Saturday, August 22, 2009

Let The Games Begin...

By Frank

My 2 weeks periodisation phase for Project DREAM came to an end at last weekend's Merdeka Criterium Race 2009, a bike race. I must say it went pretty well as my body manage to adapt to it. With 5 days rest with just a couple of short easy runs, I began with my next phase of training this morning, base training. This is where the real game begins as it's here where I will slowly build up my mileage to get my body and legs accustom to the stress it's going to take on for the next phase and also during the actual race. With time running short, I foresee this stage to last about 5 weeks. Distance for weekday runs will be increased to a 10KM distance while still maintaining my cycling, resistance training and swimming routine, once each per week. And since it's the start of the fasting month, there will be no races and therefore, I can hit the mileage during the weekend.

However, things got off to a hasty start for this phase as I decided to take on the 30KM distance for my first run, a situation pretty similiar to a few months back when I returned from my fractured knee injury. Perhaps a little daring, but I was really feeling good. I ran at a tempo pace, not allowing my heart rate to rocket over 80% from my maximum heart rate, though I believe at certain stages it did. Energy level was fine and I was really feeling good throughout the run. No heaving puffing and still managing a word or two. However, the same can't be said about my legs. Left knee wasn't yet 100% and there was still a slight discomfort especially on the descend. However, it's an on and off situation and hopefully this is a good sign of recovery. Fingers and toes cross.

I completed my run in 10 minutes pass the 3 hours mark. Feeling real good after it though legs were a little sore. More work needs to be done but since this is just the start of it, I'm pretty please with my results. Things are looking good and slowly shaping up. Hopefully by the end of 5 weeks or maybe 6 weeks max, I shall be able to run comfortably up to a marathon distance. But for now, I'm just happy that I'm back!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Merdeka Criterium Race 2009...

Event: Merdeka Criterium Race 2009
Venue: Seksyen 6, Kota Damansara, Selangor
Date: 16 August 2009
Time: 8am
Distance: 28KM - 2.8KM X 10 laps (did only 21.2KM by Polar CS100)
Bike: Merida Road Race 905-Com
By Frank

My second road race since I've gotten my bike. I registered for this because the race venue is within 1KM from my residence. And I though of giving support to the organising committee since this is a first sporting event in the neighbourhood. But boy, my hopes for a good race were dashed, even on the race pack collection yesterday.

I registered myself and Andrew through Herbert from KSH Merida. Even so, I needed to fill in the form yet again during the collection. I don't understand the trouble as the form is the same and besides, the process took so long though there weren't many participants around. Reason why was due that the organising committee was having their own sweet time processing the application and chatting away among themselves. It took me about 20 minutes just to collect 2 race packs when I was the first in the queue. Wait, there wasn't even a queue.

The registration form which was plain simple stated 8am to be the flag off time. But upon receiving the race pack with the itinerary in it, I found out that my category will only start at 10.45am but I was required to report in before 8am. What’s with the 3 hour wait? Speech, national anthem and so on. You get the idea. They could have included this detail in the registration form.

With no choice, I arrived at the venue close to 8am and soon met up with Andrew and Wai Lam, the latter came to give support and to snap photos. With 90 minutes till Andrew’s start time as he registered for the 20KM mountain bike category, we hung around at the nearby eatery till an important announcement was made. The race course was altered and more loops have to be done as the traffic police didn’t agree with the road closure time. And I thought this was supposed to be agreed before hand? OK, no big deal on this as distance is still the same. To understand the route, all cyclists went for 1 lap with the aide of the traffic police clearing the road for us.

Just slightly after 9.30am, Andrew’s category was flagged off followed shortly by the 20KM road bike. I believe there were about 100 participants here which include 2 kids, the youngest being 9 years old! I stood at the side to cheer. The roads were closed to traffic and I pity the motorist who were honking their car horns off for having to be stuck in a massive traffic jam for the entire duration of the race. I do appreciate this, but maybe the traffic police could have opened a lane for them? Just my 2 cents though. And in about an hour’s time, the race was completed. Though I believe Andrew suffered as he hasn’t been cycling for a very long time, he did well. And soon, another surprise came. Lionel came to support! Thanks!

At 11am, after a 15 minutes delay, it was my turn, the 28KM road bike open category which attracted about 50 cyclists. I was to cycle for 10 laps. I started from the back with some space in front of me. Reason, I started moving as the countdown was still at 3, so I could have a little rolling start plus to clip into my pedals. And with that, I had the advantage of a good start as I took the outer lane and went straight to the front of the peloton. However, it was only for a matter of seconds before the stronger cyclists took over as they overtook me from everywhere. I admit I was worried about crashing here, so I slowed down to let them pass and soon found myself at the back. Not last but at the back.

