Monday, May 23, 2016

My Fifth Comrades...

By Frank

And so, I am finally here and certainly am glad I am. The end of the fifth month as the training for Comrades comes to an end. With 1,688KM covered by those legs of mine over here, the work is done here. Just a couple of runs more to round up the distance to 1,700KM over at Durban's North Beach when I arrive there to keep my legs going and that should be it, for my fifth Comrades will take place this Sunday, 29 May 2016. And this year, only myself, Chee Kong and a novice Chris Yeoh will be running the race as Malaysians.

Yeap, time certainly passed swiftly as I remembered my very first back in year 2012 and in a blink of an eye, it' half a decade already. This year's training was the toughest of all due to the combination of the West Highland Way Race 3 weeks later. I only had a month's of off-season in December last year. Not a total rest and with that, I managed to maintain my fitness and swing my momentum into January where it all officially started. With a training regime given by coach with a mixture and not to mention an increase of intensity of running and strength training, I had doubts if I can pull this year's training off. But with a  positive mindset, I set myself off cause knowing with will, confidence and discipline, I know that even if I am not able to hit it spot on at 100%, I should at least able to get near it. And those who knew me, knows that like previous years,  I've used running to run away from my thoughts and problems I faced, and that may indirectly help. And to quickly recap, here's what happened in the past 4 months since training all started.

January started almost with a bang. With my unsuccessful ballot for this year's Hong Kong 100, I opt for the local Watergate 16 Hours instead. Didn't do very well in that though as sleep got over me again, but it was still good indicator. It was also from this event that I stopped sharing my blog entries on my Facebook due to some very negative people. A couple of weeks later was then the Cyberjaya Twincity Marathon. I did well on this one cruising through the entire course without any difficulties. With that, I knew I had already had a positive start as I conclude the month with 346KM covered. The link to January 2016 report card HERE.

February was a tough month to forget. Though it all started positively continuing from January, things got rough during Chinese New Year when mum and Bailey was injured during a dog attack. That derailed my training a lot as family will always comes first. But by the third week after both of them making their full recovery, I slowly made my way back into training with some proper time management and ended the month with the Gunung Nuang Ultra. With that, it was a surprise 352KM for the month where I told myself how much I wanted it! The link to February 2016 report card HERE.

Next, the much dreaded month came, known to most Comrades runners as Hell March. 400KM was needed and not forgetting strength training too. I asked myself on how am I going to achieve this as I know I can no longer depend on the training group. But looking back at last year, I actually managed to do it and that certainly gave me a motivational boost and coincidentally, it was the month where I hit the milestone of a decade of running injury free too. *fist pumps! However, with the legs still sore from the Gunung Nuang Ultra, I started the first few days of the month by resting before resuming. The rest though took some much needed time away, did proof beneficial as I felt it help me build my quadriceps which will be important for downhills. With Twilight Ultra Challenge at the third week of the month, I knew at that time that 400KM was possible. However, my left shoulder blade issue returned during the run and I struggled with it towards the end of the month before it subsided. But all in all, 415KM was covered and I felt not only relieved, but strong. The link to March 2016 report card HERE.

Moving into April, though the distance and the intensity is reduced, it was still a tough month. With the shoulder blade issue out of the way, came the "dead" leg syndrome on my left. Not sure what happened but it eventually went away just in time for my final long run at Route 68 Challenge. Knowing that my big races are nearing, I held back throughout the race and surprisingly felt good completing 70KM injury and soreness free, and in a very decent time too. With this, I knew that I was on the right track and I carried on with the rest of the regime given. 375KM was covered and it was time to taper. The link to April 2016 report card HERE

I welcomed the fifth month May with much anticipation for it's tapering month. After all the hard work, it's time to slowly decrease the running mileage and intensity. However with the expiration of my gym membership, the handover process of my work and also the presence of an unwelcome guest fro Singapore office, it was not an easy tapering period too, especially for the first couple of weeks. I id most of workouts at weird hours and managed to survive that before it got better as the third week arrived. And by then, everything was smooth sailing except with one problem, my nagging issue of my left shoulder blade returned. I couldn't turn my upper torso and head properly for about a week before it finally subside. Hope it won't happen again though, especially for the next 1 month ahead. And with all of this, 200KM was covered for this month, a dramatic drop compared to last year, but I believe there is a reason for this.

1,688KM of pain, soreness, tears, blood and many thoughts.

