Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The North Face Hong Kong Race Report : Roy Yeow

"Did-Not-Finish" or DNF happens in races. You may be a good runner, have many races finish under your name, all it takes is one turn of event and your race changes. We have seen it many times, experienced it ourselves - but it takes a lot of courage to call it a day and learn from it. Team athlete Roy Yeow went through this in the TNF Hong Kong race, and this is his story. 
The TNF Hong Kong Race Report, sort of.
Being away from trail running for most of the 2nd half of 2014 to focus on Ironman Langkawi, makes me look forward to this race. With elevation of over 6000 meters, and a cutoff of 27 hrs, it is one of the toughest race in Hong Kong. Having done Vibram HK 100 and TransLantau 100 this year, the thought completing another 100KM in HK is encouraging. However, having heard of the horror story from 2013 where it was pouring cats and dogs, I was cautious of this race and was checking out the weather forecast daily weeks prior to this race.
Bib collection with David Wong from Singapore. 
This will not be the regular race report, as this is probably not a report as I DNF this race. Here's how it goes:

Opting to stay in the city instead of the hostel at the starting point, I arrived at the starting point with plenty of time to spare. With the cold weather, it was a challenge to keep warm. Starting close to the front helps to clear some traffic as the road narrows into single file trail about 800 meters into the race.
However, immediately I can sense that this race will not be my race as the feeling of tiredness 1KM into the race is not normal. The game plan at this point suddenly changed and troubleshooting of what is the condition of the body was working over time. As I continue on, the clumsiness of my steps up the first hill was obvious. With limbs that are not as balanced as regular runners, the immediate step at this point of time is to focus and ensure I get to the next checkpoint in one piece.

Even though I still managed to move at the planned pace, the clumsiness and tiredness lingered on. The troubleshooting so far came to a very simple conclusion - I am not ready and capable to complete this 100KM race. Unlike many runners that runs to fan their ego to the world, the simple acceptance of own condition allows for a simple decision, I will dropped off the race. Knowing there are more torturing hills, the thought of putting myself in danger going through the tougher hills in front is not a wise idea. After all, what is a race when there are more important things in life (and I am not even referring to Facebook updates btw).
With Dr. Wong along the route. Photo courtesy of Dr. Wong Fook Seong and Tan Kim Lai

There are still one issue though. I have left my walking pole at checkpoint 4 which is still a overwhelming 30KM away. Having went through the possibility on the plate, I decided to just walk to that point. The rest of the journey was not without any actions but to spare all from the details, I managed to reach checkpoint 4 with about 2 hrs to spare to cut off.

Met fellow Malaysian there and as he has lost his walking pole at that checkpoint, I offered mine to allow him to move on. What a joy when you stepped back and knows you enabled others to achieve their goal. This is far more meaningful things in life rather than idolising oneself to the world.
Beuatiful landscape
As more Malaysian passed by, I wish them the best and waited for another friend that I know is struggling behind. Again, stepping back and helped others when they are in trouble is as joyful as completing own race. Since this race has an unique feature of allowing 100KM runners to downgrade to 50KM at this point, it was an option for me to get back to the finishing line and get my stuffs. Having said that, a DNF is a DNF, even though I completed the 50KM within the cutoff time and was given an official time and medal. I came to this race with an intention to run 100KM, so anything less than completing a 100KM is a DNF. Yup, not happy to DNF obviously but learning to accept it as it is will allows us to run without the stress and just enjoy the day - race or training.

What I've learnt from this DNF.
This blog entry is all about how to be positive when things are not going the way you want it to be. Looking at the positive in life when other things are not going smoothly. Failure to complete a race does not makes us a failure, failure to accept things as it is is a failure. Challenges like this is what makes running and life interesting. This race has shown many sides of humans - ugly and beautiful included - but guess positivity only comes when you look at the bright  and the good side. 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

First date with Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 : Deo Azrul

This is my personal review, and it is from someone who's not fond of minimalist or 0mm drop shoes and who always believe that my previous plantar fasciistis was due to the minimalist shoes that I used from other brand than Skechers during the early days of my running life. Since the days I was plagued with plantar fasciitis, I have been running in shoes with more cushion. My impression on these 0mm drop shoes is always about speed, short distance, racer, podium winner, of which none of the phrases fits me really well. I have always been on the opposite of those phrases. 

Anyway, I got trusted enough by Skechers Malaysia to let me test and review GOmeb Speed 3 before the shoes arrived on Malaysia's shore. After having careful thought about the shoes, especially worrying if I might suffer from the plantar fasciitis problem again, I told myself that I shall try this shoes for my short weekday runs (at the max of 10km) while adding on a little speed. In addition, although it is the speed, fit-for-racing, fly-like-a-bird, and ideal-for-short-distance shoes, the 4mm-drop-but-feels-like-0mm gives me some relieve that I will still get some level of cushioning from the shoes. But before I took the shoes to the street, let me present to you the unboxing part, literally, as the shoes didn't come in box as it was shipped directly from the factory, I was informed. 

