Monday, September 21, 2015

Race Report: Oren Sport Half Marathon

This is the 2nd half marathon I registered in 2015. The hazy weather lingering I was once decided DNS this race, but the thirst of adrenaline flipped my decision. Unlike the most of the race which usually held on weekend, this one is special as it tagged to the Malaysia Day, which is a Wednesday this year. Over the weekend, the API reading peaked at 180, then it dropping towards 100. Hence I decided I will run this race, if the API reading below 100 at 3am on the race morning. Came race day morning, I woke up at 3am, check the reading. 90! Straight a way I pack my running gear and drove to Klang town.

This was my 2nd time running a race in Klang, the first one was 2 years ago Run For It 7, which on the Klang Botanic Garden and Pandamaran side. This one is located in the center of Klang town. We ran past all the famous landmarks in Klang, via the Federal Highway of course. The race flagged off on time, 5:30am from the Stadium Padang. We ran past the Istana, then heading to Port Klang via Federal Highway. For the long battle of 7km of highway run, I kept a manageable pace at 5:15min/km. But I felt the needs to slow down after the U-turn. Nothing really bothers me at this point, only problem was the haze. It’s reduced my engine efficiency. My heart rate pushed up to 165-170BPM. I knew I will be able to sustain the pace until 21km, but the body will probably need lots of time to recover after that. Running in hazy weather is tough. I slowed down a bit to around 6min/km pace.

Finally we back in the town area 6km after the U-turn. The 10km runners joined us. The traffic control is ok, most of the major junctions was blocked by traffic police. We were directed to Taman Eng Ann, then back on the Federal Highway towards Bekerly roundabout to make the final U-turn. I decided to push again. My pace now back up to 5.5min/km and I was cruising back to the finish line. The route is over distance by 800m, hence I finished this race @ 2:02’44”. Still sub2 HM with an average pace of 5:35min/km. For all the HM finisher completed within 125min, we got the special souvenir of 125 years anniversary of the start of Local Authority for Klang Town back in 1890.
Overall, the race was well organized. The route is flat mostly, and it does bring you around the Klang town center. Good traffic control plus sufficient water station. Anyway, the air quality is the problem in Klang town. Not only the haze from the forest clearing activities in Sumantra Island, but the port itself with the sea traffic will generate lots of pollution. That’s why you always have Port Klang API reading higher than the rest of the Klang Valley. 

With the rain lately, the hazy situation seems to be under control now. Really hope it will subside in the next 2 weeks because I need to condition my body back in shape for SCKLM. There were hazy too last year SCKLM (around 60-70 API reading if I recall correctly). Hopefully we have a clear sky this year.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Race Report: River Jungle Marathon 2015

Signing up this race was an accident. I was looking for another marathon as replacement to SCKLM, as I cancelled my registration when it first planned to shift to 10 Oct. The cancellation was mainly due to unhappy with the last minutes of change for a major event like SCKLM. RJM was in the list because it had a new reversed route compared to 2011/2012 edition, and I missed the 2014 edition when this route was first in use. It will be good too, to return to this full marathon event, where I started my first full marathon 5 years ago.

Lately my marathon training hitting the wall, hence I didn’t have much plan for the race. Just ran at easy pace, enjoy the tough route and finish it before 5 hours. I got a 526 in 2013 RJM, so 5 hours will still be a nice personal improvement. Instead of pushing hard, maybe I just spent the time to reflect my current relationship with running.
I reached the race site around 4am, it was packed with cars and running. We had around 800 participants in this event. I didn’t expect to see so many people and car in RJM, lucky the starting line moved from the Chinese School to the Water Front Restaurant (same place as TITI100), else the parking itself will be a disaster. We were flagged off on time at 4:30am, we ran towards the city before turned towards the Batu18. We had some rain on Saturday hence the weather was perfect for a run. I just let the pace carry me along and it settled around 5.7min/km where I trained the most for the sub4 target. Can I hold to this pace until finish? Of course not. As we getting closer to the climb, the fog around the area was getting thicker. I was running alone around 17km (6:10am) and there was a light flashing from my back but I didn’t hear the running sound. I was too into my thoughts and also it overtook me quickly (I just took note of it for about 5minutes), it was kind of spooky when I recall the incident now. The light turned out to be from a lady riding a bicycle to support the race (maybe).