Overall, the result of from the past 5 months has been really positive and I am glad training is all over now.  I felt throughout the months, I have greatly improved on my uphill strength while improving slightly on running downhills. And not only that, after 2 years on the MAF (Maximum Aerobic Function) Method by Dr. Phil Maffetone and LCHF (Low Carbs High Fat) diet, I am finally feeling the results from it for I am able to cruise better now at a very manageable heart rate. And those are all performed in the very hot and humid weather of Malaysia. Hope it will be even better over at South Africa and Scotland where weather is much more forgiving. What is left now is to implement what I gained from the training and to remember what I have learnt from these past 10 years of running into the 2 biggest race of my running career.

And so with that, concludes all the training needed for Comrades here as I fly off tomorrow morning (Tuesday, 24 May) to Istanbul on board Turkish Airlines (shame on Emirates for charging a premium this time) for a 7 hour transit before landing at Durban. 5 months since it all started for my fifth Comrades. And during the process, 2 pairs of Kinvara 5 and a pair of Zealot ISO met their end of life with the Kinvara 6, Kinvara 7, Ride 8, Peregrine 5 and Peregrine 6 being my other workhorse. And not only shoes, my body fat percentage took a dive too with the lowest reading at the end of April with a record reading of only 4%! Even a 27 inch jeans is loose for me now. It's going to get extra tough to be shopping for apparels now. Sigh...

However, during the tapering month and 2 weeks into the month of May, I managed to increase my body fat percentage back up to 5.8%. And not only that, my muscle mass increased too and that was certainly positive. I hope this will continue to build up though I may lose a little more during Comrades.

Though I am feeling strong, I am not looking for an improvement of time at Comrades this year unless some miracle happens. More importantly is to get myself to the Kingsmead within the cut off time safely and without any injuries. And this year being the down run, I have to be extra careful. So in other words, Comrades this year is more about a long training run for the West Highland Way Race though the 5 big hills and the countless nameless ones still needs to be respected for it will shatter even the strongest runner.

There will also be no plans at South Africa after the race this year as myself and Chee Kong will leave for Scotland the day after. Therefore, apologies to my South African friends just in case we are not able to meet up this year. But I think this will be good for me to rest up and recover, and at the same time to acclimatise myself with Scotland's summer. That however, will be under another separate entry for now, it's all eyes on my fifth Comrades Marathon.

So before signing off here, here are my thanks to everyone who had help me got this far. And to my sponsors Saucony, I will race in your colours proudly and strongly! Till my race report, wish me luck this Sunday, 29 May 2016!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Me And My Saucony...

By Frank

Saucony... Pronouced as "Sock A Knee", a running brand from Boston, US is a brand that I never thought that I will be associated with. To start off with is because I didn't had a pleasant experience with my first pair which is the Saucony FastWitch 3 back in year 2009 where I ran my first ultra marathon with. Suffered cramps badly which at that point of time and being a newbie runner, I blamed the shoe for it due to the extremely soft cushioning. Since then, I stayed away from this brand until another opportunity came in year 2012.

I was really fortunate and lucky to be spotted by the then Saucony brand manager and my friend now Alicia who offered me the opportunity to be representing the brand here in Malaysia. I was skeptical back then due to my first experience but at the same time matured through time that it wasn't the shoe's fault back in year 2009. I shared my concern with Alicia and she fully understood my situation at that time and hence handed me some key models, in this case the Kinvara 3 and Mirage 3 to try out first.

After close to half a year, when I was a free agent again, and being impressed by the Kinvara 3, I finally agreed and put ink on paper as I accepted the Saucony sponsorship. I was grateful to Alicia too for keeping her promise and waiting for my availability patiently. From there, not only I was representing the brand, I was also working closely with her in matters of branding, marketing, ordering, training and more. It was not all smooth sailing for Saucony isn't a brand well known here yet and with tight budget, it makes things more challenging. Understanding the issues we were faced with, both myself and Alicia used whatever resources we could find back then. I didn't push for my sponsorship either and just used whatever gears that was made available. We were working very tightly but at the same time, safely but yet happy. And probably from there, we turned our business relationship into friendship.

Product training.

But we overcame it with the help from a dedicated team and a year down, we made our first media event by launching the Kinvara 4 and at the same time expanding the ambassador team to 3 with Zijill and Jason coming on board. Then came the running clinic where we presented ourselves to the running community here to share our knowledge and experiences.

The launch event of Kinvara 4.

