Monday, November 24, 2008

Nike LunaRacer+...

By Frank
The Nike LunaRacer+, the racing version and big brother to the Nike LunarTrainer+ was introduced to me back in August 2008. But I did not have the opportunity to run in it until October 2008 recently. Since I have reviewed the LunarTrainer+ which can be seen by hitting this link here, I will not go to deep into the LunaRacer+ as it is build pretty similarly. Instead, I will highlight on the major differences.

The Nike LunaRacer+...

Similar to the LunarTrainer+, the LunaRacer+ is a neutral cushioning racing shoe designed and built around Bill Bowerman’s original 1972 “Moon Shoe”, hence the use of the waffle tread. Revolutionizing the shoe further was the use of the LunarLite foam jointly developed with the aerospace industry that gives the shoe its unique cushioning system. Not forgetting the reference to the Nike Free series thus giving the shoe’s its great flexibility, and the Nike+ concept that makes the shoe a “running computer” with the use of the Nike+ Sports Kit or SportBand.

The difference between the LunarTrainer+ and the LunaRacer+ can be felt immediately after holding it as the latter weights ridiculously light at only 156 grams! That’s almost half the weight as oppose to the LunarTrainer+, and it’s really tough not to run fast with it. So how did Nike achieve this? As seen from the shoe, gone is the traditional air mesh which is replaced by a hip futuristic looking semi translucent nylon sheet called the FlyWire. FlyWire features threads of nylons being interlaced with each other to provide superior strength for shoe and fitting for the wearer’s feet. No stitching was visible and one can be sure it offers the seamless fit thus eliminating abrasions. However, due to the FlyWire technology which made the shoe felt tighter, it is recommended to choose half a size bigger. But for some reasons, my right foot which is a quarter size smaller than my left experienced some rubbing on my tiny toe against the shoe wall. A quick check with 2 of my running mates too had the same problem. No problems on the left though. And due to the nylon threads, I’ve notice not a single hole around the shoes hence the feet felt warmer as ventilation was a tad poor.

Up close and personal on the FlyWire...

As with the LunarTrainer+, the LunaRacer+ uses the same cushioning system based on the LunarLite foam which is encapsulated in a lime green phylite carrier forming the outsole which then the tread is shaped like a waffle iron. However, the LunaRacer+ has a much lower profile hence giving the wearer a much more “road feel”. A quick check on the outsole shows that the waffle pistons looks a bit larger compared to the LunarTrainer+ with a slightly different design where each piston comes with “nipples”. Coupled with additional BRS 1000 carbon rubber to prolong life span at high wear areas, I felt the traction of the shoe much improved especially on wet surfaces over the LunarTrainer+. And probably due to this and the virtual post hidden at the heel of the outsole within where the LunarLite word is, both my feet did not feel wobbling around too much even though the shoe looks narrow in fit with less “foundations” touching the ground.

The waffle tread. Notice the "nipples" on each piston...

The virtual post within where the LunarLite word is...

Some other good to know stuff about the LunaRacer+ are that since the collar is designed very thin, it is recommended to wear well padded ankle length socks to protect the Achilles heel from any abrasion that might occur. Not forgetting that the socks need to be sweat wicking due to the shoe’s ventilation. Addition to this, do try out different lacing methods to eliminate hotspots as the shoe’s tongue is thin and the narrow fit tends to be tight at the forefoot area. I personally used the traditional criss cross lacing method but I loosen the area around the forefoot.

The thin collar...

The tongue...

It’s really hard to judge and recommend the Nike LunaRacer+ as it may not suit everyone due to its design. You just have to give it a try to feel it. But from my personal view, it’s a great shoe. And if you fit comfortably in the LunarTrainer+ like me, then you’re in luck for this shoe may help in achieving a personal best. Do check out Jamie’s take on the Nike LunaRacer+ too by hitting this link.

The Nike LunaRacer+ is now available at all Nike stores retailing at a recommended price of RM439.

Comfort: 7.5/10
Cushioning: 8.5/10
Design: 8/10
Flexibility: 9/10
Weight: 9.5/10
Overall: 8.5/10

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Penang Bridge International Marathon 2008...