Hit the first big climb at 20km and I slowed down to 8min/km. The climb is actually quite short and I slowly regain the pace back to 6.5min/km range. I reached the u-turn point at 23km and durian was waiting. Still not dare to take the durian and I just continued the race. I still not very good in handling the descending, lost some speed and only keeping a slower pace for now. Very soon, I arrived at the 2nd big climb at Bukit Hantu. The memory from 2013 Titi50 still haunting me. It took me 1:36 from this point and not much improvement in this round; it still took 1:15 to clear this session. I am still very weak in descending. Finally, I completed my 17th full marathon with a time of 4:34’49”, with this under distance route of 40.9km.
Overall, this is still the best full marathon in Malaysia. Scenic route with challenging climbs with long cut off time (sweeper at 8 hours pace if I remembered correctly), there will be something for runners from all difference level. The finisher medal is very nicely designed too. Anyway, the only area to improve will be the under distance route. Please move the 23km u turn point to 23.7km, then the course will be measureable to 42.195km. It’s kind of ironic when the finisher medal and t-shirt are highlighting the 42.195km but the actual course itself is short in distance.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Race Report: Kuching Marathon 2015

This will be my 2nd full marathon in 2015 and the starting of the 4 marathons in 3 months kind of crazy ride. I have been barking too long for my sub4 and I won’t need to plan too much this round. I am going to set up my GF910XT visual partner to 5:36min/km pace. With the recent half marathon result, I am kind of confident that I am going to sub4 this time. Then the story turned sour.

I did 300km in July with the 3 to 4 times a week work commuting as part of the routine. Then early August I started some weight lifting training too. The body seem to have some trouble to fully recover from the double workouts a day, and the body muscles soreness from the weight lifting lasted longer than expected. I was obviously over trained. The body and mind struggled to keep up with the demand especially from the few double workouts routine. Even though I was looking forward to run in Kuching, but I was not ready to get the sub 4.

From my experience in Seoul, travelling to just run a marathon doesn’t work for me. This trip was booked before the Seoul marathon hence I just need to bear with it. I booked a guest house which is only 200m away from the starting line. Great guest house but poor marathoners stayed in the guest house. I don’t understand how people can stay up late (at least 11pm) on the Saturday night when they had a marathon to run 3am in Sunday morning. I hit the bed around 9pm, but waken by these noisy neighbour few times. Only got like 3 hours of broken sleeps before my alarm finally rang at 1:30am.

I walked to the starting line around 2:30am, met some running friends and joking a bit trying to ease my stress from the poor sleep. The event flagged off on time. I started off from the mid of the pack, then slowly picked up my pace to the target 5:36min/km. I was on the dot for this pace until 21km. Then I lost my push to maintain this pace. May be the long lonely stretch of road, may be the tiredness finally caught me, or may be…… finally, completed the race in 4:34’42”.
Overall the race is very well organized with sufficient water stations and manned with supporting volunteers. The route is flat and straight, it can be quite boring if you need external stimulus or attraction to assist in your race. The last 5km full marathon will join with half marathon, but no issue here because there are not many runners in both categories. Anyway, traffic control can be improved especially in the final stretch when we back in the town. The medal is really nice and the extra "top 200" finisher t-shirt is great too (just I didn't managed to get one).

On my end, I will need to rest until I am fully recovered from the exhaustion, then rework on my training plan if I seriously wanted to run to office few times a week. I will also adding in some weight lifting to build my core for next stage. I noticed that my mind doesn’t work very well to stay focused if I ran with my sun glasses. I think I gave up too early for all 3 races I ran with it. And I did well in Seremban half marathon where I actually forgot to bring the sun glasses. The sample size is too small to make any conclusion but maybe I need to give it up in RJM, run with normal glasses only.

Looking at current condition and the route, I will be very happy if I can sub 5 in RJM. 3 more weeks to go.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Race Report: Seremban Half Marathon 2015

After 2 years of working with my full marathon timing, I finally signed up a half marathon. I was looking forward to fulfill my sub-2 half marathon target which missed for many years. My PB for HM was 2:03’35” in GM Klang Run For It 2013. There are actually too many half marathons available nowadays, but I picked Seremban HM mainly due to it is a familiar route and small town event.

This is my 4th times running in this HM (3x official racing, 1x bandit run on own support). Most of the issue (pro & cons) remained unchanged, so I won’t elaborate here. Seremban town area had not much changes compare to my first visit 15 years ago. But if you going with the HM route, you can see the urban area was moving really fast. The numbers of cars were growing too. Lucky the people still, roughly follow the small town style. Traffic will usually slowing down when they approaching, and will wait patiently when stopped by traffic police while waiting for runners passing the busy junctions.

On the other hand, I think runners really need to improve our running etiquette. Most of the time I observed runners took up the middle of a lane without any reason. Some cross the road without considering his / her owned safety. If you are familiar with this HM, you will know that the traffic controls for most sessions on the route actually none exist. With the narrow kumpung style 1 lane trunk road, you really need to run at the road side and be careful with the traffic.

