Monday, 24 February 2014

Skechers GoRunUltra Unboxing by TriStupe

Much hype has been generated in recent weeks as Skechers Malaysia informed the team that the much-awaited GoRunUltra; the Skechers cushioned running shoes will make it's debut. We are lucky to have TriStupe and Deo receiving these pairs for testing and feedback to Skechers. Of course the review would not be complete if there isn't an unboxing post. TriStupe has  (as usual) written about these new gears he recieved and share with us how the shoe look like and feel like "out of the box". The team would like to express our gratitude to Skechers Malaysia for their continious support. Have fun with the Unboxing review.
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Skechers GoRunUltra Unboxing : TriStupe
Skechers Malaysia has been ahead in Asia to launch new models after new models. What was shown to me about 2-months ago, the Skechers GoRunUltra (GRU),  has finally arrived in Malaysia and I was lucky to be among the first few to receive these newly launched running gears as it lands. Sometimes, these items are still in the 40-footer container. Talk about being delivered immediately upon arrival. Previously, I've worn the more cushioned GoRunRide2 Nite Owl and find it very nicely padded. 
Cushioned and as fast
So when I received a call from Eugene, the Team 2ndSkin Principal, to go to the Skechers Malaysia HQ and get the GRU, I was naturally excited. I was also told that a unknown date-to-release GoRunRide3 will be passed to me. More of that later!
Go Like Never Before
GoUltra - US10. Red/White
I first saw the GRU when it was a "sample" (with holes at the bottom to prevent it from being sold as a legit shoe). It was chunky by Skechers GO-series standard and it promises to "ride like a full cushioned shoe while allowing contact with ground". I've work cushioned shoes before and I am still wearing one for training (Brooks Ghost5). They are typically high on the "drop" and nothing else than 13 to 15mm. The elevated ride sort of throw you off-balance once a while on uneven surface. That is how injury to the ankle (twisted or torn ligament due to accidental fall) happens. Hence, the popularity of minimalist or zero-drop shoes. It put your feet on "neutral", so to say. So when the GRU was presented to me, I was naturally skeptical.
"Why would Skechers, after all these while working on minimalist shoes, going maximalist?"
"Isn't going thicker counter of what mid-foot strike is about?"
I had many questions in my mind over what this edition will do...So, until I take it out for a run, perhaps we unbox first?
The Unboxing
I really like unboxing new shoes. Something about it always make me felt guilty to wear them out for a run. The (volatile organic compound VOC) smell, the feel of a clean virgin shoe and the nicely packed and wrapped up box. First look on the shoe is the fiery color. Red on white sole. It sort of remind you of the Salomon Sense, which is the top of the range trail lightweight shoe.

Chinese New Year Red
To start with, the GRU is the most cushioned shoe I ever run in the past 18months.GoRunRide2 was very cushioned and the GoRun3 continues the trend of cushioned-minimalist, if there is a term for that. When placed amongst the other Skechers, this is the "big boy". Thick. Soft. And It look fast just standing.
4-way mesh on the top for flexibility. GoBionicTrail material on side for lightweight and structure
For a shoe this bulky, I was impressed by how light it was. The US9 comes in at 8.7oz or 250grams and the pair of US10 I got was just pipping the 9oz mark. How is this impressive? The lightest Go-series is the GoBionic, which runs in at 175grams or 6.2oz. For almost 80% (estimated) more cushioning, that is just additional 75grams - or 5-spoon of sugar (to sweeten the deal). 
About 250grams or 9oz
The official press release for GRU says it is 65% more cushioned that GoRunRidemodel (260grams). If you put the maths together, you will realised, despite the additional material used to raise the amount of cushioning, the GRU comes in lighter than the most plush Go-series (before GRU debut). This exhibit material and technology being used really well with each new model that Skechers releases.
Door-To-Trail
I was confused when i flip the shoe over and saw that the sole are not the typical GoImpulse-sensor layout (but known as Rigid Resagrip), but rather aggressive lugs which reminds you of Brooks Cascadia 7. I was naturally skeptical as my best experience with Brooks Cascadia were ver 5, and wifey uses the 7 previously (before going over to Skechers). In other words, Skechers has produced a "hyrid", which I was then told the correct term for this is Door-To-Trail. 
Aggressive Sole
The ribbing in between the lugs are too soft to offer any grip. It could be there for cosmetic purposes only. The lugs, however, felt pretty sure on first touch. I did try to compress it and it does to an extent. My only worries is how fast it may last if used as an out-and-out trail shoe. I will need to remind myself that this is a NOT a trail shoe. Door-To-Trail!
Closer look of the lugs
The GRU is a 8mm drop that can be converted to a 4mm drop by just removing the insole. Yes, the insole itself lend a full 4mm to the ride. Made possible by the thicker heel crash pad and thinner front. The same insole is used in the GoRun3, which I've customised the GR3 with my GR2 insole for more "road feel".