Event: Penang Bridge International Marathon 2008
Venue: Queensbay Mall, Penang
Date: 16 November 2008
Time: 3.00am
Distance: 42.195KM (42.21KM by Choi's Garmin Forerunner 205)
Shoe: Saucony Grid Fastwitch 3
By Frank

The near perfect conditions, determination, deep thoughts and a pair of superb shoe all contributed to something I did not expect at the Penang Bridge International Marathon 2008, though it was a mentally tough route.

15 November 2008. Pre-race day...
Together with Choi and Pueh Tian, the 3 of us boarded the Aeroline coach from Sunway Pyramid at 8am and departed for Penang on a wet morning. Haza was too on the bus with her kids. It took us 5 hours to arrive at the Sungai Nibong bus terminal and was greeted by Chee Kong who came to pick us up. First thing first, we went to Queensbay Mall to pick up our race pack. It was a quick one and within 5 minutes, everyone was done. The race pack contained our running bib, a free size running vest which is too big for me, a t-shirt, race guide and some stuff from the sponsors. Pretty good I would say. Later, we met up with Cheang and Chin PF before heading off for a quick and simple lunch.

Contents of the race pack...

View of Queensbay Mall on the right, while the Penang Bridge on the top left...

After lunch, we checked into Krystal Suites which is rather near to Queensbay Mall and we rested till 6pm before heading out for dinner with Luc at the New Lane hawker street. Jeff and his girlfriend joined in too and we even met a few other runners from Kuala Lumpur including Loke and his family. Kept dinner simple as I do not want to risk any potential diarrhea and it's back to the hotel to call it a day.

The crowded New Lane hawker street...

16 November 2008. Race day...
The day I'm waiting for. I woke up just before midnight while everyone else was still asleep. I took my time to prepare as I munched down a bun and a Cliff Bar with a cup of hot coffee before hitting the shower. Shortly later, Choi was awake too and by 2am, we are ready to leave. Chee Kong and Pueh Tian woke up just before we left and we all exchanged good luck wishes before heading off to the lobby to meet up with Anil, Kit and Luc. Had a good quality walk to the starting venue, and by the time we got there, our body was partially warmed up.

The course route...

Together with Choi before taking on the legendary distance...

Reported ourselves into a barricaded area while waiting for the start time. Bumped into Tey ET just before heading out to the roads alongside Queensbay Mall. One final check on my Saucony Fastwitch 3 to make sure the laces are secured and the usual stuff of wishing everybody well was done before we hit it. At 3am, with lion dances and confetti being shot up into the air, an approximated number of 500 runners took on the legendary 42.195KM distance.

As I know that this will be a race all by myself with no pacers, I decided to go at my own comfortable pace without trying anything fancy like plyometrics. The first stretch was along some service road heading towards Gold Coast resort. It was pretty dark here so I had my eyes on the ground to make sure that I didn't run into any potholes or reflectors. There were a few spectators along the road to cheer us on before we arrived at the extremely long stretch of the Bayan Lepas Expressway that took runners along the coastal road passed the industrial park that houses Intel, Agilent and some other big names.

The whole expressway was closed so runners had the opportunity to run anywhere on it. But as I was going at a steady pace together with an Indian runner, I did not have the privilege on running on the inner lane. Was stuck next to him for a while until he broke away. I was feeling very good here as the weather was just perfect. The light morning sea breeze contributed to a cool morning and me having my weekdays training under the blazing hot sun at 4pm, took advantage of this. Shortly at 5KM, came the first refreshment station but I did not go for it as I had my water bottle filled with Endurox R4 with me, which really did help a lot. I took small little sips every 15 minutes and that save me lots of time from drinking from cups at the refreshment stations.

As I approached the end of the expressway, I saw the first runner which is no surprise a Kenyan, making his way back. Shortly, I saw Luc too as I head towards the Batu Maung U-turn point as I cheered him on. Seeing how fast Luc went eventually motivated me as I hit the 10KM mark in a time 00:53:18. As I made my turn, I kept my eyes on the runners heading towards the turn instead and eventually saw Anil, Raymond, Choi, Kit, Tey ET and Cheang. Gave my thumbs up to them before I head back. At about the 12.5KM mark, Anil came out of no where and went off after wishing me. Slowly and slowly, he began to disappear into the distance.