28KM road bike open cyclists ready for the start...

Yours truly getting ready from the back of the pack...

Taking it as the conclusion of my periodization phase for my Project DREAM training, I decided to pedal hard for a lap, before doing a recovery at the next and to repeat again for the entire course. But as my 2 biggest gears was giving out some noise as the chain is being rub against the derailleur, I had to use the next available gear as I didn't want to damage any parts. And it was not easy as the last 2 stretch, I had to ride against the wind. The first stretch took cyclist around Persiaran Mahagoni, a wide smooth road leading to Persiaran Surian which was totally opposite. The tarmac which was mostly cracked resulted in a bumpy ride, and together with certain places with uneven surfaces, my bum was made to suffer. Not to mention there were tire puncture casualties from this throughout the race, some as early as the first lap. Then it was into Jalan Cecawi before the final stretch of heading to the start/finish line to complete 1 lap.

At the start of my second lap, I already felt the dryness in my throat. Though it rained yesterday, the haze was still present. Though I had water with me, I didn’t’ drink a single drop from it throughout my ride. Lap after lap, I soon lost count of how many I have done. And I did not want to look at my cyclometer for the distance, just my speed will do. Every time I passed the start/finish line, I could hear cheers from Andrew, Lionel and Wai Lam, and sometimes from the other cyclists too.

Zooming past the start/finish line...

Mid way through my ride, the roads were opened back to traffic. And boy, it was the entire road and some cars came close to me! Though the traffic police were still manning most of the junctions, the main roads were really dangerous. I had to look back at times to ensure my own safety.

At my "second last" lap I think, someone crashed heavily at the Persiaran Surian stretch and medical attention was needed. I had to cycle on the outer lane as ambulance and other vehicles took the inner. And it was really bumpy as it was uneven due to cement spilled some time ago which had dried up. And soon in front, I nearly knocked into a dog that was crossing the street leisurely on its own. Dogs really bad at looking out for vehicles I guess.

Arriving at the start/finish line again, I was told 2 more laps to go. It wasn’t possible at my speed. It was just too fast for me to complete 28KM. A quick check on my cyclometer reveal that I only pedaled for about 18KM. What is happening here?

So be it. Took the lap easy, saving for the final lap to sprint to the finish. But it was a bad choice as I was flagged down upon completing this lap with the marshall telling me that the race was over. Reason? The leader had completed his race and the road is to be opened entirely. I felt disgusted with this type of decision. A 21.2KM race for me in a time of 00:43:46.

Completing the race early without even realising it...

Cycled into the rest area and took 3 cans of some weird isotonic drink. My throat was really dry. Regroup with my friends and didn’t want to talk too much about the race among ourselves, we all left the venue immediately without hesitating much and headed for lunch then back home for a well deserved rest.

Throughout my entire ride, the leader and the leading peloton passed me twice. There were really fast and I suspect the leader might be pedaling at a speed of about 50KM/H! But to accept this as the reason for cutting the race short for other cyclists is just so unacceptable. Many things and confusion could have been avoided by simply putting it on ink. But the organiser choose to leave it out from the registration form which left cyclists fuming over the overall quality of the event. In the end, I felt cheated from a badly organised event.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Nike LunarGlide+...

By Frank

I received the Nike LunarGlide+ on 9 July 2009, courtesy of Nike Sales Malaysia as part of their launch event. One month plus down the road, it's about time I give I full blown review on it after testing it out on a few runs, including races. As the name suggest, it is the third model that falls under Nike's Lunar lineage, the Nike LunarTrainer+ and Nike LunaRacer+ being the 2 earlier models. One interesting fact about it is that it is built as a stability cushioning shoe hence offering the best of both worlds. And not forgetting it's also Nike+ enabled so you can pop that little Nike+ sensor into the midsole for distance and speed tracking.

The Nike LunarGlide+...

Available now retailing at a recommended price of RM399, the Nike LunarGlide+ comes in gender specific model. The men's version in black and orange while the women in white, grey and orange. The reason is pretty much obvious. The bio-mechanics and motor function between the 2 genders are rather different, not to mention our running style. The women's version seems a little more curvy and much more attention is given to it which includes a different crash pad and arch support. However, I'm here to give my take on the men's version.