about 10grams
The inner part of the GRU with sole removed is smooth and velvet like. Save for the stitching on the side, I foresee this to be able to be neutral if worn sockless (and no blisters, hopefully). Removing the insole sort of free up the space inside as well. Hence this contributed to some tricky fitting if you are buying and testing. Many I know that received the GRU went 1-size up (Nick and Jamie, not sure about Deo). I stick to the same US10 I take for the other GoRun series with wide toe-box (except Speed where i went 1 size up due to tight front).
Should be alright for sockless. But will confirm later.
Unlike the other cushioned, structured and controlled (motion) shoe, the sole were surprisingly flexible. With the insole in place, it is normal not to be able to fold it up like when the insole removed.
No camera trick. 
With the insole, I can still bend it up to 75degrees (the above shows a 90degree fold). The above is really t show that despite the heavier cushioning, it is still surprisingly flexible. This will allow the feet inside to move and splay as it lands. From experience using Skechers shoes, this allow for more "grounded" feel, as any uneven surface will see the sole "wrapping" around it, ensuring better shoe-surface contact, lessen the chances of slip and fall over uneven terrain. Skechers call thisProgressive Flex Zone. Skechers score big on this.
Red-Lime color with White sole
The GRU has a dual-density layer built which provides both support and cushioning. The Rigid Resagrip™ outsole engineered to provide the right amount of support while the softer Resalyte midsole (memory foam!) provides cushioning. With the customisable 8mm to 4mm drop, you essentially get a maximal cushioned shoe that provides minimalist feel. However, please be aware you WILL be standing taller. Stack height is 23mm forefoot and 27mm heel, which gives the 4mm drop. Add in the insole, it goes to 8mm. Traditional running shoes, esp the cushioned shoes are riding higher and has larger drop by minimum of 13mm to 15mm drop (so your heel is on the higher side by that amount of height).
GoRunUltra vs Brooks Ghost 5
You can see from the photo above, the Brooks Ghost 5, which was my main shoe (and still in service for those training days) before I switch to Skechers is noticeably taller and thicker. The visual above would provide the reader a better comparison of the ride height. 
Heel and Front profile
The GRU continues to promote the M(idfoot)-Strike and the heel cup is curved upwards and the bump in the midsole will encourage landing and taking off correctly. However, the bio-mechanic of good running (strides, landing, taking off, injury prevention) differ from person to person. One must remember that wearing a shoe that encourages/promote front foot strike or midfoot strike will not work if we do notunlearn and relearn how to run. Be informed there is no miracle shoes that will change your running strides. Key point is "encourage".
Material Updates
Mix of materials
The GRU utilises a mix of Synthetic and mesh fabric upper that will provide both breathable and stability with strategically placed overlay. The toe front has been fitted with synthetic material that will protect the front if you use it for trails. Reflective strips are seen on the front and the back (logo is reflective). 
Inner side view of the right-side of shoe
The side stitches pattern will remind you of the GoRun3. From my usage of the GR3, the show is supportive enough as claimed and I do not see how the GRU will be any less with similar use of materials.
The tongue is intergrated/sewn on
Like most of the Skechers shoes, the tongue has been integrated or sewn on. I begin to appreciate it more as it help to stop small stones or sands from getting into the shoe from the top in the trails or on dusty roads. The tongue has been made wider as well, so it "wraps" the top of you feet, providing more comfy feel. Of course, one may argue it will reduce breathability - I am monitoring it as I ran with it already (in the review next).
Flat shoelace
Lastly, this may be missed by many, the shoelace provided with the GRU is flat. There is merit to this as the flat shoelace actually secures better that rounded laces. Love the details to the laces that has the same red-lime color as the shoe (than boring monotonous color).

Here are the official specs to the GoRunUltra from Skechers site.

Men's Skechers GOrun Ultra Running Shoes

Discover the ultimate in cushioned running with the SKECHERS GOrun Ultra LT shoe. Designed for Ultra Marathon running with more Resalyte shock absorption than ever before.

