Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Saucony Kinvara 6...

By Frank

The evolution of a product does not necessary mean major tweaks or a total overhaul to it. And when it comes to running shoes, I’ve noticed over the years that 2 generations will normally share almost the same DNA with only some very minor tweaks done to it before something more drastic is done over the next. The Saucony Kinvara is one of this good example. Into its 6 generation now, the shape, the last and the feel of the shoe has not change much. And this has been very good news for the loyalist.

It wasn’t until the third generation that the shoe became one of my favourites due to the soft squishy feel on the first 2. And since then, the Kinvara has become my “To-Go” shoe of choice for various running workouts being tempo, speed or long distance. And most notable, it’s my race shoe of choice now for the Comrades Marathon.


Saucony Kinvara 6.

This year, I had the same privilege thanks to the kind people at Saucony Malaysia to race in the Saucony Kinvara 6 (K6) at the Comrades Marathon. I’ve received the shoe back in April and had about 2 months to get use to it. And no, I do not need that long as pretty instantly, my feet was already accepting it due to the very minor changes to it. From the cushioning, bounce, protection layers to the feel, it all feels familiar to what I’ve experienced in the fifth. And that’s certainly good news for it also gave me by best time to date at this year's Comrades Marathon 2015 too and not to mention a repeat success at Back 2 Endurance 2015.


Lateral view of the Kinvara 6.

Medial view of the Kinvara 6.

So what did Saucony has done to make the K6 different from the Kinvara 5 (K5) since it still weights in at 218 Grams for a men size US9.0 with a heel to toe differential of 22MM vs. 18MM? Small changes that you probably won’t notice with the naked eye. First, the upper. A new open and breathable mesh to encourage better ventilation within the shoe. This will certainly be very helpful in our tropical weather. However, as the K5 was already excellent in this department, I hardly felt any difference in this new upper on the K6. Furthermore, it does really look identical except for the construction of the tongue where I kind of favour the K5 instead as it has perforation built into it. 


Comparing the K6 (orange) upper to the K5 (yellow) and the tongue too.
*don't mind battle scars as both went through Comrades

The next much obvious but only slight tweak was the placement of the FlexFilm, a super thin synthetic no-sew material welded on the upper to provide strength and fit. Most of the changes are made toward the central region where the mid foot is. And again I must say, the adjustment isn’t something I felt beneficial in terms of function. But I must admit that the modification does give the shoes a more handsome and pretty looks with 2 “pillar” like beams running along the Pro-Lock system.

And since I mentioned the Pro-Lock system, a fitting system to lock down the midfoot region  which I really like it on my K5, this is where a slight problem occurred during my races at Comrades Marathon and Back 2 Endurance this year. Hot spots on the medial side where the Pro-Lock runs under. It did not happen on the K5 but somehow, this happened on my left feet only. I did not blame the shoe as it only affected one feet and thus suspected it may due a defect. And throughout the course of using the shoe more, I eventually found out that there was slight material overlapping on it thus causing the irritation. No big deal and it has now been solved by some trimming. And working with the Pro-Lock system will be the single piece tongue which gives the wearer a sock like feel. Not as impressive as the higher end models ISOFit but it does the trick too, especially in keeping out debris.


Internal bootie construction of the tongue together with the Pro-Lock system (black strip).


Cushioning from impact will once again be the duty of Saucony’s proprietary PowerGrid foam. Kind of surprise that the PwrGrid+ isn’t used instead as this will give the shoe some changes from its predecessor ad may even make the shoe a little lighter. But anyway, like its predecessor, a PowerGrid heel insert is inserted along the EVA+ midsole and on the outsole, XT-900 carbon rubber protecting the high wear rate area is used. And I've totally no complains about retaining this. 


The outsole of the K6. True to the Kinvara lineage.

The cosmetic of the shoe on the other hand has been given a more lively change especially on the heel counter. Definitely more striking details there, however at the expense of some reflectives. The collar is still on Saucony’s RunDry lining providing a plush and dry feel on the Achilles.


Really like the cosmetic design of the heel counter!

RunDry collar to keep the moisture away.

Overall, I am glad that Saucony made the K6 very similar to the K5. But if there is one change I would really like to see will be the use of flat elastic laces which they have now started using on models such as Zealot ISO, Ride and Guide. The current laces just didn’t make the cut for they come undone pretty easily. But anyhow, I will stick with the K6 for now as it is certainly the "To-Go" shoe for me before the imminent arrival of the next fast.


Kinvara 6 will be available in a wide array of colours!

The Saucony Kinvara 6 is now available nationwide retailing at a recommended selling price of RM399. They can be found at authorised dealers such as at Running Lab - Tropicana City Mall, Stadium and RSH stores nationwide.

This pair of Saucony Kinvara 6 is kindly provided by RSH (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, the sole distributor of Saucony in Malaysia as part of my ambassador program.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Back 2 Endurance 2015...

Event: Back 2 Endurance 2015
Venue: Perdana Botanical Gardens, Kuala Lumpur
Date: 14 June 2015
Time: 6.30AM
Distance: 2.3KM per loop. To run as many in 12 hours.
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 6
By Frank

2 weeks after the Comrades Marathon and 2 days after returning home, the intention to run the 12 hours looping Back 2 Endurance seems like an insane one. But still, I went ahead with it despite the jet lag and sore legs. Although I came in a surprise third position last year, I had no intention in defending it.  What I wanted was just to run the Comrades “Up” distance before taking a 1 month’s break and also to face a certain music.

I wasn’t sleeping well since returning from South Africa and despite turning in early, I only had 2 hours of sleep on the night before the event. I arrived at Perdana Botanical Gardens (previously known as Lake Gardens) at 5.30AM, an hour to spare before the start. The rain which begun a couple of hours ago showed signs of slowing down.

Put my essentials aside and lingered around till the start at 6.30AM. I had my waterproof Saucony Razor jacket on as it was still drizzling. Had to be careful with my steps as the pavement was slippery, and besides, it was still dark. I once again had my heart rate monitor on and just ran based on it not letting it go beyond the 150bpm mark. And also, I tried to follow as closely to the Banting diet, minimising sugar intake during the course of the run.

