot Guide for Runners and Cyclists : Roy Yeow

Of the 3 disciplines in triathlon, swimming is normally the most dreaded activity. Swimming is probably the reason why many triathlete-wannabes did not make it into triathlon. It should not be, as swimming should actually be zen like and relaxing. There could be various reasons why swimming is difficult for a lot of people and based on my journey thus far from a runner to a triathlete, I will try to share my observation and how to overcome the obstacles and hopefully, giving you enough to make you into a triathlete you wanted badly.
Group training in pool to simulate Triathlon crowds, courtesy of Total Immersion Malaysia
Before we go into the details, there are swimmers that use freestyle and others use breaststroke to get through the swimming leg. Nothing wrong with using either one of this. The heck, you can even use butterfly to power your way through your triathlon (800M - 3.8KM distance depending on the type of race), but obviously I doubt this is the most energy efficient thing to do. I personally prefer to use freestyle as if you do it right, it actually save the legs for the other legs... duh (in this I mean saving energy for cycling and running). However, the toughest part in freestyle is you have to keep your head down to swim efficiently, making it tough to see where you are going. With the right training and practise, sighting can be improve and freestyle is more efficient. There is a reason why the pro uses freestyles exclusively.
Open water swim session by Swimon in PD, pic by Swimon
Unlike cycling and running, to excel in swimming (read freestyle), it is all about techniques. It is no longer just getting out of your doorstep and making the mileage. You need to analyse and retrain every part of your body. From head to hand to leg to breathing, it is all about minimising the drag. As water is 829 times denser than air, a slight improvement on your technique will improve your swim. For those that swim ala Kampung style, I suggest that you review your technique and improve on this. The least this will do is to make swimming more relaxing and easy, giving you ample energy when you hit on your saddle for your bike and run in your triathlon. I was blessed that we have a superb swimmer in the team - Irene, that shared her knowledge to improve my inefficient style (Irene was our ex-national synchronised swimming athlete so it is in her to swim like a fish).

For you guys that is serious in improving your techniques, browse the Internet, there are plenty of tips to make you a more efficient swimmer.

If you do not know how to swim at all, I actually deem that better, as you do not have any bad habits that you have ingrained in your mind for years. You can actually start fresh and learn to swim correctly. All you need to do is, get a good swimming coach (no not those that teach you how to swim leisurely, which actually could be teaching you wrong swimming habits, get those triathlete coach).
Existing Putrajaya lake during Half IronMan Putrajaya, pic by Julia Othman
Once your swim is more efficient, you can start focusing on improving your swim through sets and repetitions. Apart from doing drills to improve your techniques, it is now time to put in the distance and speed. This is where it is similar to cycling/running. Tempo swim, interval swim, long swim needs to be incorporated as part of your training.

This is where the third part and probably the biggest challenge for new swimmer is, we only get to train in swimming pool while races mostly are in open seas or lakes. Open water swim (OWS) is obviously different. There is no four walls you can lean on, you cannot see the floor, there is no lines on the floor to guide you, there is current and waves, there are living beings that will scare the shit out of you.

From my view, it is all about your own confidence and phobia, get over it and you be fine. If you cannot yet, do not fret, slowly work on it. Firstly, get into the sea and try out one thing at a time. Lately because of the boom of triathlon in the country, there is now OWS sessions being conducted in Port Dickson almost every month, you should join if you intend to experience and improve your open water experience. Life jacket, kayak, first aider services are available that ensure safer environment to give you confidence in OWS.
Glad to run out from the sea in my first triathlon in Morib, pic by Tristupe
Once you get into the sea, just relax and float. You will be amazed at how our body are not built to sink. With that assurance in mind, tune in to the flow of the sea. Embrace the currents and waves and use the energy to help you, never fight the nature. As for the rest of the unknown, such as you cannot see the floor, well, if you have train adequately in the pool, you do not have to bother about how deep it is, cause it makes no difference to you when you are swimming on the surface.  Start swimming a shorter distance and come up and see your surroundings. Increase your distance slowly as you gain confidence. You will also need to start working on your sighting and turning once you can swim confidently.

The last part of swimming is the stress of swimming closely with many people during race day. In a mass start race, you will see over  hundreds of people cramp on the beach side and rushing into the water. It is like a stampede and this is another part why swimming is not so much a welcome discipline for many in triathlon. My advice on this, start from the back where you are more comfortable. Feel your way, learn from others and as you gain more experience, you will know how to handle these physical wars.