Weighting at about 297 grams for a men's size US8.5, it's the heaviest of all 3 shoes in the Lunar family. Despite it, the overall build quality is very much improved over its 2 predecessor. Paddings and memory foams are added to areas which are most prone to chaffing and irritation. The first batches of Nike LunarTrainer+ launched last year caused massive chaffing on the Achilles heel due to the high design. It was rectified wit the "face lifted" model by lowering the collar through a "crescent" shape design. And I was certainly glad Nike choose to add memory foam on the collar this time hence rectifying it once and for all. The heel counter this time was also made pretty hard with a plastic cup shaped over it. But thanks to the padding, it actually help for a more stabilise ride.

The padded collar...

The plastic heel counter...

The overall fit of the shoe is much more superior this time. As mentioned earlier, the extra padding helped and it wrapped around my feet nicely without having feel too tight.It may not be as soft as the Nike LunarTrainer+, but I did prefer this. And most importantly, it was built seamlessly with a roomier toe box. However, I felt it would need a little more flexibility. Being a build over an overlays of narrow air mesh which includes FlyWire on the arch area, it felt stiff. And why did I mentioned narrow air mesh? The shoes were warm! Being black attracts heat and besides, the ventilation holes on the air mesh is so narrow that I can hardly actually see one with my naked eye.

FlyWire seen on the arch area...

The overlays...

So when one hears the name Lunar, they will immediately remember the Lunar foam and also the LunarLite cushioning system used in earlier models. However in the Nike LunarGlide+ this time, only the LunarLite is retained which is used as the outsole material which is represented in orange. The Lunar foam however is missing and only mildly injected into an external midsole carrier. I really do miss the foam as with it missing, it contributed to a cushioning that's a little hard for some of you out there. And one interesting to note is the wedge design. The medial foam within the shoe is made higher compared to the lateral and Nike calls this Dynamic Support (see picture below). Reasons for this is to provide the necessary heel support for runners based on the typical running gait of runners. One will feel the wedge design immediately after putting on the shoe, even when standing.

LunarLite retained as the outsole material...

Dynamic Support or wedge design (left shoe)...

Compared to it's predesscors, lots of BRS 1000 carbon rubber were used. So much of it, it covered about 50% of the whole outsole. This might have been one of the factor that contributed to the hard cushioning I mentioned earlier, but it also meant that this shoe is built to last. No doubt by looking at the outsole, the durability can be determined almost immediately. I foresee a give and take of 1000KM running distance with it, since my Nike Air Zoom Vomero+ 3 gave me a close to 900KM. Not forgetting the traction was great with this shoe. The carbon rubber coupled with the mini waffle tread at the forefoot area gave me assurance of even running on wet surfaces especially on tiles and smooth cemented areas.

Mini waffle tread on the forefoot area...

With the test runs I did over the past 1 month or so, I have mixed reaction for the shoe. No doubt, I felt comfortable putting it on. Running a 10KM with it is pretty much acceptable and perhaps 15KM too. However, I experienced forefoot discomfort on a couple of half marathon distance runs. I felt the shoe needed more forefoot cushioning and also assume that the poor flexibility of the shoe might have contributed to it. The stiffness of the shoe didn't allow my upper forefoot where metatarsals sits to flex naturally. As for the heel's cushioning, though it felt harder compared to its predecessors, I can live with it as I must say it does provides the "bounce" when running. Just don't go walking with it as it's just too hard! But in all, I do appreciate it's great traction and overall fit. No clumsy accidents like slipping during taking corners and so far, no irritations on any areas. But do remember to wear thin and moisture wicking socks as you don't want to end up with a squishy ride. So in the end, as usual I will sum it up with my own scores.

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

Sunday, August 02, 2009

adidas King Of The Road 2009...

Event: adidas King Of The Road 2009
Venue: Stadium Shah Alam, Selangor
Date: 2 August 2009
Time: 6.30am
Distance: 22KM (21.82KM by Choi's Garmin Forerunner 205)
Shoe: Nike LunarGlide+
By Frank

After last weekend's Shape & Mens Health Run which made me realised that I'm really out of shape, I decided that I shall start everything from scratch again. Therefore, it's with this edition of the adidas King Of The Road 2009 that I will start off with my periodization phase. 22KM worth of easy but quality run is what I am looking for, not speed. Though my legs are yet to be 100%, I believe this run won't take too much out of it. Besides, this will probably be the "last" event before the fasting month begins. So, I will have plenty of time to rest, provided I don't get myself involve in any stressful weekend training. Haha...

Arrived at 5.15am and was surprised that the stadium car park was pretty filled up. Was lucky that I found myself a good spot. Soon, I met up with Henry as we agreed to meet up as I just sold him a Polar heart rate monitor. A quick change into my running gear and off I went looking for the toilet.