Details:

  • Cushioning Ultra Marathon running shoe design
  • 65% more Resalyte cushioning than Skechers GOrun ride shoes
  • Provides runners with the enhanced cushioning and support to help protect joints and limit fatigue in longer distance runs
  • Dual density layers offer the stability and support the advanced runner needs
  • Cushion and comfort that all runners will appreciate
  • Rigid Resagrip™ outsole engineered to provide the right amount of support
  • Soft midsole layer provides cushion effect
  • Progressive Flex Zone provides flexibility and firm support
  • Aggressive traction control GOimpulse sensors on outsole allow for superior control on any terrain
  • 6mm heel drop height
  • Promotes a midfoot strike
  • Weight: 8.7 oz. in a men's size 9

Construction:

  • Synthetic and mesh fabric upper
  • Synthetic overlays for stability
  • 4 way stretch mesh for added comfort
  • Side S logo
  • Lace up front
  • Soft fabric shoe lining for barefoot wear

Note: This pair of Skechers GoRunUltra is sponsored by Skechers Malaysia via collaboration with 2ndSkin Asia Athletes program. Thank you Skechers Malaysia and 2ndSkin! This pair is retails for RM419 (men) and RM399 (women) in Peninsular Malaysia and has been made available in all stores since February 16, 2014. Opinion in this write up is my own and not influenced by Skechers Malaysia or 2ndSkin program.

Next : Wait up for the full review from Door-To-Trail, literally!
more to come

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Understanding and Treating Common Running Injuries - Annie Yee

Injuries are a common occurrence for athletes, more so for weekend warriors. Team athlete Annie was plagued by injuries during the 2013 running season where she was well below her best form. Here, she guides us through some common injuries faced by runners, which would be a good reference especially for beginners. Acceptance (of injury) is indeed the first step to recovery. Thanks Annie for sharing!

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Last year was an unlucky year for me. I had my serious injury for almost 6 months due to the ignorance of my injury and ego of myself. Lessons learnt and I, now learning to be more respectful to the injury and do my own research to find out each injury, symptoms, treatments to understand more about the injuries when I couldn't run during the period of suffering.
Annie In Action during PNM 2013. Thanks Victor for the pic.
Listed below are the common running injuries which I summarized for the comprehension of runners especially for beginners. Always remember, DON’T BE DISAPPOINTED when you are injured and can’t go out running. However, to be more specific and to know the root cause of each injury, I have always suggested runners to spend some time to meet up with a rehab specialist to understand your own body. Our partnership with GetActive provides us that outlet to learn more and how to handle injuries when it occurs. GetActive are certified rehabilitation trainers and specialists.
  • Blisters -Small pocket of fluid within the upper layers of the skin, typically caused by forceful rubbing (friction), burning, freezing, chemical exposure or infection. Blisters are very common among the runners when unsuitable shoes or socks; and
  • Chafing – Repetitive friction and it is generated through skin to skin contact. General, female runners always have chafing if they are not wearing proper sport bras or inner thigh. Whereas male runners have always chafing on their nipples. Examples of chaffing:
Nipples Chaffing  - Image from Internet. Source not available
Chaffing from sports bra/strap - Image from Internet. Source not available
Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) strap chaffing - Image from Health-Remedy.com
It is not surprised to see runners bleed during races. This could be due to the wear they are wearing. Or, you find out your armpit, inner thigh, area around the chest have red, painful marks and the pain exaggerated when you take shower.  ~~~Ouuch!!!~~

The Usual Suspects (of running injuries)
Then, comes to running injury of our most treasured legs! I summarised some common injuries that we have normally heard from runners or when you browsed in Facebook, you will realised runners post some terms such as ITBS, shin splits and etc.

·         Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) - A syndrome characterised by pain or discomfort seemingly originating from the contact of the posterior surface of the patella (back of the kneecap) with the femur (thigh bone).
·         Achilles Tendinitis - The Achilles tendon connects the two major calf muscles to the back of the heel. Under too much stress, the tendon tightens and becomes irritated. This symptom happens if dramatically in increasing mileages.

I have heard quite some runners faced this problem when they increase in speed works and hill training:
·         Iliotibial Band Syndrome  (IBTS) – This is the one of the common injury suffered by runners whereby cause lateral knee pain in runners. ITBS symptoms range from a stinging sensation just above the knee joint, to swelling or thickening of the tissue in the area where the band moves over the femur. The stinging sensation just above the knee joint is felt on the outside of the knee or along the entire length of the iliotibial band. Pain may not occur immediately during activity, but may intensify over time. Pain is most commonly felt when the foot strikes the ground, and pain might persist after activity.
·         Plantar Fasciitis -Small tears or inflammation of the tendons and ligaments that run from your heel to your toes. This is due to the pronation and supination.

This is one of the injury that always suffered by runners:
·         Shin Splints - Refers to medial tibial stress syndrome, an achy pain that results when small tears occur in the muscles around your tibia (shin bone). Increasing activity, intensity, and duration too quickly leads to shin splints because the tendons and muscles are unable to absorb the impact of the shock force as they become fatigued.

