Monday, 29 September 2014

Penang 100 Race Report (Part Two) : Deo Azrul

Sweating yet? This is Part 2 of Deo's Report. An Ultra Run deserves an Ultra Report. What say you?

This is the second from three parts of my ultra marathon journey in the recent Penang 100. I thought I just want to keep it in two parts but I got carried away and it turned out to be a long entry just for the first 50km of the race, so there'll be part three :p 

You may read the first part of the story here... 

As mentioned earlier, everyone (I think) was in joyful mood when the race was flagged off. But still there were signs of nervousness shown on the face of some of the competitors. I was also nervous but at the same time was eager to take on the race and cover each kilometer of it as fast as possible. The start of the race was easy for me and I felt great. The night was a little cooling except the early part of the race when it was really humid from the carbon monoxide gas emitted from the vehicles when we maneuvered our ways out from the city. We ran from Esplanade towards Queensbay Mall via a busy streets of Georgetown into Lebuhraya Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu, the familiar route for previous Penang Bridge Marathon. Luckily we didn’t have to run on the elevated highway with rolling elevation. Instead, we went on the walk- and bicycle-path that also runs underneath Penang Bridge. So it was all flat for this first section. At the beginning, while I was tempted to run ahead of the crowded pack of runners, I was still mindful with Khairul. I don't want to run too fast and lose him from sight at the very early stage of the race and at the same time I can't move too slow as I knew this will bored him as he was already a faster runner. At the beginning I had to lookout where he was and slowed down a little to wait for him to catch up but it was not for long as he got into his rhythm soon enough to run side by side with me at our comfortable pace. And most of the time, it was him running in front of me which I had to caution him to slow down a little as it was still a long journey to go and we were still on track with our target. We arrived at CP1 (KM12.8) near the Queensbay Mall in around 1 hour and 20 minutes, 5 minutes ahead of our target. While many runners were seen making a really fast stop at CP1 (and some didn’t even stop), I took my time to refill my hydration bottle, and study the pace target for the next section. Then, we took off, continuing with our pace from the first section.
Early in the race when we went on the walker/biker path that runs underneath Penang Bridge. Khairul was pacing me strongly.
The second section of the race took us from Queensbay Mall to Bayan Lepas via Batu Maung. Right after Queensbay Mall was the sea-side road in the Bayan Lepas Industrial Area, which was the first section of the previous Penang Bridge Marathon route. We overtook quite a number of runners (mix of 84km and 100km runners) along this stretch and soon found out that there were hardly many people in front and at the back of us. I told myself, we couldn't be among the front runners as we hadn't overtook the likes of Seow Kong, Ewegene Tan, Munintaran, Aliakbar and some others. I also wondered how many runners actually started the race as it shouldn't be this lonely early into the race. Anyway, it was not too lonely in the end as I still have Khairul (although we hardly talk to each other) and we occasionally exchanged places with a group of three or four runners around us. While I kept ensuring that we keep our pace to the intended timing, I got confused with where I was that time. For example, I thought we had passed the airport long time ago but later, we arrived again at the side of the airport runway fence. I thought we had passed Bayan Lepas much earlier, only to realize that we were still in Bayan Lepas, before gradually moved into Batu Maung and Damar Laut area. I was a lot in disorientation mode of my location and whereabout. The only clear to me was how long I was from the next water station, the intended ETA at the water station and my current timing, which was still within target. CP2 at around KM25 arrived in 2 hours and 42 minutes, giving us an 8-minute buffer. We took a little longer break here as it was not crowded with runners when we arrived. We got the attention from the volunteers who personally asked us what we would like to have and help us with refilling our hydration bottles and more. I was also glad that we had already covered one-fourth of the race, which I think we ran quite hard (to ultra marathon standard) at 6:43-minute pace on average.
Third section of the race, from Kampung Bukit in Bayan Lepas to Kampung Genting (in the Sg Nipah/Balik Pulau area) via Teluk Kumbar, was around some small towns and housing area. It was still alright, there were still people out on the streets doing their chores so that kept me awake and alive! We were still running strongly until we arrived at the elevated Lebuhraya Gelugor. Prior to the race, when I looked at the elevation profile, this hilly route didn't look that difficult to deal with. It is just 135m maximum elevation. But, when you've actually ran this route and have been running for 30km or so, running up this 135m elevated highway was like running up Mount Kinabalu to me. So, I told Khairul to run if he could but I would stick to just walk the uphill section. We got few runners overtook us during the uphill but I don't give a damn. All in my mind was to ensure that I don't waste a lot of my energy during this uphill section. After about three kilometers going uphill, it was time to run downhill and we did that briskly and recovered the lost time during the uphill section earlier. Soon after the downhill run, we arrived at the CP3 around KM35 at SK Genting, a bigger CP with all the facilities a school can offer (especially toilets) are in one place. We arrived at the CP3 in about 3 hours and 55 minutes, 5 minutes off than what we targeted. I knew I underestimated the Lebuhraya Gelugor climb when I planned for our target. 
Sleep-running? Naaahhh... just enjoying the night breeze...
[photo by Orange Photography]
As in other checkpoints, there were many essentials being served/prepared at each checkpoint. I turned out to have a routine things to do at every checkpoint (except for the mid-way CP of KM50), where I would first refill my hydration bottles with plain water in one bottle and with Endurolyte Fizz mixed with water in the other bottle, then I would either consume a banana or two pieces of dates, and finally I would apply a slab of Perskindol gel (hot) onto my legs which was really helpful to re-start my runs after each break at checkpoints. It kind of injected fresh energy to my leg muscles which would last for the next four to five kilometers, which was good enough as it was already halfway to the next checkpoint. I checked the runners check-in sheet from one of the volunteers and found out that Khairul and I were in the 20-ish positions (including 84km runners) so I thought that was something to cheer about (and to work hard on, in order to keep to that position!). We got out of CP3 without me realizing it was also the start venue for 50km runners. I got to know from some of the 84km and 100km runners who arrived later at CP3 that the place got a little crowded with 50km runners flocking the place where their race will start at 3am. 