Despite the sore legs and cold condition, I started pretty well. I kept my Saucony Razor jacket on for the first hour or so before the rain stop and the sun broke out of the horizon. It kept my body dry and warm but my shoes was still a little wet and I had to be careful with my steps so that I won’t risk any blisters despite wearing an anti-blister socks. Eventually, the rain water in the shoes and socks dried up.

I was going at an all right pace before dropping out a little upon hitting the half marathon distance when the jet lag sets in. With a 6 hours difference between South Africa and Malaysia, I should be asleep. To keep myself awake, I started snacking to keep myself occupied while running and I was delighted to have David with me for about 2 or 3 loops running together. Nearing the 3 hours mark, I was waiting for the change of direction but to my surprise after asking Jeff, I found out that participants are to run on the same direction throughout the entire 12 hours, which means that we are going to apply pressure on the same leg. Knowing my legs have not recovered fully from Comrades, I went on a safer approach to care for my legs.


With fellow Comrades, David.


I was fighting sleepiness as I ran and walk. But I kept moving despite lunch of noodles and rice being served early. Instead I took in some watermelon and lots of oranges (when they are available) as I complete each loop. Once a while, I also ate some biltong which I brought along. And when the energy started depleting at close to 12PM, I took out the can of Heineken I brought along too. Guess the combination of biltong and beer could be the life saver here, but it’s just too bad it isn’t Castle Lite.

Happy to have my beer.

I took small sips of the beer as I ran pass it as it was stronger than Castle Lite which I drank every night while in Namibia to keep me warm. And as time passes by, I also regain some alertness as it was time to “wake up” from sleep. At 2PM local time, it was 8AM South Africa time and I am awake at that time. Regained some strength and I ran better. The weather got a little hotter as I put on my Pink Drive arm sleeve to prevent the arms from getting burn again. But after 3 loops, the sun decided to go into hiding leaving us with a pretty good Sunday afternoon. However, I was too lazy to take off my arm sleeve and just continued ahead with it.

At one stage, I started the loop with David again. And since I had too much orange, I decided to walk it off while chatting with him. David was ahead of me by 1 loops and still feeling very strong too and I asked him to go ahead should he intend to start running again. But like the Spirit of Comrades, he accompanied me till the completion of the loop before he went off.

Fast forwarding ahead, despite still moving, I was slowly loosing pace due to sore legs. With about 8 loops to go before I hit my target, Tey bought some ice cream for the remaining runners. I took one and munch along but soon, it upset my stomach and I had to visit the loo.

After making my deposit, I soon realised that time wasn’t on my side and I needed to move swiftly. Made some calculation and decided to run the entire stretch with a low heart rate range of 140bpm with the exception of the climb at waterfall area where I shall walk to recover and to preserve some energy and leg strength for the closing stages.

Towards the final 3 loops, as I can’t afford to lose any more time, I was basically moving in and out of the refreshment area on a touch and go basis. Grab a cup of water and just move on.  And I was glad Siaw Hua reacted swiftly to my needs and I really thank her for her actions.

85.1KM and with 17 minutes left, I told myself that one more loop to complete the Comrades “Up” distance is possible. All I need to do is to go at a constant pace and knowing like Comrades where the fastest split will normally come near the finishing stages, I was confident and thus took off from there with Jeff, Tey, Hong Lan and a few others cheering along. I decided to raise my heart rate by 5bpm and closely monitored it so I would not blow up like an overheated engine.  I soon realised that I was the lone runner out there as I saw no other participants around the route. Upon completion of 1KM into the loop, I had 11 minutes to run the remaining 1.3KM. That’s when I knew that my remaining task is just to keep moving even by walking. But walk I did not and continued to run and eventually, I completed 38 loops clocking 87.4KM in 11:58 hours with a position of 10. A satisfying result.

Job done. Happy to enjoy my rest next.

Back 2 Endurance this year was almost flawless. Runners were given almost a first class service by the organisers and volunteers. And unlike last year, snacks and refreshment was made available whenever runners needed it. Besides that, Jeff also paid for both the toilets (one at starting area and another along the run route), which made things really easy for us. Overall, though it was really difficult for me this year, I still enjoyed the whole event for now, I can have a little rest.

* All photos credited to the respective photographers. Thank you.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Comrades Marathon 2015...

Event: Comrades Marathon 2015
Venue: Durban, South Africa
Date: 31 May 2015
Time: 5.30AM (South Africa time) / 11.30AM (Malaysian time)
Distance: 87.72KM (88.8KM by Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 6
By Frank

As usual, I will jump straight into my Comrades Marathon race report and save my holiday adventures in a separate entry. And the following are links too, to relive my past 3 Comrades Marathon experience:


Comrades Marathon 2015 is the 90th edition of The Ultimate Human Race. With a tagline of Bamba Iqhaza which meant Be Part Of It, in the Zulu language, runners can expect a huge field this year. Besides that, with an addition of 877M giving a total of 87.72KM, it’s also one of the longest “Up” run in history due to roadworks at Pinetown. 12 Malaysians signed up for this year’s edition but sadly only 7 started which was myself, Chee Kong, Zijill, Selva, Shanaz, Dr. Jagjit and Dr.Yani.



Myself flying alone this time, arrived in Durban 4 days prior to my fourth Comrades so everything should be more or less in place for the big race. Flight was smooth, race pack collection swift and meals were eaten heartily. But come race day morning, I did not wake up with the feeling I had last year. I wasn’t unwell, just that I didn’t have the kick for the race. I had 2 hours to prepare before our shuttle ride to the race start at 4AM. I skipped the breakfast prepared by Belaire Suites and took my own Clif Mojo bar and a soft panini bread bought by Zijill the day before from Checkers. Washed it down with a cup of Starbucks VIA coffee and the other all race rituals went on smoothly.

Team Saucony ready to rock and roll!