Arriving at the main gate to the stadium, a reporting booth was set up and runners just had to pass the reporting card to the officials to receive a wrist band. Pretty efficient. Arriving at the toilet, the queue was long and hygiene was pretty poor. I held on to it and just walked out and soon met up with Kevin, Pueh Tian and Julie. The rest like Andrew, Choi, Loke, Marvin and Shine soon arrived and it was time to run.

Runners were lead out to the road just outside the stadium at at 6.30am sharp, the Selangor Chief Minister started the race. Off I went with Choi and Loke but I soon let them out run me. Immediately, I miss Jamie who I ran and paced with at last year's edition. This year, my pacer will be my heart as I just want to run my own easy pace, maintaining my heart rate at about 70% from my maximum heart rate. Though I didn't wear any heart rate monitor, I'm able to estimate it through my own experience. Besides, 70% is a comfort zone where I wasn't feeling breathless and am still able to strike a conversation.

The start was about a 2KM climb towards the Selangor Palace before hitting the long stretch of Persiaran Kayangan pass Concorde Hotel, Shah Alam Mosque and a few shop lots and housing areas. Though running at an easy pace, things weren't easy at all. Left knee immediately felt uncomfortable from the start and my stomach was acting up as the earlier visit to the toilet was a failure. Things were getting a bit out of hand, but I didn't want to stop running. I told myself to just keep running, keep breathing and to shift my mind towards something else. I even restricted myself from drinking even from my own tumbler which might trigger off any further discomfort which I experienced last week.

Arriving approximately at the 8KM mark, a Petronas station appeared. I was really tempted to make my toilet visit here but was worried that I might cramp up. Therefore, I ran pass the station with my fingers cross hoping it was the right decision.

Ran pass the Federal Highway and into Padang Jawa where the Transport Authority office was. This is where the start of the industrial area and roundabouts. Based on last year's experience, traffic can be pretty dangerous here so I just have to have my eyes and ears open. Thankfully, the traffic police were doing a remarkable job this year, though I can't say the same for our Malaysian drivers. Impatient and honking at runners, sometimes I felt embarrassed to be part of this country. And at a certain point too, I overheard a lady cursing in the car while the driver was enjoying himself honking.

Continuing in the industrial area passing a few known factories like Panasonic and Toyota, I felt my stomach discomfort slowly disappearing. Though it was a good sign, I still didn't dare to risk drinking. However, legs were getting a beating. Hamstring were tight and soreness is felt. I was suspecting it might be due to the tough outsole of the Nike LunarGlide+. Besides this, my left forefoot too was a little painful. Hmmm... What is going on here? A post-mortem on the shoe will be done soon.

Persiaran Selangor is a very much welcome sight. I know this will lead to the giant roundabout which overlooks the Federal Highway and the stadium is within reach in about 4KM. I started drinking at this point, slowing sipping my Endurox R4 and eventually finished it just before arriving at the Kayangan roundabout. It was short climb here towards the final roundabout before entering the stadium compound where Bong who completed his run, called out to me.

Into the stadium tunnel I ran. There was a little Olympic feel to it except to say the tunnel lighting here was yellowish dim and pretty dull looking. And somehow I felt the tunnel was really long. It took a pretty long time for me to emerge out from it or maybe it is all in my mind. Hmmm... As I emerged out of it, I heard Shine cheering from the side. Gave him a wave and off I ran into my finishing funnel as I completed my run in 02:17:49, a slight 2 minutes plus from the cut off time as I heard the gun went off later.

Did my warm down and stretching before hanging around the field after collecting my finisher's medal and certificate. Soon was greeted by Choi, Lau, Yin Fook, Pui San, Shih Ming and Yee Tze before I made my way home. No post-race meal this time as I was feeling a little unwell and also most of my friends are either at Penang or doing the Desaru triathlon at Johor.

Front view of the finisher's medal...

Rear view of the finisher's medal...

Overall, though a lonely run with half of it hoping no bowel mishap will happen, I was glad I had an easy but quality run. Legs no doubt is a bit sore but am just glad. You get what I mean. Though there were hiccups like missing distance markers and bad runner lane control in the stadium tunnel, I was glad too that adidas learned from their mistake from the previous 2 editions where water was a sacred item. This year, it was sufficient. Besides, the Stadium Shah Alam was a great place to hold this event. The atmosphere was just excellent. And my hats off to the traffic police who did their job well today. Finally, my thanks to Bong, Shine and Uncle Sonny who came to ask about my condition rather than asking about my timing. I'm going borrow this phrase from the oldest runner in last year's Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon. "Don't ask me how fast I ran. Ask me if I completed it?". Very true indeed!