The embossed 'Speed 3' word in contrast color.
The GOmeb Speed 3 was first made available to the public at the NYC Marathon in early November although it was first seen worn by Meb Keflezighi en route to winning the Boston Marathon 2014. Aesthetically and technologically, there are few differences and improvements from the previous version of GOmeb Speed. Although I didn't own any of the GOmeb series shoes (and obviously never worn one), I can see stark difference in terms of the construction of the upper as well as the outsole. 
They look a lot different! Speed 3 (above) vs Speed 2 (below)
[photo taken from Sam's Running, People, Places and Things
The upper design is more attractive with nice, contrasting color and design than its elder brother. The printed mesh fabric and synthetic is also thinner and nearly weightless to make the shoes lighter (I guess) and definitely speedier (I reckon). It also promotes breathability and allows quick drying (of sweat and water). If you put up the shoes against the light or the sun, you can see that the upper fabric is transparent, confirming how thin it is. The Skechers' famous S logo is bolder and bigger than in previous version while the word "Speed 3" on the tongue was also reinforced by embossing and rubberized it to make it stand out more. Above all the improvements to the upper, I love two things the most - 1) The 'Chevron'-like design of the midsole (that reminds me of the logo of TMNet, company that I worked before), which gives a fresh breathe and live to the shoes, and 2) the reinforced eyelets, especially the top 2 which spotted contrast color stitching around the eyelets. 
I love the slick and macho look of the shoes; the 'Chevron' design at the midsole makes it looks very speedy!
The reinforced eyelids - making putting on the shoelace something interesting and easier now!
Other significant improvements to GOmeb Speed 3 is the outsole. First is the re-positioning of the circular GOimpulse sensors, which is claimed to give a more responsive running experience. Although the number of the sturdier rubber (colored) sensors remain the same as in GOmed Speed 2, the number of smaller and softer sensors have been reduced significantly and replaced by triangular shape of sensors. The design of the circular sensors have been reinforced which I think should give better traction as well longer life to the outsoles. Another major difference that Skechers promote with the shoes is the black plate in the midfoot, which is the stability plate that is constructed using Dupont Delrin™ material Stability Plate, that is smaller than before, which they said to provide a supportive and secure run with less weights.
They improvement on the outsole. Speed 3 (right) vs Speed 2 (left)
[photo taken from Sam's Running, People, Places and Things
One of the few things that were briefed to me about the shoes was the flexibility where you can twist and bend the shoes, unlike the normally stiff racer shoes. It is proven true when I took the shoes out for my short runs when it feels very responsive to the flex of my feet especially during take-offs. And the cushioning (you're not aware that it even exists in the shoes) makes the shoes really comfortable yet speedy due to its lightweight profile. And when I always feel a certain level of pain after wearing 'thin sole' or 'stiff' shoes (either sports or casual shoes), I don't feel any pain with GOmeb Speed 3. It is very comfortable, especially while running on a rubber track (around KLCC Jogging track) for some speedwork. I couldn't testify for its comfort in a longer runs on tarmac as the longest run longer I've ever done on tarmac was 8km. The other thing that I noticed about this shoe is the roomier toe box for my feet, contrast to other racer shoes.

What I told my friends about GOmeb Speed 3 is that the shoes certainly gives some speed to me due to its lightweight and the ample cushioning for comfortable landing as well as well as the responsiveness for effective takeoff. 

The shoes will be available in Malaysian market in January 2015, and shall be a good choice for those aiming to break the old PBs especially in shorter races ;)

Note: This pair of Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 is sponsored by Skechers Malaysia via collaboration with Team 2ndSkin Asia athletes program. The review above is of my own experience and is not influenced in any ways by Skechers Malaysia or Team 2ndSkin Asia. 

Monday, 8 December 2014

The Otterbox Salomon Action Asia Trail Run Race Report - Roy Yeow

Remember this race late last month? Yeah, I reckon you all may (if you took part) especially the waist deep mud you have to swim through. Today, we have Roy helping you to relive the dirty moments.
The Otterbox Salomon Action Asia Trail Run Race Report

OtterBox Salomon Action Asia Malaysia on 30 Nov 2014 at Janda Baik was a new race that caught my attention when it was announced. This was simply because Janda Baik is such a beautiful place and it is full of hills.