At 4AM, myself with Zijill were down at the lobby with Chee Kong, Selva and Shanaz. A last minute visit to the toilet almost caused us to miss the first shuttle though but glad they waited. The ride to the race start at Town Hall was like about 5 minutes or so only. It was to be taken as we did not want to disturb Mei-Ee and Xi Ning, and besides, to reserve the leg strength for the race later. Baggage deposit was smooth and soon enough after a group photo together, we checked into our respective seeding pent.

We are ready!

I checked into the D pent with my qualifier from last year’s Amsterdam Marathon, which was my best effort so far. It was my best chance to cross the start gantry as soon as possible to try run my best and targeted time. Not sure if I am able to start from this front in the future hence telling myself “One shot at glory, make full use of it”! It was about a 45 minutes wait and was glad the weather was good. About 18c and not chilly. It’s Durban after all. I look around to try to spot for friends like David and Bruce but to no avail. However, runners were entertained by the light shows lighting the tall buildings in the business district as runners continued to wish everyone around them regardless of nationally and skin colour. That’s the spirit of Comrades! Soon came the National Anthem of South Africa to mark the countdown followed by Shosholoza, Chariots of Fire, Max Trimborn cock’s crow and finally, the cannon went BOOM!

At 5.30AM (11.30AM Malaysian time) 16,993 runners took on the 90 edition of the Comrades Marathon that will go down into the history books. It took me exactly 3 minutes to cross the start gantry this time and everybody just started running. However, it came to a walk shortly in front when runners slowed down to high-fived the cheering supporters by the side. Really unnecessary but that’s just part of Comrades. About a minute wasted there but was glad to find my rhythm as I find my way into the highway leading to Berea. And speaking about rhythm, it was my first time wearing a heart rate monitor for this race and I used it as a guide.  As the roads leading out from Durban is wider compared to the one at Pietermaritzburg, I found no problem navigating through the sea of runners. However, there were some incident around me where runners tried to overtake from the curb causing them to trip over. One trip over and managed to pull the runner in front of him together too, and it all happened just beside me. But both escape with minor bruises and carried on. Other than that, it was an uneventful start.

With David at Berea. blur shot but truly memorable.

About close to half an hour into the race, I heard a voice from behind saying “Inchanga came early this year” and immediately I knew that my Singaporean fellow Comrades David is right behind me! Short chat plus some photos before we carried on. Running on the N3 highway was just the warm up. A few mild uphill’s and downhills are just appetizers on what lies ahead. There were no supporters beside the roads as there is almost no space for them. But they can be found at the top of the flyovers, pedestrian bridges and along the shop rows. That’s how these South Africans will come out to cheer for the runners! Amazing stuff!

About 7KM later, I found myself exiting the highway and into Mayville. Crowded with supporters and with the dawn slowly approaching, everything seems to brighten up another level too, from energy levels to noises. My heart rate was still good as I maintained a reasonable pace as I headed towards the Durban Boundary where I met John from Scotland in person for the first time after numerous contacts over Facebook. Short chat and we are off towards first big hill, Cowie’s Hill.

Passing the first Big hill at Cowie's Hill.

I was still on a very good pace upon arriving at Cowie’s Hill in 1:48:03 hours. Descend from it and into Pinetown where the extra 877M diversion was which was actually refreshing as I ran through a small business area with supermarkets and other retail shops in the area. And with half marathon done, I thought it’s better to down an energy gel to ensure the body gets all the nutrients required. However, as it has been so long since I took them, I was so not used to it and instantly spitted it out and took half a tablet of Hammer Perpeteum Solids instead and carried on.

Next of the Big 5 hills list will be the treacherous Fields Hill. A steep climb on the open highway, I remembered attacking it back in year 2013 which may have caused my left calf cramping at the later stages. Therefore, a revised strategy this year for I think it will be safer to run walk it, as after all, I need to prevent my heart rate from spiking. But I guess I took it too safe which depleted some buffer time I made.

Assaulting Fields Hill.

Arriving at the top of Fields Hill isn’t the end of the nightmare as we still needed to climb, though not as steep. As I arrived at Winston Park at about the 30KM mark, my body started to show signs of giving way. I kind of expected this but was just hoping that it will not happen. Sadly it did. I took walk breaks in between and ate some potatoes along the way hoping to regain some momentum. I also made my first toilet pee stop here and was glad to have found a mobile version unoccupied. With the discomfort I am facing, I was losing time but I kept attacking the climbs as I knew forward was the only way. And I needed to get to Drummond by 10.30AM (5 hours into the race) if I were to stand a chance to run the target set.

Third of the Big 5 hills, Botha’s Hill was next on the list. Short but steep climb, crowd support was superb as we headed towards it and it kept me going. The day also started to warm up as I stared pouring water over my arms to keep my core temperature down. And with Botha’s Hill conquered, the landscapes of highways and small towns began to change into valley rods as it marks the fast descend into the Valley of 1,000 Hills, into the valley of Drummond.

Descending into Drummond.

It was a fast descend into Drummond with only minor climbs. I had to take full advantage of it for the climb out later will be tough. And I know my friend Manette will be waiting just before the Wall of Honour at the Rooderport tent, the same spot where she has been supporting me the past 2 years! I was extremely delighted to see her where she poured me a cup of ice water. This time round though, I did not stop for long as I moved on after 2 cups of drinks and thanking this dear friend of mine.

Catching up with Manette at the Rooderport tent.

Passed the Wall of Honour on my right, and soon Arthur’s Seat on my left where I gave the plaque a tap while greeting it “Good Morning Sir!”, hoping I will be blessed a stronger half, or will it be?! And soon, the halfway point at Drummond came into sight as I crossed the halfway gantry in 4:59:06 hours. Though it was under 5 hours, I knew it wasn’t an ideal time cause I know my second half will not be faster.

Through the halfway point.

The atmosphere at Drummond was electrifying with supporters pouring out on the road to cheer for runners. With no barricades, they took up most of the roads leaving us runners with almost less than a lane to run on. Nevertheless, runners around me myself included still managed to “escape” and make our way to our next challenge.