Moving on, as I explored the world, I also met up with the principals of Saucony from various countries being South Africa, Netherlands, United Kingdom and of course Jimmy from Asia's regional office at Hong Kong, the principal we have been working with. I was really touched and grateful for their support in my day to day adventure which eventually helped me a lot in my upcoming race at West Highland Way with gears made available through them.

With Saucony South Africa, whom we meet every year at the Comrades Expo.

With the hilarious guys from Saucony Netherlands.

A pleasure to meet up with Eric, Product Specialist from Saucony Scotland.

As time passes, Alicia had left the company for greener pasture. In fact, most of the team from the first day had eventually left too. I really miss the the original team for their efficiency was well, efficient!. And before Alicia left last year, she was kind enough to arrange the pro team's kit for me which I am forever grateful for. With a new manager and team to work with, we started from where we left off, only at that time, Saucony had already established itself among the runners here. Sales has picked up and awareness is there but there was still a problem, the budget.

In Kinvara I trust.

At a recent outdoor photo shoot.

Studio photo shoot.

Over the years through the Saucony gears, I ran better Comrades each year, clocked my best timings in various distances such as 70KM and 100KM, did my first 100KM trail with it and also ran my second fastest marathon with it. And next will be my half decade of Comrades and my first longest trail run with it. With the accomplishment I had with the brand and the budget problem still persisting, I thought through it and decided that for the brand to grow further, I will step down as the ambassador to allow the budget to loosen and flow, and also for new talents to carry the brand. That explains the number of Saucony related photos I've been uploading on my Facebook lately, for those who suddenly felt there was an sudden overflow of it. Yes, I have a soft spot for this brand and it's not an easy decision especially when I was sincerely asked to stay on. But I guess new faces are needed and with that decision mutually agreed, Zijill remained and I hooked Jamie and Nick up for the new team.

When the outgoing ambassador meets the new ambassadors.

I will have 2 more races under the ambassadorship program before my contract ends officially. My fifth Comrades at South Africa and the 95 Miles West Highland Way Race over the mountain of Scotland. For the final 2 times and for the first time ever, I will be in racing in full Saucony kit. It is certainly a pleasure to be in it and I will race proudly and confidently in them.

One final race at the highlands in the colours of Saucony.

Hence at the end of this entry, I would like to thank everyone from past and present of Saucony Malaysia from Alicia, Razi, Cheryll, Khiem Khiem, Amy, Alice, Yi Xuan, Kiki and many more from the retail team for their gracious support and understanding through these 3.5 years. A new chapter awaits for me with this brand and I know it will be a great one ahead. As for Saucony in Malaysia, I hope the new team including the ambassadors will take good care of it as a new era will begin soon as we all continue to "Find Your Strong" together!

Thank you for the 3.5 years.

Always part of Saucony.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Be Frank 2016 Isn't Happening...

By Frank

Since I've received queries on this year's Be Frank campaign,  I guess it's much better that I explain it here. And I am sorry to share that the Be Frank campaign isn't happening this year, well at least under my annual Comrades Marathon fund raiser. Don't be mistaken though as the Be Frank campaign is always happening every day of the year, just that it's under a different way whether through seminars, boot sales and more.

A lot has happened since late last year and that played a significant role in my decision not to fund raise this year. With the passing of friends locally and around the world due to cancer, the somber mood continues to affect me. Experiencing the pain of being diagnosed with the disease was already painful enough but yet with a passing each month since the month of December last year isn't something a survivor would like to know or go through. I shared my thoughts with Dr. Teo, CEO of Cancer Research Malaysia back in February 2016 and she respected my decision and was supportive of it too. I just hope I didn't let her and the rest at the foundation down with my "selfish" decision.

And knowing that to fund raise, lots of work needs to be done especially on the marketing side. However, I am not a person who likes to be marketed and instead prefer to stay low profile. Probably that was the reason the funds didn't flow in really well the past few years, which left me pretty frustrated. And there was this issue where people started asking on where did the funds raised goes to and not in a nice manner too. Am not mentioning names but if you are reading this, you should know that it was you or who was it. And for your info, all the funds raised benefited cancer research at Cancer Research Malaysia, previously known as CARIF for a better tomorrow and every cents is certainly worth it.

However the good news is, if that you believe and agree with what I've been doing and am still doing in trying to raise awareness and to fight cancer, you can still lend a helping hand by little gestures such as helping to spread the word, through donations of any amount or even by purchasing gifts such as collar pins, badges or even the book "From Cancer To Ultramarathons" which I wrote last year as all the money received there will be channeled to Cancer Research Malaysia for cancer research purposes.