Arriving at the 20KM mark in a time of 01:47:54 (00:54:33), was the start of my problems. I "crashed" into the human wall as thousands of half marathoners detoured into the race course. And to make things event worst, the PowerBar Gel which is stated to be stationed at the 15KM mark appeared on the 20KM mark instead with no priority given to the full marathoners. I do not understand why did the choose to give the gels to the half marathoners when they just started the race, probably just into their third kilometer. I tried to grab a gel but by the time I got into the crowd, I noticed that there was a long queue for it and therefore decided not to have it. I decided to carry on, but that's of course after trying very hard to run my way out from the crowded gel station.

As I approach the 2 lane ramp heading into the bridge, I had to maneuver myself through the sea of runners. Despite bright yellow signs stating "Slower runners keep left", no one even bothered and I was forced to run on the rather narrow pavement alongside the railing to overtake some of them. I tried to indicate to them that a runner is coming through but no one listened. Yes, not a single one! Some were walking holding hands, calling on their mobiles and even stopping to pose for photos! Honestly speaking, I do not mind but please do it in a proper way so that other runners are not obstructed.

My hydration plan was all messed up here. Without fluid as I had earlier finished my Endurox R4 at the 15KM mark, and with the refreshment station at the 22.5KM mark crowded with runners around a small table, I carried on as a very dry runner. However, it was after this station that I had some breathing space I managed to break free from the crowd.

Knowing my energy level is depleting fast, I took my first PowerBar Gel, without any water leaving me with a rather sticky throat and lips. But I know I had no choice and to rely on my saliva and time to wash away the effect.

As I made my way, I spotted Pueh Tian and caught up with him. Greeted him before I continued on but then, he gave a sprint and stopped a couple of meters ahead and took a video of me, which at first I thought was a photo instead. Haha... Thanks! As I began my ascend up the bridge, Raymond came from behind and greeted me with this message "Good pace", before he sped off like a rolling tomato, hence his nick the TomatoMan! And to make things even interesting, he actually stopped earlier when he had to hit the potty-pot! This guy is awesome!

Shortly in front, a runner from the 25KM category has feel unconscious. Other runners gathered around him but I was guess it was the wrong move. Though it was kind of them in trying to help, the poor guy needed fresh air which was blocked off by others. His legs were raised to allow blood flow and he was slapped lightly a few times hoping to wake him up. The ambulance arrived shortly after I ran pass, and I hope he is fine.

As I hit the 25KM mark, I quickly grabbed a small little cup from the refreshment station only to find out that it was empty. Quickly asked the person in charge to filled it up as I continued on. It wasn't enough though as water was splashed out from the cup as it was poured in. Though desperate for water, I wasn't about to look back and was rewarded at the 27.5KM mark with a good supply of water before hitting it again and arriving at the 30KM mark in a time of 02:46:04 (00:58:09). I was very surprised with my time as I was on course for a sub 4 timing. However, things took a dramatic turn here. Read on...

Arriving at the U-turn point just before the toll interchange, I took my second gel just before making my return trip. Nothing much happen during my return trip on bridge except that I bumped in Chanbai who was running the 25KM category. However, I know I was slowing down and was seriously dry, probably due to the sea breeze.

Before exiting the bridge, I took 2 cups of isotonic and a cup of water before getting kicked on my right heel by a lady runner who was running wobbly left and right. She did not apologise and though it only hurt me a little, it slowed my momentum down. Shortly in front, I notice that she ran herself into the first aiders. Despite still continuing, she was put on alert by the first aiders as from what I heard.

Then came the final refreshment station as I took one final cup of water. As I ran along the final stretches of the Bayan Lepas Expressway, I know my sub 4 timing is fading fast. At the turning into the Gold Coast Resort and with approximately 800M to go, I almost broke into tears when I saw my watch hit 4 hours. Knowing I had to carry on which I did, I fought back and carried on with Seok Ling right behind me.