Exiting Drummond has and will always be a daunting task on the “Up” run. The fourth of the Big 5 hills and also the longest climb of the Comrades Marathon at close to 4KM in total, was next as Inchanga awaits my already weaken body. With the length of this “serpent” and the steepness of it,  I spent most of the time walking to the summit and without David here since we met earlier this year, it’s really a tough one. Though still manageable, the weather began to heat up. With some water sachets I’ve gotten from Drummond, I wet myself. Arriving at the summit, I resume my running and soon arrived at the Ethembeni School for the underprivileged children who some are albino, wheelchair bound or with impaired vision. The basically just stick out their hands for runners to high five them and I did just that. And during the process, I spotted 2 kids holding the Malaysian national flag. Truly a spirit lifter when I saw it!

As I continued moving forward along Harrisons Flat which was a roller coaster ride despite the word “flat” towards Cato Ridge, my body also sinks into deeper pain. There is no denial that my legs were sore but the main issue was on my core area. “I needed to go” I told myself and started searching for a toilet along the way. Most stops have 2 or maximum 3 and they are most often occupied. I didn’t want to wait and thus move on whenever I find the door lock. But soon, I managed to find one which was partially hidden behind a deejay tent just beside a slope. Slightly slanted, it didn’t look very secure especially when loud music is playing where the sound waves may shake it. And the last thing on news that people will laugh off is a Malaysian Comrades runner roll off the slope in a toilet! But I went ahead still in the generally clean toilet until I saw the wall in detail. Urm… Use your imagination here.

I suffered a cramp on my left soleus in the toilet and wasted exactly 10 minutes in there. Once out from there, I walked, and then jogged before slowly regaining the momentum to run. But despite the visit, I was still unwell. But then, the moment that I have been waiting for came. Zijill finally caught up. I knew she will for I’ve seen her train and was hoping that she did not pass me while I was in the toilet earlier. But here she is, as she called out to me when I was feeling “Alien-ish”. From here, we moved together as her company too help me divert my attention away from my core.

Cato Ridge was next for us and my mind also started calculating. No longer I am aiming for my target as I know it’s no longer within my reach, but I knew at that time that I can help Zijill achieve what she is capable of. And thus off we went together and with my 3 years of experience, I tried to remember on which stretch to run and which to walk to bring her to The Oval within a bronze cut-off time.

We arrived at Cato Ridge just under 7 hours giving us about 4 hours to run the remaining 30KM or so. “Less than 2 Bukit Tunkus now” (referring to our training route back home) I told Zijill as we tried to make up time heading towards Camperdown as it was fast stretch with only mild climbs. She also has her own strategy here which was to run from point to point using structures along the way as guidelines.

With some houses slowly appearing and as the crowd grew larger and, I know Camperdown was near.  And after exiting the housing area, The NedBank Green Mile welcomed us! And boy, this year’s edition was really good with cheerleaders, bag pipe blowers, deejays and even characters from Marvel’s Avenger cheering the runners along the green highlighted area of 1.6KM. Crowd numbers was at its best too! And with all these to divert my attention away from my core, I also slowly regained some strength.

Though Camperdown was great, the route ahead was tough as we headed next to Lion Park. 3 short but yet energy sapping climbs under the scorching sun awaits us. And just before reaching the top of Lion Park, I spotted a TV crew and told Zijill to run. We can walk after passing it. Hahaha…

We "ran" when we saw the camera at Lion Park.

70KM in the bag leaving us just 1 more Bukit Tunku. 2.15 hours was what is left for us to meet the bronze cut-off time. We needed to keep moving. And though she told me to go ahead, I was not to make the same mistake I made before. I will run ahead, but will wait upon her to catch up shortly ahead. That’s the best I could do I thought.

Arriving at the foot of Little Polly.

Ashburton or more commonly known as Little Polly was the teaser to the final big hill ahead. I waited for Zijill at the foot of it and signal to her to walk it to save the legs. She asked if this was it but it was not as the “bigger’ one awaits ahead. Once we arrive at the top, we restarted our run dashing downwards till we arrive at a yellow structure on our left which marks the start of the final Big 5 hill, Polly Shortts!  9KM to the finish, but almost 2KM of treacherous climb awaits us here. We walk it together!

Almost in silence and with 3 bends along Polly Shortts, most runners were walking. I was waiting to hear some sound as it will mean the top is near. But it came very slowly and I was almost in denial. But once the area started opening up, too came the sound and we started running to the top as there will be a TV crew there filming again.

From the top of Polly Shortts, another 7KM was what is remained for us and we have about an hour to finish it off. But it wasn’t to be an easy ride here for a remaining few climbs await. Once again she ask me to go ahead, telling me this time to run my fastest to the finish. I replied her that our fastest will come at the final 3KM, a  reference to my 2 other “Down” runs fastest split which was at the final 3KM.

Once exiting R103 (Polly Shortts stretch) and into Alexandra Road, I began to increase my pace and tried to pull Zijill along. But a mistake I did was to inform her that there will be no longer any climbs ahead for there is actually one more as we approach The Oval, along the housing area of Princess Margaret Drive. A bad slip of mind by myself which could cause some severe damage to the final result. But luckily we have created some time buffer for ourselves. And from here, we could finally see it, The Oval!

Into The Oval via the Toyota Mile.

Flying our Jalur Gemilang!

Took out the national flag as we ran down the final stretch of Toyota Mile before entering the stadium with a final 300M or so remaining. We held the flag together and ran along with loud cheers from the crowd and with about 100M to go, suddenly the familiar voice I heard during the early stages of the race came in between me and Zijill. It was David again running in between us just behind our national flag. With virtually neither pain nor soreness, only the runner’s high and the joy of seeing the finish gantry, all 3 of us in the spirit of Comrades ran together and completed the The Ultimate Human Race with 9 minutes to spare till the bronze cut off. My official time, 10:50:51 hours, my best achieved!

We finished it together!