The fourth section of the race was the most bored, dreaded section with dead straight, dead long and dead flat stretch. It got really boring and hard to run when it came to flat route. Not even a hump or some small inclines at the beginning of this section that we could gain some momentum to keep us going. It was all up to the legs to do the job. We had to resort to walk-break strategy and I got a little frustrated at this point. However, I was still thankful that it was still dark when we ran this stretch. If this stretch was done on daylight, it will very mentally challenging. Khairul was still looking strong but he needs to train how to walk faster as he often trailed behind when we walked but caught up with me when we started running again. Not long after we passed this long stretch and two Muslim cemetery sites, I noticed Khairul became restless following my slower pace so I told him to go ahead but don't lose too much energy. I told him to wait for me at CP5/KM50 but if it took me too long to arrive there, I asked him to just continue his race without me. Like an eager puppy been unleashed, he sped off and soon he was gone from my sight. Again, I didn't know where I was but from the Garmin Connect I checked later, we ran somewhere that passed Kampung Perlis, Kampung Sungai Burung, Kampung Bagan Air Hitam, Kampung Permatang Pasir, Kampung Sungai Rusa, and Kampung Sungai Pinang. Slightly under 50km, I arrived at CP4 in 5 hours and 50 minutes. It was almost 3am.
At CP5 (half way, drop bag check point), I was geared up and ready to go for the second half of the race.
[photo by Orange Photography]
I was greeted by Shannon Ong when I entered CP4 located at another school compound. Khairul has already arrived but had some bad luck as the volunteers couldn't locate his drop bag. He looks a little frustrated while kept looking for his bag. Fortunately he found it shortly after browsing each bag there and they couldn't locate it earlier as the number tag inside the plastic bag provided has flipped face down and the volunteers couldn't identify the bag actually belongs to which race number. Maybe the organizer could provide a sticker-type baggage tag or the hard card-type which you attach to a string and tie it around the baggage, for clear visibility. By the time Khairul found his bag, I was already in the middle of what I was supposed/planned to do at CP5 - recharging my Garmin watch, my phone, my headlamp, refilling my hydration, refilling my Hammer nutritions, bathe a little to cool off my head and my body, change my top, stuffing all the daylight/morning gear into my hydration vest for later usage. I told Khairul that I would get out of this place very soon as I wanted to keep this break to just 15 minutes. I ate a little of the foods served there - a bowl of delicious, hot porridge, bananas and had a cup of coffee, which I knew would be able to keep me full until around noon. Jason Tan was also there volunteering at CP4. He was very helpful and attentive to what I needed until I had to tell him few times to not worry about me and I could get whatever I want by myself. When I was about to take off, I gave some advice to Khairul. I told him to keep going, don't go too fast and watch his pace carefully. I told him there was still a lot of time and if he could catch up with me, we'll see each other again. He looks clueless like something in his head telling "Oh no! I'm all on my own now..." but deep inside me, I knew he would finish it off as he had not just survived the first 50km but he did it very well and strongly, stronger than many other seasoned ultra marathoners that night.