With 500M to go, as I was making my way around the Gold Coast roundabout, my left hamstring gave way. The pain sent me limping as I grab on my hamstring and ran. The word "Pain" was written all over my face and one of the road marshall spurred me on telling me to drag myself to the finish line if I had to! Gave him a very painful smile as I continued running and counted down the distance marker. 500M, 400M, 300M, 200M and finally into the finishing area as I crossed the finish line with my arms wide open at position 33 with a time of 04:04:44, a new personal best for me! That's 00:25:31 shaved off my previous.
Front view of the finisher's medal...
Rear view of the finisher's medal...
The finisher's certificate...

Further down from the finish line, I was presented a towel which really came in handy together with my finisher's medal and certificate. Shortly later, I was congratulated by Seok Jiun who was there waiting for her sister's arrival. Luc who completed his run at position 12 with a time of 03:18:01 was there too and we congratulated each other before meeting up with Chee and Loke and soon the others too. I hydrated myself with 3 cups of isotonic drinks and a bottle of water before heading off to catch up with the others to share our running stories. Congratulations to Lynn too for completing her 25KM category in position 14 with a time of 02:20:36.

After chilling out at the rest area for an hour plus, I decided to head back to the hotel with Chee Kong and Choi for well deserve shower. It was at this time, I asked myself what had gone wrong? Thought I ran my fastest 30KM distance, it is at this point that things started to fade for me. Now that I know, I know which area I am to improve on. Nevertheless, I am overall very happy with my performance as I was not aiming for a sub 4 timing. I was just giving it a go since I felt good and saw the chance coming. Most importantly, I was glad that I didn't stop at all throughout the entire course. And frankly speaking, I do not know how I did it. All I knew was that during the entire course, my mind was fill with thoughts of my running mates including Choi, Jamie, Luc, Geraldine, Lynn and the others who went through thick and thin with me for the last 3 months.

After cleaning up, we headed to Swatow Lane for our post marathon meal with Luc. He won some prize money and we had a feast of local food there while exchanging our run stories before we head back to the hotel for some quality rest while Luc returned back home to Kuala Lumpur.

About the quality of the Penang Bridge International Marathon 2008, I would say it's much better compared to the one organised the previous year. It may have his downside of it, but I guess every races has it. The question is, how bad it is? Probably the organisers should look into the PowerBar Gel station and water issue. Some refreshment station ran out of water, while other ran out of cups. This is really an important issue to look into as life is at risk. So will I be back next year? As for now, I can't really commit myself though I did enjoy the race as it will always be nice to try out different marathons. Unless that I can't meet my target of at least 4 marathons a year, the Penang Bridge International Marathon will definitely be on my running calendar.

Full marathon, Men open
04:04:44 - Frank Chong (33)
04:28:42 - Yip Kit Weng (50)
05:21:26 - Tey Eng Tiong (99)

Full marathon, Men veteran
03:18:01 - Luc Bodart (12)
04:41:44 - Choi Chik Choy (66)
05:36:34 - Chin Phoy Foon
06:23:45 - Cheang Meng Wai

25KM Half marathon, Men open
02:18:00 - Chen Chee Kong
02:26:32 - Jeff Ooi

25KM Half marathon, Women open
02:20:36 - Lynn Guan (14)
02:26:00 - Tan Chin Chin

17 November 2008. Post race day...
The highlight of the day before we left Penang was my lunch with Choi and Pueh Tian at a resurant called T-Bowl at Queensbay Mall. The letter "T" stands for Toilet so I guess you can pretty guess how's the food served. Yes, instead of the usual bowls, it came in mini toilet bowls! Even the seats are of toilet bowls and I hope they are new. Conventional tables are replaced with sinks with a glass top. Even desserts came in mini bath tubs! And after filling up our tummy, we left Penang at 3pm via the Aeroline coach. So it's goodbye Penang!
Me digging into my meal in a toilet bowl...

Desserts served in mini bath tubs...