Starting from Frenz United Football Academy, it was actually quite a nice place for a race. The field and the big hall allows for a great setup of event site, with a great view of the mountains and the cooling midst.
The view of the start gantry
Race started from the field, we turned left into tarred road and then left again into the main road in Janda Baik. About 1KM into the race, we were diverted into the trail. And that's where the fun begins. Although the race is only 18KM, it was not easy. The organizer has ensure that there are plenty of climbs, although mostly not as long as in ultra races, but it does challenge your fitness as runners up their intensity for shorter race. What more with the continuous rain before the event, this race became a real mud-fest.

The elevation chart by the organizer shows what is to be expected for this race, a lot of climbs and before you can take a breather, more climbs appear right in front of you. With the muddy terrain, there is a chance that for every few steps you take, you will slide down one step - taking more effort than you normally do to climb the same hill.

Elevation chart provided by organizer warned what is to be expected

That's it guys, one step at a time to go up this steeeeeepppppp hill
Here is the route of this race from my Garmin watch. The loop looks nice on 2D although if you are running it, the elevation just makes it 100x harder. From the map itself, you can see that there are actually two rivers crossing. With the rain days before, the water level was at knee level and current was strong, making it a bit tad dangerous for those that do not know how to swim. This is one area that I thought the organizer can improve on when it comes to the safety of the participants.
Runners enjoying the cooling water...
Route on Garmin Connect
Apart from dipping yourself in the river, the highlight of the race is definitely dipping oneself in mud (see below). There were horror story of one being stuck in there and no one around to help them, shoe getting lost inside the mud etc. Again, probably would be helpful if the organizer have some volunteers around to help those in trouble, especially since this race was promoted to elderly as well.
This is like a booby trap! One wrong step and you get to do mud facial!
After all the adventure, the race ended on the same field with not much fun-fare. Grab your medal, cert, water and clean yourself up. That's it, if you enjoy the race, see you next year. If adventure is not your game, then avoid this race and stick with road running!
Self service water station - help yourself to the juices!!! 
Beautiful route, if you do not mind the hills
The name of game for trail running - get dirty!
Natural obstacle.... runners helping each other out.
Team 2ndskin - Deo and Roy before the race starts - still fresh and clean. Lucky no photo of us after the race - dirty and smelly........

*Photos credited to Lim Soon Chung, Barkley Wong, Jimmy Aw Yang

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Tip of the month : Lacing System For Narrow Shoes

Jun Shen has too much time to spare and often comes out with tips to share with us. Today, he shares an alternative lacing system to help with some of us bestowed with wider than usual feet. Read on to find out more.
Here comes another tip of the month from me. Normally my write up is pretty random. Whatever problem that I face in my training, I’ll write it in tip of the month once I solved the problem. As for this month, I’m gonna share about lacing system. Some shoes were made to be narrow, but some runners were born with fat wide feet. What if your favourite racing shoes is a little tight at the toe box area, but there’s no wider variants for that particular model? Some runners might try to loosen the lace, but compromise on the fit around ankle area which caused them blisters. Some tried the Locklaces with better flexibility, also hugs the feet more evenly, but you wish the elastic laces don’t hug your wide forefoot so tightly. In every long distance races, shoes fit are extremely important. The feet tend to swell over time, so sometimes comfortable fit might turn into tight fit. By changing the lacing system, you’ll have more control over the shoes fit without spending a single cent.
The Skechers GoMeb Speed2
The conventional lacing system is just like what our parents taught us, criss cross every single hole and finish it with a butterfly knot. This type of lacing method gives an even fit around the feet. Generally, once the shoes is too narrow, people will just ditch it out of their wish list, find another wider model.

Here is the suggested solution. I’m not saying the shoes can magically grow one size bigger. This lacing system loosen the forefoot without compromising on the snug fit around ankle area. It skips the criss cross method for first three holes, start the crossing after the third hole. 
May potential help
The frontal area becomes more spacious allowing the toes to spread comfortably during transition between foot strike and toe off.

Hopefully this tip helps =) Do let me know your feedback

Monday, 1 December 2014

Skechers GoRun Bolt FitKnit Review : TriStupe

A bit delayed with today's post as the team has been busy lately with a few things. We are back again this week and most of you has already read the unboxing of the new GoRun Bolt FitKnit that was shared by Tristupe. Today, we bring you the part 1 of the review. If you have not read it yet, this is a good opportunity to catch up on the latest offering.
Skechers GoRun Bolt FitKnit Review

In the midst of testing the GRB FitKnit after the unboxing and it has been good so far. The GoRunRide3 (GRR3) ride is predictable and did not differ much. The cushioning and road feel were the same for me at least. OK, maybe it is a bit better perhaps because it is new (and hence the bounciness).

My usual size for Skechers is US10 or US11, depending on the cutting as some like GoMeb or Speed is known to have narrow toe box (and for that I went US11). My feet may had grown slightly over the past year and I requested for US11 from Skechers HQ. 10 is ok, but 11 would allow me to test the shoes out with the insole, and perhaps socks. 