An awesome job well done to Zijill for running the bronze medal on her first attempt as we gave each other a victory hug. And as usual, I took time to give the Comrades grass a tap as part of my respect to this great race. Tried to look for Sian but I guess she was busy walking around attending to tasks. Proceed to collect our medals and badge from the very friendly and supportive marshals as everyone congratulate us and each other on our runs before the people at Jetline took some photos of us. And although the runner’s high are still within us, the body soon began to shut down with core temperatures and heart rate dropping, not to mention muscles tightening up. Quickly, with Zijill and David, we dragged ourselves to the international tent to rest up and hopefully to get some food and drinks. On the way in, we spotted Dr. Yani and learnt that he was cut-off at Cato Ridge. Nevertheless, am still very proud of him for the brave effort in his very first ultra-marathon.

Found a spot to rest on, collected my baggage to put on some clothing before congratulating people around us. I found Bruce “Digger” and went over to him. Soon later, I spotted Kai Yuan too and went over to congratulate him on his awesome back to back achievement only to find both my calves giving way where I fell on him, before collapsing backwards. Was lucky I did not knock my head though as Bruce “Digger” was fast enough to grab me and lay me down on the grass while helping me out with my very painful calves. And it was an embarrassing moment when he introduced to his Australian runners the Malaysian Comrades Ambassador is now laying on the grass cramping! But it’s all for the fun of it.

With Zijill, David and Kai Yuan (seated).

Soon, Selva and Shanaz completed their respective runs too earning their back to back medals. All that is left is Dr. Jagjit. And while we waited, we were also reunited with Chee Kong who although did not run a Bill Rowan time, still managed his best “Up” run effort. You will get there my friend, I am sure you will. And as the 12 hour cut-off nears, we also learnt that Dr. Jagjit finally managed to compete his run too earning his back to back! Well done!

We are Team Malaysia!

Indeed I did not meet my targeted time of 10 hours. Indeed I did not meet my secondary targeted time of 10.30 hours. I knew I tried and overall it was still my best time for all 4 editions I ran in. However, all these are no longer important as instead, this run will go down as the most memorable and priceless to date as I crossed the finish line holding our national flag together with Zijill, a friend, a team mate and training partner. I THANK you for this Zijill!

And a little post mortem on myself for my fourth Comrades:

- I carried 3 energy gels with me as backup but I relied on none of it taking one sachet only to spit everything out during the first quarter of the race. Took a tablet of Hammer Nutrition Perpeteum Solids instead.

- Water was my primary hydration fuel with Energade and Coca-Cola being my secondary to satisfy some sugar craving. Accidentally took into some green soft drink once.

- Took 3 baby potatoes along the way.

- Overall satisfied with my heart rate readings as was trying to keep in range of 140 to 150 beats per minute. Average was at 138bpm. Did spike after Botha’s Hill but probably due to the tough climbs there. Also spike after Drummond probably caused by discomfort on the core area. Chee Kong also mentioned that the spikes may be caused by dehydration (will look into this area).

- Average cadence at 86rpm with highest at 137rpm at closing stages probably due to the anxiety of reaching The Oval.

- Starting temperature at Durban was 18C while 28.8C was detected by my Suunto Ambit 3 Peak as the highest reading during the entire race.

My splits.

The 90th edition of the Comrades Marathon saw 13006 runners finishing the 87.72KM epic race. That’s about 77% from the field, not exactly a great number though. Was glad the weather held up with 28.8C detected as the highest reading on my watch. But what I nearly forgot was how tough the hills were. Anyhow, still a very WELL DONE to all starters of the Comrades Marathon 2015. Regardless of results, each and every one of you are a true Comrades!



And to close off my fourth Comrades Marathon, I would like to thank the following for everything they have done in helping me achieve success in this edition of The Ultimate Human Race:

- My parents for putting up with my training for all the past few months leading up to the race.

- Zijill for the company through the hard training days and for not grumbling through it. Thanks a lot too for making my fourth Comrades a super meaningful and memorable one where we tackled the remaining 30KM or so together and in running through the finishing chute holding together our national flag and crossing the finish gantry side by side.

- Team Malaysia of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon which includes Jamie, Nick, Kew, Choon Yuen, Julia, Yan Leng and Jeanie for the training times, support and laughter together .

- Chee Kong and Mei-Ee for once again planning most of the overall trip to South Africa.

- The rest of Team Malaysia of the Comrades Marathon from Susanah, CP, Cham, Selva, Dr. Wong, Selva, Dr. Jagjit, Dr. Yani, Shanaz and Roy.

- The team behind CARIF and Be Frank for the awesome support all these years in making my run even more special.

- To the Comrades King himself, Bruce Fordyce  and to coach Lindsey Parry for the valuable advice and training programs.

- Team Saucony Malaysia for more than the morale and gear support all these years. And to Glynn, Ali and Mia from Saucony South Africa for the wonderful annual reunion each year.

- Sian, Thami and the rest from the Comrades Marathon Association for the assistance provided in helping me in the role as an ambassador.

- My South African friends from Caroline, Anthony, Susan Bold, Claudia, Pierre, Willie, Brad, Ric, Philip, Steve, Dave, Manette and Johann for the friendship across the miles together. It was great to see you guys again! And not forgetting Susan Hui too from Canada (always a Comrades).

- My friends from Scotland from Chun Hock, Jack, Edmund, Luke, Hong Jie and Serene for the support and company during this year’s build up and post Comrades trip.

- The rest of my international friends and colleagues from David, Kai Yuan, Bruce “Digger”, Amit, John, Sasie and Mikkel.

- Friends back home for supporting and tracking us!

29 May 2016 awaits next!


* All photos credited to the respective photographers. Thank you!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My Fourth Comrades...

By Frank

Leaving in a less than half a day's time, 2AM later on board an Emirates flight to Dubai for transit before off to Durban to be precise, this will be my fifth and final report card on my build-up to my fourth Comrades Marathon, which is also the 90th edition in history happening this Sunday on 31 May 2015. After 3 years of experience and with this year's training of 1,618KM log by my beloved legs through about 180 plus odd hours from the beginning of the year till today, I guess I got no choice but to say I am ready for the challenge once again. At least the mind games in terms of training mileage will certainly be helpful.