Fixing Injuries Pragmatically
When you have symptoms which mentioned above, it is always advisable to rest or you will end up make the injuries even severe. (Don’t be like stubborn Annie). There are some basic treatments which I found were really useful. I am not sure these treatments are useful for some runners but I would suggest doing as:

1. RICE. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation.
REST – Totally no running during this period. Or else, you will end up with disappointment and inevitable pain. I was very down when I tried during my injury period. I was very stubborn and not listened to my friends’ advices. Finally, it exaggerated the pain.

ICE – Apply ice on the area you feel pain as many times as you can. The easiest way is to cover ices with handkerchief and massage the area. This is definitely useful. During my injury period, I applied ice once I get back from working, when reading story books, when talking to phone etc.

COMPRESSION – Don’t be lazy to wear compression when you’re sleeping. It really makes a big difference after overnight.  This can be explained by compression wear helps improve venous return and oxygenation back to muscles. Apart from this, it does really relieve pain from muscle stiffness and soreness. I used to wear compression wear during working. It aids for individuals who have problem of edema. For those of you who would like to try out compression wear, Kraftfit (available on www.2ndskin.asia) make very good compression outfits at a very affordable price point. Worth trying!

ELEVATE - Place your feet up higher when sitting or laying down. Elevation the sore part allow blood to flow back easier and aid the recovery and lessen the pain. 

2. Spend time to consult sport therapist – You name it, there are so many sport therapists all over Malaysia. Human tend to be lazy and think the pain will be reduced sooner. It is always advisable instead of wasting time of waiting time than meeting up a sport therapist.

3. Alter to other aerobic exercises – If you feel the pain is unbearable, why don’t go for swimming or cycling? Okay, if you don’t have a bike or a swimming pool nearby, let’s you-tube and follow some aerobic dances or yoga.

4. Add in strength training and conditioning. Muscle imbalance effects your run. Do more, run more, finish stronger.

In nutshell, please TAKE TIME OFF if you have injuries. We are not running just for the short term but for the rest of our lives. :)

Monday, 17 February 2014

TNF100 Thailand – 2nd "100km" anniversary : Deo AH

Deo recently ran the The North Face 100 Thailand or known as TNF100 Thailand. It celebrates his second "100km" anniversary. It is one thing to sign up for an Ultra race, it is another to race it. From the first cut of information upon finishing, the word "Brutal Weather" came out four or five times in the Team's Whatapps group. Congrats on finishing this race Deo.

And this is his story. 
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The race is into its 3rd year of organization. The first one was back in 2012, held in Amphawa before being moved to Khao Yai for two years now. The one in Amphawa was also my first 100km race. It was not easy for me doing my 100km debut especially when I was recuperating from a minor operation to remove my appendicitis less than a month before the race. I survived the flattest and easiest 100km trail race known to many people around me in the running community in 26th place out of 28th finishers. The 2nd edition was moved to Khao Yai and it was a straightforward decision to join the race again as it was my anniversary 100km race as well as the new location should make the race more interesting. The number of participants got bigger and the race got a little tougher with some elevation thrown in but TNF100 Thailand was still the easiest 100km trail race as many people agreed. My finishing time of 14 hours and 36 seconds also proved this claim, it was (and still is) my PR for 100km run. The cool weather, I reckon, has made the race an enjoyable one. 84.8% starters finished the 100km race and I was positioned somewhere in the middle of the pack.

Going into the 3rd edition of TNF100 Thailand, my 3rd too!, participants were somehow ‘warned’ that the race would be tougher than the previous edition. I was not worried at all as I thought how much tougher it could be when races in Thailand have always been held on flat courses.  Even when it was announced that the race offers three qualifying points for UTMB race, I was still not worried. Maybe the same thoughts were playing in other participants’ minds as the number of registered participants swelled up to 161 with some faces known to me attempting their maiden 100km run. It seems logical to do maiden 100km run in TNF100 Thailand based on previous experience but the actual truth was not to be untold until the race day. This time around, I was accompanied by five other runners, all but one attempting the 100km race with one being the virgin. There were few other groups from Malaysia, as well, going on different arrangement. We flew into Bangkok on Friday morning, before being ferried away to Khao Yai by a chartered van, and checked in at the Khao Yai Garden Lodge, which is located less than 10km from the official race venue in Simalin Hotel as well as from the race registration and expo site at Bonanza Khao Yai Hotel. The weather in Khao Yai when we arrived was cooling although the sun was up in the sky. I was thinking that the weather would be as pleasant as last year. 
My small entourage, having our lunch in a halal restaurant in Ayuthaya
and the yummy coconut ice cream for the dessert
After refreshing ourselves and a short nap, we headed to Bonanza Khao Yai Hotel for the registration and race number collection. We had to deposit our drop bags (to be placed at any of the 5 checkpoints along the two-loop route) on the day prior to the race and for me, I just had one bag dropped at the CP5 (halfway and end of the race point). Inside the drop bag were my spare 2ndSkin race t-shirt, spare socks and shoes, powerbank in case I need to recharge my Garmin watch and my Petzl headlamp, energy gels and electrolyte powder for the second loop, a bun for lunch, and clean attire for post-race. We made a round at the race expo but there was nothing interesting for us there where booth of sponsors, in the likes of The North Face, Petzl, Tiger balm, and Garmin, were set up and offered discounts to their products.  Next up was the briefing which was made mandatory for 100km and 50km runners where attendance was collected. There were many questions thrown in by the participants following the briefing that touched on the rules, logistics, safeties, route information, among all. Not long after the briefing, we got back to our hotel, had dinner at the hotel’s restaurants before getting back into the room and have the final round of checks on the gears and equipment for the race day. I quickly fell asleep at 10pm before woke up again at 3am to get ready for the race. As I had been adequately loaded with foods the whole week and the night before, I just had a piece of ‘sambal ikan bilis’ bun I brought from Malaysia for my breakfast.