This shoe was fitted with socks in the morning and that was a good choice going with the US11. Again, as general rule of thumb, always ensure 1-finger spacing at the back of the shoe between your Achilles and the shoe collar. Bear in mind that when you run downhill, your feet will slide in front and you need those space else you may end up with painful toes, or toe nails that may fall off after a long race. 

First Feel
US11, at first feel, was great. Superb toe room without being overly roomy. Pull up the laces tight and the shoes just wrap up the feet like gloves. And it did felt like "gloves". The claimed seamless construction gave the shoe inner felt like you were wearing a socks (to be describing it correctly as gloves is for hands ;-)). It was tested without the insole placed inside and from experiences with Skechers' shoe, I know I have room to play with the insole. 

The GRB is a 4mm drop shoes, same as the GRR3. For those new to the term, what this really (drop) meant is the differences in height between the front/midsole and the heel height. Traditional running shoes are heavier stacked/height at the back, which lends to the possibility of the heel striking or landing first when you run.

I am running without socks and with the insole as I enjoy the more cushioned feel and to allow for a more accurate representation of how many would use this shoe. 

As the ride, as I mentioned, is same as GRR3, hence this review will try to share as much as I "felt" with the new FitKnit.

Run FitKnit

For this test I looked for the route that has a mix of well paved surface, slippery surface and uneven surface; just to feel if the knitted material effects the lateral movement and support. 
Uneven surface : I started the run on the uneven surface that is the bicycle lanes in Taman Tun. The route has never been re-paved since it was built in the 90's. Roots of trees that lined the main road and non-maintenance created a trip-galore route. Nothing better than this short 500m from the Mosque to the junction of Dato Sulaiman to test quick changes in direction. 

Verdict: Good feel. Minimal lateral movement. Good support on arch. No instances of the shoe sliding under landing. Gets more confident to bounce around after a while. Changes in direction is good with positive grip. Cushioned Resalyte absorb pretty much the loose gravels and root-bumps under the feet upon landing. 
I set my JVC Adixxion XA2 to capture images and video of my run to see what and how the shoe will moves under normal run. Took me a while to capture a good 5 seconds and going through the video yields good images of how the shoe actually moves with my feet as well. The picture on the right shows how the toe area/forefoot were firmly attached to the ground while the metatarsal (top of feet) were free to move without restrictions. What appeared to be the GRB losing shape was actually how the GRB allows the feet to move as naturally as possible.                                                                                                       Paved road: Predictable surface provides an opportunity for speed work. The power transfer were good as I increase the stride.
Verdict: The lateral movement due to the faster stride did not change significantly from the 5:00-5:30 pace I ran earlier. What was evident was the insole sliding a little as I push off more forcefully. This could be because the shoe was still new. 
is that heel striking???
Running In Park
Running in TTDI park provides good mix of elevation. This will allow me to see how the GRB holds up with the uphill push and downhill charge.

Verdict: On the uphill push, the shoe did exhibit slight lateral movement. I must try to tie the laces a bit more snug and verify again. Otherwise, the FitKnit perform as claimed (support and lateral movement).
GoImpulse pods similar to GRR3
Hot upper?
The run were short and did not allow me to check for any potential hotspot (blister forming spot). The fitting and the seamless inner does felt promising for a longer run. The FitKnit did not make the feet felt hotter than the other Skechers that I've worn. 
I've been asked to consider wetting the FitKnit and run with it to test for color run and how well the material expel water. A shoe that is waterlogged is bad and will certainly causes blisters to the feet. I am up for that challenge. 
Hill repeat with GoRun Bolt
From the first two days of using it for an easy review run and the next hill repeat run, the GRB performed as expected. I did hold the feet well, providing support and doesn't lack the lateral support. The shoe is cushy as expected and provide positive traction and feedback. It doesn't sink in as you push off despite the super flexible sole and upper. 

If there is one thing, the color (currently Red/Black or Navy/Grey) may not appeal to those wanting a more colorful pair - but that is not a bad thing either, as there are many out there that love (and long) for a subtle colored pair, that allow them to blend in as a casual wear and takes off the next moment as a performance shoe. 

I will update here again, once I get the chance to wet the shoe, and run in them. Stay tuned!

Note: This pair of Skechers GoRun Bolt FitKnit is sponsored by Skechers Malaysia via collaboration with 2ndSkin Asia Athletes program. Thank you Skechers Malaysia and 2ndSkin! This pair is launched this week (today!). Retailing at RM419 for men and RM399 for women (Semenanjung). RM10-20 more for East Malaysia.

Opinion in this write up is my own and not influenced by Skechers Malaysia or 2ndSkin program.