As for me, after almost a year of jumping into triathlon, I can safely said that my swim has improved tremendously (though I am still slow compare to those regular swimmers). The improved efficiency gave me the confidence in races, at least I do not need to worry about meeting swim cutoff but focus on getting through it without wasting too much energy. Through OWS session and also race participants, I have gained more experience and confidence to continue to improve on my swim leg.
Swimming itself can be very therapeutic and is a good recovery activity after a heavy workout - run or cycle. Swimming also provides a full body workout that helps in your life. If you can, make swimming part of your life, just like any other workouts you are doing.

Having said that, if you are into triathlon, do remember swimming is actually the shortest of the three disciplines, so train well and train smart. I hope this article give an insight on how a runner, a non-swimmer, overcame the challenges to start the journey into triathlon. We all can do it!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Annie for Boston Project

Hammer Nutrition, as partners and sponsors to Team 2ndskin have pledged support for Team Athlete Annie's Boston Marathon 2015 dream. Annie will be putting in her registration for a slot in Boston Marathon 2015, based on her best full marathon timing and luck will decide if she fulfills her dream (and the dream of Team 2ndskin) to stand on the start line in Boston come April 20th 2015.

Team 2ndskin will be setting up a Hammer Nutrition Booth at the FRIM Trail Run kit collection day next weekend 20th SeptemberSaturday from 0930hrs to 1500hrs. 

Hammer Nutrition in full support of Annie for Boston Project, has pledged to channel the profits of all sales from the booth towards Annie's expenses for this project.

The Hammer Booth is open to all, participants of FRIM Trail Run and non participants alike and we bid you to come over and support this initiative and see one of our own regular runner in the Malaysian running community achieve her dream. 

For Ironman Langkawi participants, this would be the best time to drop by and replenish your fuel needs as we will be stocking all race day essentials from Gels, to Solids and Endurolytes. Speak to us to get some fuelling advices too!

We wish Annie all the best, and we hope to see you on 20th September!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The River Jungle Marathon 2014 Race Report : Eugene Teoh

….. and so, I completed my 3rd marathon this year (well, I completed 50km for both Gunung Nuang Ultra and Back 2 Endurance, but I’ll lump them all together under one category) last Sunday morning at River Jungle Marathon (RJM), one of the boutique marathon events organized by runners for runners. I ran the same edition last year with a different course route and I would say that those who did this year’s run had it a bit tougher, especially at the 2nd climb. More about that to come.

So what’s the story like? Well, those who know me well enough knew the reason why I haven’t been signing up for races in the 2nd half of this year. Heck, even for my annual-will-do-marathon SCKLM, I registered for the 10km category. So if we’re talking about mileage, my last long run was at B2E in mid June and since then I have had a “long” training run of 9km and a spattering of 6-7km training runs albeit at a quicker pace. Logging mileage wasn’t my priority as I didn’t have any more long runs to build up to, so how did I end up running RJM on lack of conditioning?

2 mornings before RJM run, I got a buzz from Hammer telling me that they have got a couple of sponsored RJM bibs (as they are one of the event sponsors) and whether Team 2ndskin would be keen to represent on their behalf. I threw the request to the team, but on short notice, since Deo was down to run the Penang Ultra 100 and EV had plans already, it was down to Roy and myself to pull things through. (For the record, Jun Shen is away on national duty, Irene doesn’t run marathons and Annie was in Penang). Roy was already on taper mode for his IMMY later this month, so he was in pretty good condition. Me? I was like, ok I’ll just hack this with a run-walk routine and socialize with the crowd.

And there we were, on Sunday morning and Roy picked me up. I hadn’t seen the route map, nor the elevation and just the night before I was texting to find out how many water stations there would be, cos I was deliberating whether to bring my hydration bag. In the end I decide not to, but just to bring my running vest and throw in a small 200ml bottle (for the expected hot weather later in the run), my Hammer Endurolytes and a couple tabs of Anti-fatigue and half consumed Perpetuem Solids. A cup of coffee and a bowl of overnight soaked oats fueled me before run flag off. 
Before the start with running buddies. Photo by Ezam.
Arrived at event site with about 20 mins to flag-off. Crowd was already buzzing with anticipation, when we caught up with Louis, Atlew, Chloe, Gwen, Ezam, Man Shukor, Khairi, Lina and Hu’ Zaini. Chit chatted a while and joked about how we were conned and thought this was a 10km run (joke’s still going on) and before we knew it, the event director was briefing the crowd and we duly took our place at the end of the start line. Flag off and I was running side-by-side with Roy for the first part of the run. Route was dimly lit and in some places pitch dark save for a the sporadic headlamp in the crowd so I was pretty cautious about where I placed my foot and kept the runner in front and his/her movements in sight. As we made our way through the crowd, I exchanged pleasantries with friends and that’s what I feel certain runs should be all about, a social gathering rather than a head-down and focus on finish line race (although there’s also a place and time for such runs to kick yourself in gear). There was Mohan with his trusty whistle, Hui Xin with her 89 run crew, blogger Missyblurkit and Elvin and occasional Spiderman YK who came along and “cursed” me with cramps (jokingly of course)!