At the race pack collection
The final preparation before lights off, making sure the essentials are packed into the hydration bag
At the race site, it was lively, with eager participants making their final preparations and checks for the race. Met with familiar faces from Malaysia and ultra-runners from other countries, exchanged well wished, before going through the checks on our hydration bag, headlamp and hand phone as we entered the start pen. I was decked in 2ndSkin VaporLite team t-shirt, Kraftfit compression long bottom, Wrightsock Coolmesh II socks, Skechers GObionic Trail, Ultimate Direction Anton Krupicka Scott Jurek hydration vest and Nathan Gel Pak waist pouch to hold all the mandatory items and my energy supplements. I also used Garmin FR910XT watch and Petzl Tikka RXP as headlamp. Although this was my 6th 100km race attempt, I could still feel some jittery as we waited for the clock to strike 5am, the time for the flag-off. That short moment before the flag-off, I used to reflect the past five races I had finished before to refresh myself how it feels to finish a 100km race and that motivated me somehow. 
Sleepy faces. One group photo slightly before the flag off.
It was a cold morning, with temperature probably hovered around upper 10s or lower 20s degree Celcius, similar to last year. At 5am sharp, the 100km and 50km runners were flagged off and off we rushed into the short tarmac section before making it into the trail section in dark where the road and trail were just lighted up by our headlamps. The beginning part of the trail was already uneven and I had to be cautious with my steps as a slight misstep would twist my ankles which could mean the end to my race. It was pretty crowded in the first five kilometers especially when there were slight elevations when people stopped to walk which I felt a bit disturbing as it was still early in the race to start walking. Anyway, I guess it was a price for me to pay for not lining up in the few front rows at the start line and I took that as a great check on my pace so that I would not gone too fast too early in the race.  The route was marked by some directional signs like the red-white stripe ribbons, arrow marks on the road and the direction signs at junctions. Even with the markers, a bunch of us got confused when we arrived at a T-junction in the middle of the trail as we were unsure whether to go left or right. There were no ribbons or markers we could spot and there were a huge gap between the front pack and our pack so we could not trace the last runner in the front pack. One of us decided to take the left turn and saw a ribbon some 50 meters away so it should be the right path to take. It was these sorts of things that we need to pay attention to while running in a trail race. A lapse in concentration could cause you to miss a direction marker which will lead you to a wrong turn and you would soon found out yourself in the wrong way and had to backtrack costing you precious time and energy.          
The route map.
I reached CP1 at around KM10 without much problem and well within my targeted time. Talking about target time, I told couple of friends that if the route remains the same and the weather was nice as last year, I am targeting to finish an hour faster which is around 13 hours and 30 minutes. That turns into 6 hours and 7 hours split for both 50km loops with 30 minutes break in between. Unfortunately, the route was not the same as last year that I could not remember any part of the route was the same as last year. And as we crossed the timing mat at CP1, we were told that we would be entering the single track route, which was also quite a steep climb of almost 100 meter in height in about 1.3km. It was not really hard if I were to compare to the climbs in TMBT100 or Vibram HK100 events or even the climb in Mt. Datuk back home but it was just strange to see this kind of elevation exists in TNF100 Thailand. As it was a single track route, there was a very little room to overtake front runners. And as the trail was sandy and dry, it made it slippery with low traction to the shoes. A slight slip or misstep would see you tumbling down to the side of the hill or into the bush.
 
The different in elevation between this year’s and last year’s race.