As for now, it's time to recover for my next marathon in 3 weeks time, the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2008.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Taking On The Bridge...

By Frank

As of this evening, I have completed my training that includes my tapering phase and all totalled up to 688.51KM of distance ran since starting back in August 2008 for my upcoming fifth marathon at Penang this weekend. I will be taking on the Penang Bridge International Marathon 2008 this Sunday which is scheduled to start at 3am making it my earliest marathon! The marathon was originally scheduled to be held in June 2008 but due to financial problems by the original organisers, it was cancelled. But thankfully, the state government decided that they will take on the responsibilities in organising this event and thus, runners were gifted the oppourtunity to run one of the longest bridge in the world this November 2008.

The majestic Penang Bridge which span a total length of 13.5KM (8.4KM on water)...

I did pretty badly at last year's edition running in the half marathon category as I was hit by plantar pain quite early into the race. However, this time round, I'm feeling pretty good about it even if I'm running twice the distance. My training has been pretty intense and probably my toughest to date too. Being introduce to me for the first time was the back to back long runs. Though tough, I was lucky I have my running mates with me to go through the ups and downs of it. And this will certainly fill my mind when I take on the bridge especially when things get rough and tough.

I ran so much that at one stage, I neglected part of my resistance training. It's certainly not easy to do both trainings together especially having to run long distance. Knowing the disdvantages of not doing it, I got myself into the groove again and managed to put in some quality ones.

Training so intense for the first time left me battling with fatigue at one stage which slowed me down. The body just felt heavy and "lifeless" and it really made me look like a "walking zombie". Took about a week to get myself back into shape with a proper diet although my appetite just wasn't there. I just had to force myself to eat for the sake of the nutrients my body needs. Another to mention is the wound on Achilles which took ages to heal, courtesy of chaffing from one of my shoes. But everything went well towards the end of my training and I'm all ready to take on the bridge.

Now to my target. Frankly speaking, there is no target set. But I will run my best to try achieve a personal best. And not forgetting to stay injury free. Reason for such a simple and straight forward target is because I want to save my best for the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2008 which is 3 weeks later.

And finally, I'm certainly looking forward to this trip. Not only I get to run, I have always love visiting the Pearl of the Orient. Food of course will one of the highlights of the trip but I will save that as a post marathon reward as I do not want to mess up my system. Not forgetting, that there will be large number of us making this trip. I myself will be travelling with Choi and Pueh Tian via the Aeroline coach while others like Geraldine, Lynn, Chee Kong, Kit, Loke and Luc will meet us there. It's always nice to travel with friends especially those with the same interest and thus, I'm sure this trip will be a fun one, despite the "pain"! Before hitting the bridge this Sunday, here's to everyone, "GOOD LUCK and RUN STRONG!". Till then...

Monday, November 03, 2008

New York City Marathon 2008...

Congratulations as Jamie ran his personal best at the New York City Marathon 2008 with a time of 04:03:49 and Geraldine clocking 04:12:32. This is what Jamie had to say.
"Very tough course. Cramps on thighs. Kept pace right up to 32K. Fought back a 4min deficit to 2min then lost back 1. In the end finished in 4:03 for a 13min PR. Glad with my effort as I didn't walk and able to rely on positive thoughts of my kids."
In the mean time, Paula Radcliffe made it a treble to win yet again. Read all about it here, courtesy from The Sun UK - 3 November 2008.

Paula Radcliffe put on a one-woman show fit for Broadway to blitz her rivals in the New York marathon.

Radcliffe finished almost TWO MINUTES ahead of her nearest rival to become only the second woman to win the Big Apple spectacular three times.
. The top 3 women finishers...

Exactly 11 weeks after her disappointment at the Beijing Olympics, when she could only finish 23rd after a stress fracture hampered her preparations, a fit and healthy Radcliffe re-established herself as the world’s best over 26.2 miles.

She clocked 2hr 23.56sec as she crossed the Central Park finishing line.
Radcliffe, 34, even had time to pose for photographs with daughter Isla before Russian Ludmila Petrova came home in 02:25.43.