Besides myself and Chee Kong going for our fourth, this year will also see some of my friends gunning for their back to back. Selva, Shanaz, Dr.Jagjit and Kai Yuan will be 4 of them. Besides, 2 novices from Malaysia, Zijill and Dr. Yani will join in the ranks too.

My journey to my fourth Comrades.

Training this year despite the usual time consuming and tiring process has been everything smooth sailing except for a bee sting back in April. And as per previous years, training for the Comrades Marathon though involves mostly running, does include weight and resistance training too, well at least for me but not exactly too hardcore on it.  A look back in training where it all started in January which normally is the easy month of base building. However, with the fitness and momentum gained from the end of last year, I pushed forward and tackled my first 100KM trail at the Hong Kong 100 as part of my "Bucket List To Do" and also training. Despite suffering from migraine mid way through the race, I nevertheless completed it without any further mishaps nor injury and carried on training for the month easy. And in that, January gave me 300KM worth of running. Off to a good start!

February came later where the shorter and also festive month poses a challenge. WIth Chee Kong back for Chinese New Year, some runs with him helps to keep the momentum going. And is also that this month started the speed training which involves interval, time trial, fartlek and also hill training which made me starting to hate every Tuesday of the week! But all in all, the target of the month was achieved with 260KM ran.

March otherwise known as "Hell March" is where the mileage increased. As like previous years, my highest distance will come from this month and with Gunung Nuang Ultra at the beginning of the month and Twilight Ultra Challenge at the end, it made things easier. 2 long runs sandwiching my other forms of training in between is certainly working for me this time and that gave me 453KM worth of running. And its also beginning this month that I joined up with Zijill who will be running her first Comrades in training together. We supported and back each other through the tough times on the road on Saturdays and Sundays, and I was really amazed on her performance. She will be one of the novice runner to watch out for this month end. We also got the Gold Coast Malaysia training group to assist us in training. With Jamie, Nick, Choon Yuen, Julia, Kew and few other new faces, it made the training more fun.

April saw me continuing my momentum from last month. And knowing that I've fallen sick in this month the previous years, I took extra precautions this time. I continued to work on speed on the weekdays and long runs on the weekend before ending the month with the Bukit Larut 26KM run to train for hills, in conjunction with my final long run too. And with that, the hard training was done with 328KM covered this month.

My life in words.

And quickly enough, May came. After all the hard work, this month can be pretty frustrating due to tapering. The urge to run but the need to slow down to recover was what was required for this month. And this month was a little stretched as I was launching my biography in conjunction with this year's Be Frank campaign. And not only that, as usual some people down in head office just do not understand the the term staff welfare! But in all, I made it through together the usual suspects with Zijill and the Gold Coast group, and I rounded up my training yesterday with an easy run. But of course there will be a couple of very easy runs more at Durban before race day just to keep the legs fresh.

Live tracking for Comrades runners.

This is also my second year under the guidance of a coach. And for the first time too, this year's Comrades is trained using the MAF (Maximum Aerobic Function) or more commonly known as the Maffetone method. Besides, I was partially following the Low Carbs High Fat diet rules, where one of the most important element I followed was the massive reduction of sugar and lactose from my diet. And judging from the work done and also effort, and the "Up' run being my stronger direction, it looks pretty sure that I will excel in this year's race. However, I shall just remain realistic as anything can happen on race day. Anything from body condition to weather will have an effect on the overall results. Besides, due to road works, there will be an extra 877M to this year's route totaling to 87.72KM in total distance making it one of the longest "Up' run in Comrades history. The bar is raised pretty high for me but I will be happy to just better my time. And whether will the body be able to take the punishment will be a totally different story.

The list is long but I sincerely would like to thank those who have played a part in my buildup this year whether in support, donations and also the long training together. The pain, sweat, tears, laughter and blood for some, you all have my biggest THANK!

And reality sets in now. My fourth Comrades Marathon is on the horizon and here's to the hills! Let's Bamba Iqhaza! And yes, I am so gonna miss the pooch back home.

Come home quick to play with me!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Comrades 2015 Travel Plan...

By Frank

As my fourth Comrades Marathon is fast approaching, it's time to have the luggage bags sorted out for. Though the packing has started last week, the planning started months ago. Nothing much especially in numbers has changed from last year, with the exception of adding in some hiking essentials this time round as the holiday seekers will be heading towards Namibia post Comrades.

Usual packing list.

What's new tagging along this time will be the new Osprey Shuttle duffle wheel bag that's replacing the aging and slightly damaged Hush Puppies version. Damn... I got to stop buying bags! And with winter now in South Africa, the under privilege will be in need for some clothing and hence like last year, I will be bringing along some unwanted but still new shirts I've gotten from races. I will also be donating off my trustworthy Saucony Ride 7 that has served me so well to a lucky but needy fellow there.

The trip will officially begin on the wee hours of Wednesday, 27 May 2015. I will once again be flying on board Emirates heading to Dubai for transit before heading into Durban. Pretty similar flight path as last year but I will miss the company of my friend as I will be flying alone. Once arriving at Durban, I will pick up my ride for one night, the Hyundai i10 before heading to check in at Belaire Suites.

First ride, Hyundai i10.

Zijill, Chee Kong, Mei-Ee and Selva will arrive the next evening and hence I got the whole day to myself for some light running on the beach side in the morning before heading to the Comrades expo. Will be returning my ride in the evening before welcoming Zijill for her first trip to South Africa. Will wait for Selva and Chee Kong's arrival too before heading back to the hotel on board our next ride, the trustworthy Nissan NV200 from last year. Yeap, it's a van again for Team Malaysia!

Nissan NV200 for Team Malaysia!

Next day will be a short morning run with Team Malaysia before the usual expo and route tour towards the Comrades house at Pietermaritzburg. And in the evening, it's the Runner's World pasta party again for some loading up and last minute tips from Lindsey Parry, the official Comrades Marathon coach. And on the race day eve, it will be free and easy for all though I guess everyone will end up at the expo again before a light lunch, rest and an early dinner as per previous years. Won't be participating in the morning's youth run though but may just be a spectator there or at the nearby Park Run.