The steepest climb. Not too nasty but never seen in TNF100 Thailand before
When you reached the top of the hill, it was time to stroll, down, and down along the steep trail which my Skechers GObionic Trail did well in giving a good traction. Luckily to the runners, too, that the morning has broken and it was time to tuck away the headlamp. It was a relief to have the natural light from the sun now but it was not for too long as the sun was out in full force as early as 8am. When I thought the sun here in Khao Yai would only work for few hours just like last year, I was wrong. The hope that the sun would ease off did not materialize until it was the time for it to set. This year, the sun worked overtime with blazing heat, all ten hours of the day, from 8am until 6pm. My friend even told me that it was so hot that his hair seems like turning into dried leaves even after pouring iced water at every CP. The rolling route that I think was okay and runnable now seems so hard to tackle under the searing heat. It was also dusty and even a slight drag of the feet would kicked up the dust to the air. My black shoes had long turn into brown, covered by the dust from the sand. It looked like I was walking on a desert. The heat took a toll on me that my pace dropped really badly from KM25 onwards, that I could not keep to the 7-minute pace and had to content with 8:30-ish to 9-minute pace per kilometer. It was so hard to get the legs to run even when it was on a flat route. From there onwards, I knew that 13hr 30mins finishing time seems hard to do and I would be happy just to finish the race at the earliest possible time. I was also thinking about those friends whom I told them that the weather was nice (last year) and true enough there were thinking a lot about me under the hot sun, lol!  
Crossing a desert? The dusty trail with rocks.
More uphills…
Not enough with the elevation, the sandy rolling trail and burnt bushes that we had to go through which means there were no trees to provide shelter to us, the ever killing sun, I got a lapse in my concentration as was just following the trail without paying much attention to the markers. I was alone entering the two-loop sections starting from KM35. As I had completed the first half of the first loop, I turned right into the second loop a kilometer later. The second loop was about 2.5km in distance with rolling elevation that went up close to 500 meters. As I exited the second loop, I should have turned right into the second half of first loop to complete the two loops. However, I was hallucinating, missed the marker, went straight and entered the second loop, again! As I was moving along the second loop (for the second time), I overtook newly-met runners (they were initially behind me but now were in front of me) which I thought was cool to see new faces. Not until halfway of the loop, when we had to go up a long climb, that I realized that this route looks so familiar. I asked one of the local participants whether he has done this loop twice and he asked me back “What do you mean twice?” By then I knew I had missed a turn somewhere and I had no other choice except to continue looking for the turn. It was too far off to backtrack. I moved faster to cover up the lost time. Not long after that, I saw the junction which I was supposed to turn right but instead I went straight ahead earlier. It could get real confusing there if you did not read the map carefully. Furthermore, there was no one manning the junction to direct runners to the right path or worse case to prevent runners to take a short cut by skipping the 2.5km loop. Anyway, it was all myself to blame for not paying careful attention to the markers (I think the brain has melted and can’t function well by the time) and I lost about 21 precious minutes to cover that additional 2.5km.

The lost section :-(
CP4 was the next stop, it was just a relief to get to the CP as we were headed back into sealed road section and knowing that it was just some ten kilometers to go to the halfway mark. I think most runners were relieved when they arrived at the next CP and to me, the race now is about getting from one CP to another. Why not? It was at the CPs where I get to replenish my drinks with and poured my head with iced water. It helped to cool down the body temperature although the head would turn dry again and ice in the bottles melt in less than two kilometers after each CP. They also served bananas (which I did not take at all) and juicy watermelons (which I consumed a lot!), and local brand, very sweet sports drink which I took sparingly at each CP. It was also at the CPs that I took a lengthy break, re-strategize my race or had light moments with the friendly volunteers, making jokes about the heat, the unripe bananas and how crazy we are, although I could hardly understand everything that they said, vice versa. The sealed road section after CP4 was followed by another trail section through some plantations/farms (which I did not bother to check out what was planted there) before we arrived at the end of the trail section and into the final 3km stretch of sealed road towards Simalin Hotel.

As I was running towards the CP5 or the halfway mark, I saw many 100km runners were already on their ways out for the second loop of the race. I arrived at CP5 in 6 hours and 46 minutes, way off than my 6 hours target initially. It was a quick stop for me, to retrieve my drop bag, change into new t-shirt, replenish my gels and electrolyte powder, ate few slices of water melons before going out from the transition area slightly before 7th hour. It was 12 noon at the time. There were no solid foods served at the CP as some people complained, which I think a logical thing to recommend to the organizer. However, I was not too hungry so, I just stuffed the bun into my hydration bag, in case I need to eat it along the route later. I had only been on gels, water melons, water and electrolyte drink all these while but I still think I could survive the next ten hours without solid foods. I felt refreshed after the short break and in the new t-shirt although it was also the time when the sun was striking at its full force.