First 10km was business as usual pace, and I was with Roy, Atlew and Keng Koon throughout most of the distance. Uneventful first quarter, we just put one foot in front of another and stopped at water stations to wet our lips. Body felt fine the first 10k, and I was felt a wave of relief that my body conditioning wasn’t that bad after all. At about 12km, we caught up with my strength and conditioning coach from Get Active, Chloe who was also tapering for IMMY. Solid and strong, she completed her first FM in Langkawi Island Ocean in 4:45 and this RJM in 4:48. Very consistent and ready to rock IM in 3 weeks. It was the run with Chloe up to the foothill of Peres and the discussion about nutrition and injuries that prompted a rethink of my condition. And I will share it here so that everyone benefits from the experience I go through. So diverging a little from the event story…..

I’m not sure if I have mentioned it in any of my write-ups before (I think I did), but I am prone to cramping during endurance events. My muscles start to hit me with seizure signals after about 20kms and I have had occasions where both quads just locked up and I was immobile for moments before self massage and salt (back then) eased the pain. Enter Hammer Endurolytes last year and I thought I stumbled on the cure to my cramping issues. Endurolytes do work for me, no doubt and the bad episodes were a thing of the past. This year though, during Gunung Nuang and B2E, I experienced muscle cramps in my Vastus Medialis (the teardrop muscle on your inner thigh just above the knee) in both legs. Endurolytes intake gave me intermediate relief, but everytime the terrain got tougher, the cramping sensation came back. Initially I dismissed it and thought it was my lack of long distance training that was the reason (and no one to blame but myself), coupled with my body that tends to sweat a lot, thus losing sodium and electrolyte components and therefore needing more frequent Endurolytes intake.
I was starting to feel my VM tighten up as early as the 13th km at RJM, so I popped my first couple of Endurolyte tabs then. 5kms later I popped another 2, as the sensation was not going away. At about 21km, I wiped salt crystal residue from my face and Chloe commented that I’m overloading on the sodium. That was when the first point hit home; my VM is on the verge of cramping and its not because of lack of electrolytes. At 13 – 18km, it can’t be my lack of conditioning in my muscle either, cos even if I was just running 6-7km in training, I had full belief I am ok to complete a HM distance without discomfort at the pace I was running. So what was it? Part two to be unveiled later in this story. 

Roy flew off after 13km and went on his way to a 4:20 finish. Photo by Chan WK.
So that was it, as the route pointed upwards at the start of Peres, and my quads not listening to my head, I waved Chloe on as I started walking the uphills, which kinda started the trend for the remainder of the run. Every time the road headed north, even a little, I was walking, and when it pointed south, I’d run the pain off. The flats were a mix of running and walking, and that’s what lack of conditioning for endurance events does to you. They humble you, and you get this tight slap in the face to remind you never to underestimate the distance and the intensity. I think by now, most of those who have friends who did RJM, have heard of the durian fiesta at the 23km mark water station, which marked the u-turn at Peres and we followed the steady downhill stretch back to the foothill. 
The happening downhill stretch and saying hi all around. Photo by Running Malaysia Magazine
It was at this stretch that I was high-fiving and smiling and seeing friends and running buddies in the other direction, and it was basically the highlight of my run as I knew the remainder of the distance would be covered solo and would pretty much be boring. Here I caught sight of virgin marathoners, Joanne, her regular runner brother William, first timer Jennifer who attended Team 2ndskin running workshop earlier this year, Karen, Jeff, Pan who were all leading the pack, Phei Chuen doing only her 2nd marathon and going strong, Jimmy and Puvan from LYN Runners and YK who came over and gave me a “cramping already right? What did I tell you” speech. LOL.
At the foothill of Peres I requested for an ice pack from the medic. Icing my quads gave me some relief from KM26 to the next water station where by then the ice had all but melted. Caught up with celebrity runner KK Yum in his silver suit (he actually overtook me a few kilometers back) at the last water station before the turnoff into Bukit Antu. Photo with KK, refreshing coconut water and a toilet break meant it was my longest stop and the break did me good before the torture up Antu. 
 At one of the water stops midway point. Photo by Run & Explore
As soon as I turned the junction and looked at the first corner of Bukit Antu, I knew then that it was going to be a long walk. And I meant a long torturous walk with my stiff quads. And there I was, averaging 12-13mins/km trudging uphill and the stretch never seemed to end. Looking at the fellow runners walking in front of me and behind me didn’t do the confidence any better and just added to the glum gloomy feel along the stretch. The 3-4km (I lost track) uphill felt like eternity and it was the worst stage (for me personally) in the entire route as I had to endure it solo. I would have believed that those who ran (or walked in most cases) this stretch with a buddy may have had a better experience though.
I was lucky as I reached the foot of Bukit Antu before 9am and it was still cooling as the sun wasn’t out in force yet. Honestly, the weather was very kind during the run (for me anyway) as it wasn’t scorching like it was the year before.