50km done, 50km to go with two bad ass hills to deal with, and I was all alone... 

to be continued... 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Penang 100 Race Report (Part One) : Deo Azrul

Team Athlete Deo Azrul Hussien Penang 100 Race Report. Reading it made me sweat. Rather detailed and this is Part 1 of 2. Despite completing many ultra runs, Deo truly believe that no two runs are the same, and it is often best to go in better prepared than "just prepared". This is his report.
Penang 100 Race Report (Part One) 
This is the first of two parts of my ultra marathon journey in the recent Penang 100, an inaugural event held in the beautiful island of Penang. I managed to complete the race in 14 hours and 45 minutes and it was my 8th 100km ultra marathon to date.

Here is the first part of the story...

For a distance runner like me, who would not jump into the opportunity to run around the Penang Island, one of the beautiful and most recognizable places in Malaysia? So, when Penang 100 Ultramarathon race was announced, nothing could hold me back than signing up for the event. Knowing the capability of the Race Director, who is an ultramarathoner himself, and that the race is backed by the State Government, I knew it will be a successful event. While the 84km Round the Penang Island category was already sexy enough for me to sign up, the chance for me to scale up Bukit Bendera (or Penang Hill) for additional 16km was even more sexier and attractive. So, I decided to sign up for the 100km Challenge category. The 100km category was really making a big hit among runners in Malaysia as the category was quickly filled up, as compared to the other two categories, which had the organizer expanded the quota to cater the demand.

While traveling alone to marathon and ultramarathon races have never been a problem to me, going with other like-minded friends would always be more awesome. Once I’ve done with my registration, it was time to lure some other close friends to register, and that includes Khairul, already having multiple marathons under his belt but never did an ultramarathon race of any distance. He was skeptical at first about signing up for the race but I assured him that we will train and prepare together. And that was what we did, especially in the final two months prior to Penang 100, which I had blogged earlier here.

Approaching the day with heightened anticipation and nervousness, I was lucky to get some tips and insights on what to expect from another friend who did a similar round-the-island event, which was the 84km Starlight, held few weeks earlier than Penang 100. But I still couldn’t get information how to handle the Bukit Bendera section and how tough it would be. The only information that I could gather was that it would be a 700m+ hike over some 5km distance. So it would be a steep uphill which could be torturous especially after you’ve been moving on your foot for 80km+ in more than 10 hours or so. Going steep on uphill also means going steep on downhill which if you’re not careful enough, could cause joint pains as well as aggravate muscular cramps, or may even cause your toenails to peel off. So, Bukit Bendera section kept me worried until I actually faced it off on the race day. And apart from it, I was worried on how I would cope with the night race – having to stay awake during my usual sleeping hours, as the race would start at 9pm and finish the next day at 3pm (for the 18-hour cutoff). 

Just by studying the elevation profile from the race official website, I don’t think it gives a justice on how tough the overall route is. From the elevation profile, there were three uphill sections that you must deal with including the Bukit Bendera section, where the other two are the elevated Lebuhraya Gelugor that takes you from Teluk Kumbar to Kg. Genting in Balik Pulau (max elevation of 104m) and the other one just after the 50km CP that takes you from Balik Pulau to Teluk Bahang (max elevation of 219m). Of course, these two sections were dwarfed by Bukit Bendera section which has the max elevation of 703m. And besides these three elevated sections that we had to deal with, there were other smaller rolling sections littered throughout the race route. Although there were just a little climbs, they were enough to give a cry to the already sore muscles. While going uphill would be rewarded by the downhill sections where you could use the momentum to run, running on flat sections were not any easier as we need to continue moving the legs to get ourselves moving. And there were a lot of flat sections throughout the whole route, as well, especially the long, dreaded section between CP2 an CP3 around Damar Laut or Teluk Kumbar area where we passed two Muslim cemetery sites.
The 100km race route
and the route elevation profile