Among the first to congratulate Radcliffe on the podium was Norwegian legend Grete Waitz — a former Olympic silver medallist, who won the New York marathon nine times, the last 20 years ago.

Radcliffe, who pocketed £110,000 in fees and bonuses for her victory, said: “To win three times is very special. To be a third of the way to replicating what Grete did here is amazing. Grete was a huge inspiration to me.

“Why can I get it right every time in New York and not at the Olympics? It is frustrating.

“The Olympics only comes around every four years and you have to get it right on the day.

“Constantina Dita got it right and won but I wasn’t able to. Sometimes you have to deal with what life deals you.

“It was nice to run it differently this year and make it easier on my husband. The two previous finishes here were very close.”

This really was the Fairytale of New York as once again Radcliffe defied those who had written her off in Beijing.

The marathon world-record holder had come into the race as the defending champion, having won here a year ago after giving birth to Isla.

Back then, victory came after a sprint finish with Ethiopian Gete Wami.

If that was sensational, this was even better. Wami faded away out in the Bronx with more than six miles left, leaving Radcliffe to battle it out with 40-year-old Petrova, champion here eight years ago.

Then, with just over four miles to go, Radcliffe kicked and left Petrova standing.

Radcliffe insists she wants to continue running up to London 2012 for the chance of finally achieving her Olympic dream.

She has now won eight of the 10 marathons she has competed in — the only two missing being in Athens in 2004 and Beijing.

Bookies are already offering odds of 10-1 on her winning gold in four years’ time.

New Yorker Kara Goucher finished her debut marathon third in 02:25.53, the fastest time ever by an American woman.

Goucher, 30, who beat Radcliffe in last year’s Great North Run, was inspired by the Brit’s New York triumph in 2007.

She said: “I’d never seen anything like it.

“It was the most inspirational athletics performance I’d ever seen. I’m still in awe of her. And today she just hammered us.”

Glasgow’s Hailey Haining finished 12th.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Terry Fox Run 2008...

Event: Terry Fox Run 2008
Venue: Tapak A, Lake Gardens, Kuala Lumpur
Date: 2 November 2008
Time: 9.00am
Distance: 3KM or 5KM
Shoe: Nike LunaRacer+
By Frank

Those who knows me, especially my past history will know that the Terry Fox Run is part of me every year. A charity running event held annually to remember Terry Fox and also towards cancer research.

My third Terry Fox Run since 2006, this year saw a massive crowd, probably the biggest I ever seen. I participated this year with Lynn, Loke, Luc and Wai Lam. Not forgetting that I met Niki, Richard and Stephen too! Way to go guys! I've earlier done a 10KM slow and easy run as I start my tapering phase and therefore, a further 5KM will be just nice.
My running mates...

What a huge turnout...

We started from the middle pack after some delay and had trouble finding the way through as the roads were narrow leading up to the top of the deer park. Besides, most are walking. We grouped together for some chit chats before Loke decided to begin running as we hit the bird park. Being tempted by him, I started running with him. I thought Lynn and Luc will start running too, but I was wrong as I turned back shortly later and could not spot them. With this, I went ahead with Loke.

The same start/finish arch at the same spot...

I must say that Loke can certainly navigate through the crowd very well. I sticked with him till we hit the advance route heading towards Carcosa. Pueh Tian who was there snapping photos called me and he managed to snap a photo of me. Thanks a lot! The advance route is much easier to run with what I can describe as almost empty! Went on a faster pace here before detouring back to the normal route slowing down till I finish the run. Light snacks and drinks were served and I certainly enjoyed this year's run. To those who particiapted, I sincerely thank them for being part of it as it does brings a lot of joy and hope to those fighting cancer, loved ones and also to survivors too.

I did not time myself this time as compared to my last 2 previous years but I felt I went at an OK pace. This is the first time I handed the Nike LunaRacer+ it's first run on tarmac and I was simply blown away with it. I just need a few more runs in it to get use to it before handing them a race debut, most likely at my sixth marathon! And with this event, I now officially enter my tapering phase. I will certainly miss the trainings I had with my running mates, at least for now.