At the second last water station, I bumped into Susanah and we walked / jogged the last 4km home. It was here that she was surprised and asked me why I was still loitering around, thinking that I must have finished by now, that we started talking about my VM and cramps. And after the earlier discussion I had with Chloe, what Susanah said hit me on the head again.
“You do a lot of leg strengthening workouts, you squat weights, and your leg muscles look developed; I don’t think your Vastus Medialis is weak. I think it’s tight.”
So, BOOM! Was my performance in endurance runs this year hampered by a tight muscle that I did not realize from my normal daily activities? I concede that I do a lot of foam-rolling and trigger point, but I neglect my inner thigh muscles as I have not really felt tightness or soreness (apart from during long races). So it wasn’t sodium-deficiency that I initially suspected that was the cause of my cramping quads? It could be, and because of the amount of strength training I do, it is indeed possible that my muscles are tighter as muscle placed under stress and duress tend to contract. So the take-away note here is, there may be underlying causes to the pain or strain that you endure in training or racing, and that the most obvious signs may not be the real causes. Ask around, talk to others and you may just find the answer you’re looking for. 
With Roy and Susanah at the finish line. Photo by Vincent.
Back to the story. I finished the last 4km of RJM with Susanah and we walked in under the finish gantry in a nett time of 5:30 (for me). I was half expecting something beyond 6 hours due to my “lack of training”, so five and a half hours was seal and deal for me. Roy was already waiting at the finish line, changed and ready to go home. He had finished more than an hour earlier (strong lad!) and looks ready to rock Langkawi. Got some photos taken by Vincent at the finish gantry (thanks mate!), collected my medal and finisher’s tee and called it a day.
Hard earned medal + relieved expression. Photo by Vincent
Special thanks to HammerNutrition for offering us the sponsored places (and allowing me to revisit pain, lol), The Marathon Shop for another great event as usual, the volunteers who were cheering us all on and kept asking us if we needed anything at all, fully stocked water stations, photographers and friends who supported the event and Team 2ndskin partners Skechers, Garmin, Kraftfit and Spyder for accessories to my run that helped ease my pain. J

Friday, 5 September 2014

Skechers GoRunUltra Nite Owl Review - TriStupe

Been a while since I've blogged or provided a good update. Rest assured all is good and I've been going along well with family, work and training (in that order). Though it appear I am not working, as some that know me think (hey, he is on social media all the time, how is he working). Haha.
This post has been sitting in my "draft" for a month at least and long overdue. Maybe like 250km overdue since I've received the GoRunUltra Nite Owl from Skechers Malaysia
Being seen = potentially ensuring a safer late evening run
This is a follow up after the last unboxing of the Skechers GoRunUltra Nite Owl Edition. Along those mileage, the shoe has seen both road and trail action. Consistent with the GoRunUltra purpose, it is built to handle both on and offroad condition and it truly live up to it's name in terms of cushioning and grip. I brought this shoe into the trail during the Team 2ndSkin Trail Running Clinic about a month back. 
Look ma! No hand! Photos by Eugene 2ndSkin