Back to my race report, the game plan was simple, run at 5.4min/km pace until finish line. Knew the route is under-distance by about 1km, this will give me a nice 150 HM PB. The race flag off on time, lots of people sped out from the start. I need to hold back to maintain at my target pace, from the starting line until we left the town center. At the long inclines up to AEON Big and McD at Forest Height, I started to overtake others. This basically continued for the rest of the race. I kept overtaking others, few on the flat, and many more on the 13/14km stiff incline where we finally turning back heading to town center. Pace maintained at 5.2-5.5min/km thru out the race. To certain extend, the consistence pace is a bit boring, but it paid off nicely towards the end. The pace was held back until 18th km, then after the final incline where we merged with the school boys and girls. I dropped the hammer and sped to the max, clocking 4:30min/km like how I did in my speed intervals. I finished as 58th, with 1:47’20”, a nice PB for my HM.
SHM 2015 Finisher Medal 
Need to work on my posing while running in front of the camera man. TQ Tey.

Turbo mode ON! TQ Allan.
This year the Royal Selangor pewters only for the top 10 position (or 20?) so I only got a cheaper version of limited medal. The field were extremely competitive and crowded too (650 participants in HM compared to 320 participants in 2014). The organizer should really start to address the traffic control issue if they wanted to grow the numbers. The finishing area support too was obviously overloaded by the growing numbers of participants. Overall, if you are looking for a short break from the usual KL / Selangor race, this is the best nearby alternative. Muar and Bidor are too far for a touch-and-go race.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

9000KM of training mileage

Today I registered my 9005th kilometers ran into my running log. 5 years of running bring me lots of changes and I am glad that I am still keep going. Now I am using it as a transportation option to work. Daily commuting of 15km thru and fro and I planned to do this 3 to 4 times weekly. This removed some pressure to wake up 4am to login the required training mileage, but on the other hand add in pressure to restart the running momentum before the body fully recovered in the evening. So far, I completed this in past 4 weeks, logging in a decent 60+ km per week. The body seem like going to adapt to the new training approach, but I also observed some over-trained syndrome started to surface. Need to take extra caution to have more rest and stretching to avoid injury.

On the other hand, SCKLM / KSB issue caused me signed up to River Jungle Marathon in September. Now I had 4 full marathons in 3 months. If adding in the half marathon I signed up, I will be racing 4 FM plus 2 HM in the next 94 days. Seem like I am going to have a great time enjoying the rush in adrenaline in all these races, provided if I don’t injure myself. For sure, I won’t survive it I go all out in all 6 races. Some prioritization required here but I am obviously not really good in holding back. Let see how I survived these :) 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Gear Review: Merrell Bare Access 3 & Newton Distance 3

This is both old models. As I always do, I get it when the model almost obsoleted. The Bare Access 3 (BA3) was at 20% discount, not typical stock clearance price, but MYR240 for running shoes is very reasonable now. For Newton Distance 3 (ND3), I got it at around MYR350 (which is stock clearance price for Newton which usually start from MYR500++).

As the VFF built quality deteriorated, I am looking for some shoes to replace them. It’s a hard decision because I was running in Komodo Sport for the past 4 years, or 80% of my running career if you want to exaggerate a bit. I had a pair of Bare Access 1, which I had some problem to run in it when I first got it. But recently I think as my core and running gaits improved, I have no problem running in BA1. I even complete a 20km trail run and a 68km road ultra with it. This is the main reason I go back to Merrell, now BA3. For ND3, I really based on the comment from other running friends and also the discount. I don’t do the usual lengthy open box review. I will just descript shortly my experience in both.

For BA3, the fit is slightly narrow with hard insoles and nice durable Vibram outsoles. After my fair share of running, my feet actually expanded into size 9 (I usually wear US8, or Europe 41, before I start running). I found it a bit narrow in both toe box and the arch area, but not until the type of fitting that will create hot spots and blisters. So far the longest distance in 1 run is 19km. And I had completed few speed intervals with it at around 4:30min/km pace. My opinion, you can basically take it as racing flat shoes, with very durable outsoles. The shoes have great response on the speed and a solid built. I can clock lots of mileage in it without worry to get another replacement really soon. It should last for about 1500km, and I plan to ramp it up for marathon in Kuching and SCKLM.
For ND3, the fit is great with soft insoles and the special 5 lugs outsoles. The toes box is only typical D width, but the upper top used the soft material that doesn’t squeeze your toes together. The sizing is a bit weird and I took a US size 10. The 5 lugs outsoles needed some time to getting used to it, and I really enjoyed the running in it. My last running shoes with soft insoles was 4 years ago, you can imagine my feet have some great time running in pampering mood. The insoles absorbing part of the impact hence the response over the speed were poorer compared to BA3. But mind you when I said poorer response doesn’t means ND3 is a slow shoes. The popping from this shoe really worked wonder, and you are speeding without knowing it. Only problem is the 5 lugs system didn’t lasted very long if racing and toes off. This makes ND3 good racing shoes but durability really off. I only clocked around 100km in this pair of shoes, but some part on the EVA plastic on the lugs showing bad wear and tear. The ND3 only have the EVA plastic on the lugs section, the rest of the outsoles are constructed with the soft material which usually used in midsole, and these parts wear off even faster. Don’t think it will last until 500km, and probably the EVA lugs will finish before SCKLM. May be my running gaits and the speeding put lots of pressure to those lugs, but I can’t help cause it’s really difficult to slow down in ND3.
When I first started in these 2 pairs of shoes, BA3 is only for short distance and ND3 for longer distance. Now it slowly changed to BA3 for all distance plus speed works, and ND3 for easy run only. It may be more to my personal taste and preferences. I only have limited experiences on running shoes. When I ran more in shoes then I may have a more objective taste, or may be that never will be the case. Anyhow, running is very personal. Your take, your preference, your experience all played an importance role in how you perceived certain issue. Like my barefoot running journey.