Hope the race will go well for everyone as the usual post race dinner will be at Jiran Cafe before a well deserved rest as I will be leaving early the next morning for Windhoek, Namibia with Chee Kong and family.

A Ford Ranger camper.

Upon arrival at Windhoek, we will pick up our vehicles, mine and Chee Kong being the Ford Ranger together with the highlight, the camper which is our moving "house" for this part of the trip. A night at Windhoek before a long drive to Sossusvlei where we will stay put at Sesriem campsite for 2 nights there. And this is also where we will rendezvous with Jack and Chun Hock and family who will be driving in from Cape Town on their very own adventure.

From Sossusvlei, it will be another over 400KM drive the next day to Swakopmund where we will rest in the caravan for the night before resuming the journey to Damaraland the next day, a close to 500KM drive.

At Damaraland, we will visit Mount Branberg before driving to Etosha National Park, about 260KM away where we will camp Gondwana Etosha campsite for 2 nights. And from there, it's back to Windhoek for a night there before our flight to Johannesburg the next morning.

We will part with Jack, Chun Hock and family there before continuing to stay at Johannesburg for one more night. Flight back home is scheduled on the next evening which leaves me and Chee Kong plenty of time to catch up with friends there!

It will be a truly different trip this time especially the post Comrades part. Still safari themed, but a more adventure like one. But certainly for sure, this trip will certainly be missing someone.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Comrades 2015 Race Gear...

By Frank

20 days till my fourth Comrades Marathon. And yes, it's tapering month which so far despite a little frustrating is going pretty smoothly. And after wrapping up the testing of this year's race gear, here by tradition again unveiling it.

The Saucony Kinvara since I started wearing them beginning from the 3rd edition has changed the way I run (it also changed the way I looked at Saucony as I wasn't a fan of them 4 years ago). An awesome shoe that moves the way the feet does and at the same time providing enough protection, it has protected and improved my performance and timing since my second Comrades Marathon in year 2013. The fourth had came a long way with me too though it skipped the Comrades Marathon as I was introduced to the fifth in time. It was the introduction of the Kinvara 5, the game changer that met and surpasses all my expectations and had given me a fantastic running season since I first received it last April till today.

The army of Kinvara 6.

And thus for this year, the Kinvara which had been code-named "Fast" will once again take on the duty of driving my 4th Comrades. The sixth generation of it, the Kinvara 6 thanks to Saucony Malaysia was first received in mid April 2015 and as usual I had been testing it indoor before moving on to the roads. And I am glad that the DNA of the shoe stood very closely with the fifth with only some adjustments to the FlexFilm making the shoe slightly more natural and flexible. I have faith in the shoe and I am sure it will deliver on race day. And coincidentally, I will be racing them in bright ViziOrange colour which is the same as my qualifier shoe the Saucony Type A6 and also 2 of my workhorse for this year's training, the Saucony Ride 7 and Zealot ISO.

From the qualifier, workhouse to race shoe, orange was the colour to the buildup of my 4th Comrades.

As for my socks, for my first time, I will move away from Drymax as I put my faith either on SwiftWick or Balega this year. Judging from the material used, both are pretty similar to Drymax and on the plus point, it has some added compression for SwiftWick and support for Balega to the necessary area such as arch and Achilles.

As for my apparels, moving away from SKINS, this year's duty will be on CompresSport Trail Tank Top and Trail Shorts, a new set I purchased myself. The top will be white this year which I hope will help with the heat as I remember the weather incident from 2 years ago when the heat wave struck. However for my calf sleeve, I am still undecided on the BV Sport Booster Elite or the CompresSport Calf R2 which the latter I felt over rated. Both will travel with me and I will decide on the morning itself I guess.

The super light Rudy Project Rydon will protect my eyes with my Suunto Ambit 3 Sapphire tracking and giving me the info as I tackle the race.

The only piece of gear which failed me  this time was the Mont Bell Zero Line race brief which sadly was not fitting due to my waist line. Therefore, I had to revert back to the trusty Renoma sport boxer trunks which I have trusted over the months.

My gears will be in a pretty neutral colour this year with the exception of the Kinvara 6. But what's important is they perform to my expectations in being functional and comfortable. And many thanks to Saucony Malaysia again for proving me and the team with the Saucony Kinvara 6 as our race shoe. Like the tagline for it, it will be a fast ride. Seek And You Shall Fly!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

"Four"ward To Final...

By Frank

I'm just glad it's behind now. The fourth month April has came and went. Billed as the second toughest month with back to back long runs on weekends, I am glad I survived. As coach says, I should feel tired which I was but yet strong.

April has been in tradition a difficult month for me the past couple of years. I normally fall sick in this month and this year, I took extra precautions. I was glad that the haze did not return this month so that was  a plus sign. I washed most of my clothing and bed sheet in Dettol hoping to minimize any potential bacteria building up. I also took in more supplements and drank more water to keep body heat at bay.

I carried on the momentum from March though it started a little slower due to recovery from the Twilight Ultra Challenge. And for the first 2 weeks, the gauntlet was thrown down as I kept my focus steady on what was needed. But I was unlucky during the first weekend when a bee stung me on my neck while running at Mayor's Hill. Though not serious, it caused some irritation. And then came the second weekend which was my critical back to back long runs. I almost did not survive that but with the help from Zijill, Jamie and the Gold Coast group, I completed the daunting task.

Training almost got derailed on the third week as there was the Pisang Relay to manage. No weekend long runs and hence I needed to find time on weekdays to maintain my fitness. It was really tough but I needed to hang on and am glad I did before everything went back to normal at the fourth week.

While most will be doing their last long run at the final week of April, I decided to finish off the month with the King of Bukit Larut 26KM run at Taiping. I signed up for it was an extremely hilly course but as the race drew nearer, I regretted for fears the downhill may hurt the legs after seeing the profile. However, I still went for it and took the opportunity to train uphill there while tackling the downhill with extreme careful measures. I completed it nevertheless with a fruitful uphill training there but with a little soreness to my quad muscles, but glad no injuries. And all in all, that closed my fourth month off with a total distance of 328KM ran, target achieved once again!