First Feel
This updated GoRunUltra "feel" is the same as the original GoRunUltra that I've reviewed here. In my unboxing write up, I put up the differences between the GRU original and this Updated version. The biggest differences (not counting the Cool Glow In The Dark feature) is the upper synthetic material that make up the new mesh and overlay. 
Gripping all around. Photos from Eugene 2ndSkin
The feel of the dual-density sole is the same and the layout of the sole remains as well. I guess the philosophy of "why change something that work" holds true here. Despite the bulk, the shoe is surprisingly nimble and offer good protection. It is super flexible without giving the feeling that it does not offer sufficient support. I've raced this shoe (original) for Sabah Adventure Challenge and absolutely loved the fact that walking/jogging/running on hot gravel surface has never been more enjoyable partly due to the cushioning.
Dry terrain posses no issues for GoRunUltra. Photos from Eugene 2ndSkin
The toe box and sockliner remained the same as the original. So it is really (this time) about reviewing the shoe/revisiting the shoe again. 
Road Test
Almost 250km since I gotten the shoe, and likely will retire this on my Ironman Langkawi. I know the legs will appreciate the additional cushioning after the long day anticipated. 
Road test
Apart from the additional cushioning provided by the GoRunUltra, I've noticed that the new/refreshed material felt significantly cooler perhaps due to the lighter mesh on the top of the shoe. While I still sweat as much and the perspiration runs down to the shoe (as I run sockless and nothing soaks it up), the shoe doesn't feel sweat-logged and dries as quickly after I leave it for an hour.
If the shoe doesn't impress you with the technology, the color will
Similar to the original GRU, the toe box was more than generous without being overly roomy. I wear a triple-E wide leather/working shoe and those with similar predicament will know how difficult it is to find a shoe that suits you. Happy to report that apart from two other manufacturer (Brooks and New Balance), Skechers' range definitely caters for the wider-footer too.
Encouraged Mid-foot strike
The Skechers shoe promotes and help with the progression of mid-foot and forefoot landing/stride. More so after almost 2-years of unlearning and relearning how to run and keeping injury away, I am comfortable to say it comes naturally. So a word of caution if you are looking to change the way you run - the tools (shoes) is there to help, but you need to do most of the work (of landing correctly). Only then both will be in synergy. 
Runs are done mainly in evening as my Ironman Langkawi run will be after 5pm. Part of acclimatisation for the different heat and humidity. Make your training specific to your race.
Nite Owl Remain An Eye Opener
It is easy to see why. A short 30mins run outdoor before the end of day charge up the photo-luminescent material of Nite Owl and literally makes it glow like a road marker at night.
Not obvious under normal sunlight...until...
it goes into darker area

Friends with darkness, no less
As is from my phone camera
The lifespan of the Sole
The GRU sole has been reported to be fast wearing and that much is true. I've used both pairs of GoRunUltra and it has exhibit consistent wear at the sole. It was no difference when I compared it against my favorite GoBionic when I first got it about a year ago. It has passed the 600km mark (the GoBionic) and still in service for short (less than 30mins) run. The first pair of GRU has served me really well with about 400km mileage and still great - just don't take it out to tricky trails as the grip is not as good as it was; otherwise, it is still Go Like Never Before!

Note: This pair of Skechers GoRunUltra in NiteOwl variation is sponsored by Skechers Malaysia via collaboration with 2ndSkin Asia Athletes program. Thank you Skechers Malaysia and 2ndSkin! This pair is retails for RM449(men) and RM429 (women) in Peninsular Malaysia and available in all stores. Opinion in this write up is my own and not influenced by Skechers Malaysia or 2ndSkin program.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Road to Penang 100 Ultra - Deo

Hi all, apologies for the long silence on the blog. Seems the lack of posting is related to many of us in the team getting caught up with different things and more so with the sudden less than usual activities during the recent fasting months. We are catching up again and today, we are sharing Deo Azrul's write up about him preparing for the Penang 100 Ultra. 

Road to Penang 100 Ultra - Deo
31st August is Malaysia's independence day. The recent independence day also marked the end of my 2-month training program for Penang Ultra 100 (P100) which is scheduled to be flagged off at 9pm on Saturday, 6th September (less than a week from now). It would be my 8th 100km race and the nervousness that I'm feeling now is as though it is my virgin 100km race. P100 would just be my second road 100km after Beaufort 100K in last June but there are two main reasons why P100 gives me a real scare: 1) The rolling elevation at the Balik Pulau stretch as well as the 800m++ Penang Hill that we have to deal with after about 80km into the race (and if only I manage to get that far into the race); and 2) Fighting sleepiness when the race is scheduled to be flagged of at 9pm. Normally staying alert and awake between midnight and 2am would be very difficult. 

The training program was carefully planned to incorporate sufficient training for mileage/endurance, some speed works for intensity and at the same time not overdoing and risking ourselves to injuries. If I could recall, I never prepared a proper plan in my previous ultra marathon races, except for my very first 100km race in TNF100 Thailand back in 2012. The program was also carefully tailored so that Khairul, a good friend of mine, would be able to prepare himself to finish his first 100km race (he had never done anything more than a full marathon distance race before). Planning was easy but to execute it would take another set of efforts. 

Read all about it here at Deo's blog : Penang 100 Ultra