My entourage arrived in Penang by flight on Saturday morning, and right away we treated ourselves with the sumptuous foods of Penang – the curry, nasi briyani, ayam tandoori, which were abundant around where we stayed at Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, just less than a kilometer away from the race start/finish and race pack collection venue at the Esplanade (or Padang Kota Lama). As it was still early to check in at the Red Inn Court (a nice, affordable, clean, spacious hostel-like accommodation), we went ahead with the race pack collection and soon met with many other familiar runners there. There were a few of them that I haven’t seen for a while so there were a lot of things to catch up. Sponsors paraded their booths with merchandise from energy gel to gears and there was also a booth by the newly-formed Malaysian Ultra Runners Association (MURA) whose President is non-other than Mr. Ng Seow Kong, Malaysian most recognizable and most accomplished ultramarathoner. MURA’s presence there was to promote the association to the running fraternity as well as to drive memberships. 
With the President of MURA, Mr. Ng Seow Kong, at the race pack collection site.
[photo by Man Baik]
After lunch, we headed back to Red Inn Court to check in, packing up our stuffs for our battle that night and that the next day, getting some rests before waking up for some light meals before getting ourselves to the race venue. When I was expecting to take a nap for an hour or two, it just didn't happen. And I was tossing left and right on the bed trying to force myself to sleep without success. In the end, it was time for me to be back on my feet and I was just hoping that I would survive the night and that my body would not force me to take a short nap while in the race which could be time costly to me. 

So, for the race, I've decided to go with my neon vaporlite 2ndSkin team t-shirt for the first 50km and the black one for the second 50km, Kraftfit short compression bottom, Wrightsock socks (with spare pair at the 50km CP which I didn't use), Team Spyder's Tank H shades which I put in the drop bad and used only after I exited from Bukit Bendera park (as the weather stayed overcast with a little sunshine), Ultimate Direction's Anton Krupicka hydration vest with two 600ml bottles, Garmin 910XT that I recharged for 5-minutes midway of the race to ensure the power lasts until the end of the race, Petzl Tikka RXP headlamp and the reliable Skechers GOrun Ultra Nite Owl, which also helped me to finish the Beaufort 100km race in June. 

For my nutrition, I brought eight sachets of Hammer gel, four sachets for each 50km, of which I eventually consumed three in the first 50km and only one in the second 50km, two tubs of Hammer perpetuem solids, which I only consumed two capsules throughout the race, two tubs of Hammer Endurolyte Fizz which I religiously put into my water bottle everytime I refill them and few caps of Hammer anti-fatigue tablets. The main reason why I didn't consume much gels and solids was because of the sufficient foods at each check points where the organizer provided bananas, dates (which I think was really helpful), and solid meals in form of porridge at the 50km CP.
Khairul packing up his stuff for his maiden ultra marathon race later that night.
We made ourselves to the race venue around 7.50pm. Did what was required – putting the drop bags into the lorry that will transport them to the 50km CP and went through the mandatory check on mandatory items, before it was time for the customary photo sessions with other runners as well as exchanging well wishes. I reckoned that there were some 600-700 runners from both 84km and 100km categories. The Chief Minister was there to flag off the participants and slightly after 9pm, the runners were flagged off. The 50km runners will be flagged off later somewhere along the route (at the CP3 if I'm not mistaken). I was in joyous mood, haven’t done 100km race since the last one in Beaufort in June. For this race, as there were cut-off time for every CP, I’ve prepared a pace note to help me with my pace. The note comes complete with the cutoff time set by the organizer at each water station and my target time of arrival. And I had two sets of targets – one is the fast target which is to complete the race under 15 hours and the other one is the slow one, to complete under 17 hours and 30 minutes. I held on to the notes tightly throughout the race and it has proven very useful as I managed to get to every checkpoint as per my target. Wherever and whenever I fell behind the target (especially when I had to slow down to overcome the hilly sections), I would cover it up by going a little faster on downhill or flat sections.
Not underestimating the challenge ahead but everyone was in joyous mood at the start line that night.
Part 2 : Next!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Lifeline-ID and Team 2ndskin Collaboration

Team 2ndskin is proud to announce a new collaboration with Lifeline-ID who are the makers of wearable ID that allow others to be able to reach your loved ones or to provide medical support in an emergency or accident.