In this month too that I finally received my race shoe which as per my tradition will reveal it together with the rest of my gear next month.

Anyway, am so glad the 4 months of pure grit and smart training is in the pocket now. It's time to embrace the fifth and final month where we Comrades runners starts to taper off. It will be a frustrating month as intensity is greatly reduce but we just had to hang on for 30 days more and then it's RACE DAY!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

King Of Bukit Larut 2015...

Event: King Of Bukit Larut 2015
Venue: Bukit Larut, Taiping, Perak
Date: 26 April 2015
Time: 7.30AM
Distance: 26KM
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 5
By Frank

The last weekend of April was suppose to be my Comrades long run and Chee Kong tried to tempt me over to Scotland near Glasglow for the Hoka One One Fling 53 Miles. I was really tempted to go as most of my close international Comrades family from Caroline, Susan Hui and John Sneddon will be there. And not to mention my Scottish friends too. However, Scotland isn't a taxi ride away and was glad that the registration for this race was a quick sold out hence leaving me with no choice but to stay put back home. Instead of sulking, I found myself the King Of Bukit Larut which I signed up with Roy after seeing it's hilly profile.

Fat forwarding to the week leading to the race, I almost regretted signing up after studying the route profile. Although it was a steep long climb which I need, it's also a very steep long downhill. Total of 1,250M gain and then 1,250M loss will be damaging should it be not tackle properly. And knowing I am weak and clumsy with downhills, I had doubts for the descend.

Anyway, myself and Roy still made our way there on Saturday afternoon with me driving. Traffic was smooth albeit raining for most of the stretch and by 2.5 hours at 5.30PM, we arrived safely at Taiping and proceeded  to check into our comfy and cheap hotel at Legend Hotel. Although there was a dinner scheduled with Ewegene, Hong Lan, Barkley, Renee and a few others at Kuala Sepetang about 17KM away, myself and Roy went to the nearby market for some quick bites first as we were just too hungry before meeting them at their hotel.

Panoramic Kuala Sepetang.

Kuala Sepetang is a nice small fishing village. We had our dinner just next to the river. It's been a while since I had seafood and for the first time, I tried on the thorn snail. It's actually tasteless but with some chili paste, it's actually pretty good. Then flower crab which I do not know when was the last time I had them. Anyway, dinner was satisfying and we made our way back to the hotel for some rest.

Thorn snails.

Sunset at Kuala Sepetang.

After cleaning ourselves, myself and Roy decided to call it a night. He doze off pretty instantly and I was surprised he was snoring, which I do not remember. Guess he was tired. Kept me awake for a moment, actually throughout the night! 

I woke up about 5.15AM and got myself ready. Breakfast was a Honey Stinger waffle and a Clif Mojo bar with a cup of Starbucks Tribute Blend Americano. Everything was OK except my bowel which seems a bit "stuck". However, by 6.30AM, we made ourselves to the foot of Bukit Larut which was not too far away.

Upon arriving, I saw Barkley with his camera and instantly realized that I forgot my GoPro. Sigh... And the tummy began to show some signs of a potty visit. Quickly collected my race pack and made my "deposit". But to my horror, I "lost" my underwear within my compression shorts! OK, let me get this clear. I was testing out a new underwear I bought from Hong Kong back in January, the Mont Bell Zero Line. It's not a cheap gear but I hope to be using it at the upcoming Comrades Marathon. It's made of a very thin layer of micro fiber, so thin that it actually drop into my compression pants. Perhaps due to the size too. But anyway, I managed to "locate" it back.

The compact venue was filled with runners. After race briefing and singing the national anthem, the 26KM category was flagged off at 7.30AM sharp. It was immediately climbing and this is where I will train and test myself out. In fact, my initial plan was to go hard on the up, and easy on the down.

I was glad that the road was wide enough to accommodate the runners and quickly enough, I broke free from the main pack and started climbing. It was really steep but with fresh legs, it was still fine. Besides, the training at Mayor Hill helped a lot here. But not only it was steep, it was winding too. Soon enough, the first water station appeared at 3.5KM mark and I was told I was in position four. I was really surprised but that didn't bother me as I did not come here to race with another.

The climbs just kept coming till about 6KM up with a little rest for the legs at a short flat part. But rest I did not as it was advantage on the flats. Arriving at 10KM is where the small resort is. Nice place and I could see the magnificent view while enjoying the fresh air. 3KM to go to the top and it got a bit technical with the slippery concrete surface and a few metal grill covering the drain. Up wasn't too bad but I knew those will be trouble when making the return trip later.

Eventually I got to the top in 1:38:40 hours and Fathudin was there to greet me and pass me a ribbon. And from here, it's time to make my way down. It's hard not to run down as it's steep. Thus I ran but with caution. Yim was near to me and soon after he made his turn, he zoomed pass me and disappeared almost immediately. Roy was not far behind too.

With some descending skills I learn from Chee Kong, I set myself free and just ran.Though it felt fast, I was holding back especially on slippery surfaces and sharp turns. I need to protect my knees but at the same time, I was actually having fun. Everything was going smoothly and I met my friends along my way down. At the final 5KM, I bumped into Hong Lan but shortly later, I was passed again by an ex-pat from United Kingdom. I was down to position 6 instantly but I didn't want to give chase. I did pass the 5th runner though as he was walking down ahead. Guess his legs must be hurting.

Anyway, everything went smoothly and I eventually crossed the finish line 2:39:40 hours later coming in position 5 with absolutely no pain, soreness nor mishaps. In fact, I was very happy with my performance. Collected my medal and had 2 bowls of their famous but over rated Ansari cendol Hung out for a moment before leaving after Roy returned.

Happy with my run.

And after cleaning ourselves and checking out of the hotel, we returned to the market for a simple lunch before starting our journey home which was a smooth ride. And thus came to my closure of 4 races in the name of Comrades training. It's 34 days to go from now and hence, it's time to make good use of the training I had.