Going out into the same loop for the second time can make or break your heart. I had once told someone before that the toughest part would be between KM60 to KM85 where it is not so much of the physical strength but the mental strength that would decide the fate of your race. Closing in to CP1, it was really hard to run, the body (especially the legs) became lazy as it has took so much punishment from the harsh weather, the throat became dried quickly that you need to take regular sip of water and I felt like I just want to stop and lie down but there were no shades around me to do just that. The sun did not show any sign of mercy even it was already 2pm. The whole body felt burning. I was down to walk the uphill and the flat sections and to jog the downhill sections. Even while walking the uphill sections, I would stop in the middle of the climb to pause and take a breather. At around KM65 I felt blister forming on the sole of my left feet. It was a big nightmare for me. I quickly took the shoes, remove any small stones from the sand but there were none. I guess it was the heat and the rubbing of the sole against the socks and the shoes’ insole that caused the blister to form. I applied a lot of baby lotion to the sole and put on my socks and shoes again before continuing with my race. It felt uncomfortable but I had to endure this. CP after CP passed with longer breaks this time around; I got to CP3 (KM75 or so) in around 11 hours and 35 minutes.

By this time it was not too hot as it was nearing sunset in two hours’ time. However, I lost track on my expected finishing time or should I say, I just did not bother about the timing anymore. But I reckoned it could be as fast as 15 hours or as late as 17 hours, judging from the pace I was going. Fortunately, going into the two-loop section I could strike a decent continuous run in a longer distance, but I still need to take a walk break every two kilometers of run or going uphill. The blister was not a problem. I was alone most of the time. I arrived at the junction where I missed the turn in the morning but more wisely this time to take the right turn and headed into CP9 for my last 10km stretch. Along the way, it was time to put on the headlamp again as it got darker by 6.15pm. Not long after that, I arrived at CP4 for the final CP before the finish. It was a point of no return, it was all about finishing. I bid farewell to the volunteers at the CP, thanked them for the job well done before headed on the dark sealed road section, lighted up only by my headlamp and the headlight from the marshal’s motorcycle that was escorting me. I thought the marshal would just escort me right up until the start of trail section to alert the oncoming vehicles on the road but, the motorcycle kept following me even in the trail section. I tried my best to run so that it would not make it hard for him to ride slow but at times I had to walk to catch up my breath and relaxed the legs. I could feel that my run got stronger as the night got colder.

It was until the hilly part with rocky trail that I lost the marshal as the motorcycle could not get into the trail. But by the time, I know the route well enough; I was not fear of anything moving into the bushy trail section. It was just about finishing the race. I got to the end of the trail section greeted by bunch of marshals who alerted me on the deep a drain like gully that I need to cross over. They also reminded me that it was just three kilometers left to the finish line and I replied with a big “Yeaahhhh” and flexed my arm to their amusement. It was no turning back from there onwards, with less than three kilometers of sealed road before hearing my name being announced by the emcee for completing my 100km at the 3rd edition of TNF100 Thailand. At that point of time, it could not be any other proudest moment than to cross the finish line and when the volunteer put on the medal around my neck, a hard earned medal that not many could earn it. It was 15 hours and 17 minutes on the race clock when I crossed the finish time, which I am totally satisfied even though it was almost an hour slower than my timing last year.

The victorious moment!
It was indeed a hard race. If you do not agree with me, let the statistics do the talking when only 41.9% of the 117 starters finished the race and I am one of the proud small fractions of the 41.9%. Three out of three TNF100 Thailand finish to make it six 100km race finish for me, would I come back to do TNF100 Thailand again? There is no other better place to run my anniversary 100km race than where it started in TNF100 Thailand.     
The three medals from the three TNF100 Thailand races

Friday, 14 February 2014

GARMIN MALAYSIA - TEAM 2NDSKIN 2014

Garmin Malaysia (AECO TECHNOLOGIES Sdn Bhd) have renewed their partnership with Team 2ndskin for the 2nd year running this 2014. Garmin are renowned worldwide for their popular GPS systems and a great range of sports related GPS tools. 

Team 2ndskin is decked out in Garmin systems like the FR910XT for triathlon, Fenix and FR620 for running and even the Edge series for cycling sports. These systems help very much in training and racing and provides excellent analysis that can be used for future improvement.