If you follow my running journey, I seem to moving away from barefoot running? Nope, I still belief in barefoot running, but I corrected or adjusted my take on why I run barefoot. Barefoot running to me is more like a drill or a tool to correct my running gaits. Do I need to barefoot run in a whole marathon? I actually prefer not to do it. One may argue that if I can’t barefoot for a race, my PB is not my body really tuned to do, and one day the body will be overly stressed and injury is inevitable. I won’t argue that may be the case, actually if you run long enough without a balanced training intake involved cardio, core, muscles, skeleton/bone strength, and recovery (you can analogue this example with your diet), injury is really inevitable. Barefoot give some stimulus in both physically (the soles, the muscle and the sensitivity of our body response to the running) and emotionally (the feeling, if you ran barefoot before). Your current running capability is a summation of the above. The injury rate will skyrocket only if you pushed too far from it. My body had enough restriction to limit my speed, and I listen to them (do I?). Hence I just don’t need another limit switch to tell me to slow down.

Meanwhile, I will continue to have fun with my running shoes and looking forward the half marathon 3 weeks later.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Start of a New Racing Season

18 more weeks to my yearly highlight race SCKLM, and now is the best time to start another round of training cycle. The previous training cycle actually dragged much longer than 18 weeks and it’s kind of back to back so often I felt drained after each major event I trained for. This time, I took 2 weeks off (almost totally off) from running, and went for shopping instead.

I got myself a pair of Merrell Bare Access 3, and a pair of Newton Distance 3, with good discount. With the good experience from R68 in Bare Access, I decided to explore my shoes running options. As there are lesser channel nowadays to get VFF in Malaysia, plus the build quality is deteriorating, I need some other options.
Bare Access 3 like its previous version, was a minimalist shoes. But it’s not really that minimalist anymore in this version. It’s heavier and harder soles; narrower in both toe box and arch area; make it more like a racing flat compared to the usual barefoot running shoes.
Distance 3 on the other side, with lots more cushioning and softer soles, flexible toes box (it’s still consider narrow, but the upper layer actually quite flexible and you won’t felt your toes restricted inside), with the strange feeling to running on those 5x lugs system.

Both shoes providing great stimulation to difference part of my legs muscles and also the workouts. Together with the 2 VFF, I am rotating shoes on daily basis. This also helped by taken away some routine from the running. As I am now so used to VFF, I usually just ran. I don’t check my gait, my posture, my form usually. But now I will need to adjust myself in every workout. Not to the extent of changing my gait, posture or form every time, but at least I am going thru my running form check list again. Lower back straight, kept those feet land below my centre of gravity, body lean forward, head upright, kept a high cadences, etc.. But with all these shoes added into my arsenal, now my wife started to question me regarding the number of running shoes I had :P
I will still follow the Hanson Marathon Method 18 weeks advanced training program and SCKLM will be my target race. 2015 SCKLM will be using the same route like 2014, I will be able to estimate and plan better to face the challenge now. Hence I am moving up my goal to finish this marathon in 345. Btw, this year the SCKLM sold out in record pace, only 4 days and all categories were filled. 6500 participants will be running full marathon. As this year the starting pen will be go by estimated finishing time (just estimated, no proof required), I don’t expect to have any issue at the starting point. 

The key challenge like last year, located at 37km when we joining the half marathon participant for the last 5km. I hope my training will allow me to go faster than 345, than the human traffic should still be manageable. The peak actually around 345-415, the full marathoners speeding at 5:20-6:03min/km pace will be facing the half marathoners who will be finishing around 2.5-3 hours with the 7 to 8min/km pace. The 1-2 min/km pace difference is too big so we will be blocked. The water station will be packed. I will make sure I run with my bottle this year, and padded up my elbows!

There are some races lining up in these 18 weeks, total of 2x half marathons (Seremban & Malaysian Day), and 1x full marathon (Kuching). All these races had their own target now aligned to my 345 goal.

Let’s train hard and aim high!