We at Team 2ndskin are very aware of the importance of such a feature and with our active lifestyles and at frequent times, solo training runs and rides in the wee hours of the day, having peace of mind that in the event of any untoward incident, our emergency contacts can be notified immediately. 

For those with medical conditions or allergies, this Lifeline-ID also serves as the first page of critical information especially to care-givers and emergency response personnel.

Lifeline-ID. Wear it always. Anywhere. Anytime. Check it out at

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Packing Your Bike For Flight

I started packing my bike with cardboard box since my very first Ironman. Being a student, I had to find the cheapest and the most economical way of doing everything. Cardboard box is easily found in almost all bike shops, they don’t need it anyway. This time around, my 4th Ironman in the making, I’m gonna pack up my bike. Over the years I’ve learned some tricks and now I’m gonna share with all Team2ndskin blog readers how to pack your bike with a cardboard box.

At this super nervous period of time, I’ll try to keep myself occupied so that I won’t feel panic with less than 4 days to Ironman. I guess writing article will help. =) Today I went out to a local bike shop, found a used but decent bike box for my bike, roughly measured the size and I bought the box with RM2. I walked a few blocks down to an electrical shop, bought two InsuFlex tubes at the cost of RM20, happily drove home.

Step 1. Layout everything and start taping the bottom of the box. Keep in mind that the bottom has got to carry the weight of your bike, the heavier it is, the stronger it needs to be.

Step 2. Mark your handle bar position, aero bar and everything else that you intend to dismantle. You don’t wanna be doing a new bike fit at this critical time. Use a brighter coloured marker pen and be sure than the surface is free from grease.

Step 3. Mark your saddle height with an electric tape. This method is better than marker pen because it stops the saddle at the exact position when you assemble it.

Step 4. Blank off the seat tube with a chunk of newspaper, insects might creep in if the bike is kept in the box for a long time. (happened to me before)

Step 5. Wrap up top tubes, down tubes, seat tubes, downstay, chainstay and forks with InsuFlex. It works as an excellent impact absorber protecting the bike frame.

Step 6. Drop the Rear Derailleur and Front Derailleur to the lowest gear position to preserve the spring tension, and prevent gears from jumping when you shift later.

Step 7. Dismantle the handlebar (and aero bar if u have one) using an Allen Key. I keep my aero bar loosely attached to my handle bar for easier installation later. 

Step 8. Step on the pedal with your body weight and pull the Allen Key towards you to unscrew the pedal. The pedal is screwed against the crank arm rotational direction so that it gets tighter as you pedal. 

Step 9. Take off the wheelset and wrap the bottom of the fork. This part will make contact with the bottom of bike box, better to protect it with some cushion in case of impact. 

Step 10. Unscrew the Rear Derailleur with an Allen Key, secured it nicely by taping it to the chainstay. This gives you slightly more space in the box.

Step 11. Take off the quick release, wrap it up with a bubble wrap or a used towel so that it won’t go missing. 
Step 12. I’d like the bottom of my box to have some polystyrene so that my chain ring (sharp teeth) won’t penetrate this recycled bike box =p
Step 13. Once everything is properly secured and taped, the bike is ready to enter the box. 

Step 14. Slowly position the bike into the box, put in some cushion at the side and every contact area. For example, the wheels and the bike. Some bike box is big enough that the rear wheel need not to be removed, so be creative. Put in all other accessories such as bottles, pedals, quick release, pumps and so on as long as it doesn’t exceed your allowed baggage weight.

Step 15. Remember that how much of tape you need to pack this box, that’s the amount of tape you’ll need to repack it later.

I hope these tips will help all of you to pack your bike better for future races. If you have better packing method, do share with us =)

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.