Therefore, yes. Despite being my 10th year of running, my half decade of running the Comrades Marathon and also and extra race 3 weeks later to fulfill my running bucket list at the West Highland Way Race, I will not be campaigning under Be Frank this year. I hope all of you will respect my decision and understand my situation, and hopefully it will return again the next year. And for the past 5 years of fund and awareness raising, I thank all those who have supported from the bottom of my heart.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

After 121 Days...

By Frank

It has been 121 days since the year started. And it has certainly been those days that training for this year's 2 major races has since started. Am I tired? No doubt yes. Am I feeling strong? Hell yeah! Am I ready? Oh YES! That sums up my feeling I guess.

4 months has passed since all the training officially began. Continuing from March, April is the month to keep the momentum going with a slight reduce in intensity in order for the body to start recovering. It is also the month to identify any areas to improve on and to test out the race gears.

However, April didn't start off really well as there were signs of a "dead" left leg. My initial thoughts was that I may have overused it last month especially towards the final week of it. But to think of it realistically, ample rest time was given to it for recovery before continuing with April's training. Then I got really worried when I thought of some nerve issues. Yes, it was all self assumption and instead of resting completely, I did short and light workouts while taking in more Vitamin B enriched food for it helps with the nervous system. The leg return from the "dead" after a few days and I was glad it was just a scare. Phew...

With no fitness lost during the "dead" leg scare, I was feeling strong and that was just in time for the 70KM Route 68 Challenge on the second week of the month. I held back throughout the entire race to minimise any risk of injury and manage to complete it with my best 70KM result without thrashing out myself, and that was indeed a really positive sign.

Continuing my training with the strength and confidence gained, I was glad that some of my friends are slowly making their return from their injury. And a week after Route 68 Challenge, we were back running together at some of our favourite places and those favourite involves hills! We continued to roll towards the final week of the month together which almost got derailed a bit due to the return of the notorious haze, which was our own Malaysian pineapple farmers doing. Nevertheless, I was glad I successfully followed my regime and went through the final week of the month without any issues. I was really happy about that not only cause confidence is building but will also mean no more tough 100KM weekly mileage too. Phew...

Transfer of timing chip from last year's Kinvara 6 to this year's Kinvara 7.

The big boys turn to play.

I also began to try out my race gears. Due to the different nature and weather of both races I will be racing in, there will be 2 separate race gears for this year. One set for Comrades while the other for the West Highland Way Race. But there is one similarity for both sets as for the the first time, I will be in full Saucony colours. Many thanks to Saucony for this arrangements. The following are the breakdown on what I will be wearing and using.

Part of my race tops.

Comrades Marathon
Race top - Saucony pro team tri top
Race bottom - Saucony pro team tri short
Race shoe - Saucony Kinvara 7
Quad compression - CEP Quad Sleeve
Calf compression - CEP Progressive Calf Sleeve 2.0
Race socks - Balega Ultra Light No Show
Race watch - Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire

A new Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire for these 2 race. And in blue too.

West Highland Way Race
Mid layer race top - Saucony Run Strong Long Sleeve Top
Back up mid layer race top - Saucony Nomad Long Sleeve Top
Race tights - Saucony Omni LX Tights
Water proof outer shell - Saucony EXO Jacket
Back up water proof outer shell - Saucony Razer Jacket
Race shoe - Saucony Peregrine 6
Back up race shoe - Saucony Xodus 6
Beanie - Saucony Drylete beanie
Head gear - Buff
Wind and water resistant gloves - Saucony Nomad gloves
Base layer - BV Sport Anatomical Top
Quad compression - CEP Quad Sleeve
Calf compression - CEP Progressive Calf Sleeve 2.0
Race socks - Drymax Max Protection Trail Sock
Back up race socks - Drymax Trail Sock
Hydration vest - Salomon S-Lab Adv Skin3 Set 12
Headlamp - LED Lenser H14R.2
Race watch - Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire

Let there be light at the highlands!

The fourth month gave me 375KM and hence after 121 days of hard training with a total of 1,488KM, it's time to recharge, re-energize, repair, recover and be ready for my fifth Comrades in 28 days time and then the important long one at West Highland Way Race 3 weeks later. The fifth and final month is next and it's time to enjoy the taper for the "monster" (a nick given by a friend last year due to my commitment to the race and my heavy training mileage) is back!

The journey after 18 weeks.