For 2014, Garmin Malaysia has taken their partnership one step further with Team 2ndskin by becoming our Premium Partner and at the same time providing funding for race fees registrations for all Team 2ndskin athletes.
Team Principal Eugene receiving 2014 race funding cheque from Garmin representative Ivan
Team 2ndskin is proud to be associated with Garmin as one of the giants in the sporting industry. We take this opportunity to thank Aeco Technologies Sdn Bhd for having faith in our team and for constantly supporting our drive for sporting excellence.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Ultra Running Nutrition & Hydration : Roy Yeow

All of us know the importance of hydration and nutrition in long distance running, but how do you plan your nutrition needs for ultra distance racing? Imagine being out on your feet for more than 24 hours, fighting fatigue and the cut-off timing, not to mention harsh weather conditions. Your hydration and nutrition could be the one thing that stands between you crossing the finish line, and you waving your hands and DNF-ing.

Roy gives us his thoughts on how he planned his nutrition and hydration for his recent Vibram Hong Kong 100km race.

Nutrition and hydration - a key area to endurance activities, yet, this is one area that is often overlooked during ultramarathons. This area is especially vital when it comes to trail ultra races when there is no easy accessibility to the route for supporters, no convenience shop along the route and chance of getting lost is there. Races of 100KM in the trail for most regular ultramarathoners can take from over 18 hours to 1.5 days long. Survival, apart from race performance is something that needs to be considered in these races. One of the basic needs for human obviously is water. There is a reason that race organizer insists for each participant to be able to carry a certain amount of hydration, and like it or not, water may be your life saver when you are lost in the jungle, dehydrated and delusional.

There is a need for participants to analyze each race and to come up with a plan for themselves. Having just completed Vibram HK 100K that took me almost a day, here is an example of how I planned for my nutrition and hydration need.

1) Firstly, analyze the race profile and understand the terrains that you are going through. 
Vibram HK 100K: Fairly smooth first 50K and lots of climb second 50K, this means I would probably slow down during the second half and need more hydration/nutrition to sustain me between checkpoints.

2) Estimate your completion time and then time you will pass through each checkpoint.
Vibram HK 100K: Based on estimated completion time of 22 hours, 10 hrs for the first 50K and then 12 hrs for the next 50K, I pinned point the time I would roughly go through the checkpoints.

3) Identify what is provided at each checkpoint.
Vibram HK 100K: This race is like a food haven - cup noodles, breads, chocolates, biscuits, soup, fried rice, noodles, coke, water, isotonic are provided at different checkpoints.

4) Identify your nutrition and hydration needs, and plan it out.
Vibram HK 100K: My needs are divided into 3 areas - Hydration, solid food and energy food. As the checkpoints served solid food, I will leave it to the organizer for that and plan to load up my bag with energy food and hydration. The selection is fairly simple for me as I will go fully on Hammer Nutritions. 

For hydration, I will load up 1.2l of water in my bladder + 500ml of Hammer Heed electrolytes drink in a bottle. I will ratio between 4 sips of Heed and 1 for water every 30 minutes. Once I ran out of Heed, I will replenish with the isotonic provided by the organizer. I left one pack of Heed at the 5th checkpoint dropbag to replenish at the half way mark.

For energy food, 1 Hammer Bar was consumed prior to the start of the race and subsequently, every 45 minutes, one Hammer Perpetuem Solids was taken to provide boost to me. With 4 Perpetuem Solids and 4 Hammer Gels in my bag, I have plenty of energy food to sustain me in case I am out in the trail longer than expected.

For solid food, I just stick to the time and will go for the food at the relevant checkpoint based on our regular lunch/dinner break. There is also a plan for a longer break and loading up of food at the half way checkpoint 5.
Complete race hydration and nutrition options from Hammer Nutrition
Obviously, a plan is just a plan and adjustment is required once the race start. Manage the changes as required and adjust the need based on actual situation. In Vibram HK, I ended up doing 24 hours instead of 22 hours that I was expecting. With the additional gels and solids that is available, I do not have any issue with that. I also make sure that I have enough water in my bag at every checkpoint before proceeding on.
In all, 1 fried rice, 1 noodles, 2 cup noodles, breads/chocolates/biscuits, 2 packs of Hammer Heeds electrolytes drink, 3 Hammer Perpetuem Solids, 2 Hammer Gels and 1 Hammer Bar were consumed throughout the journey.

Once the race is over, recovery food is vital and for me, it was the hot tomato soup at the finishing point and Hammer Recoverite before heading down to the city for a proper breakfast of Hong Kong Wan Ton Noodles.

Signing up for an ultramarathon is easy (what more with more ultra races in Malaysia this year), training for one is tough, but preparing for the unforeseen circumstances is vital. Do put in some thought on nutrition and hydration the next time you head out for an ultra race. Team 2ndskin is available here
http://www.team2ndskin.blogspot.com/p/ask-expert.html if you want specific advice on how to prepare for your needs. Till the next adventure, happy training!